South Yorkshire’s new crime tsar – elected from a turnout of under 15 per cent – has pledged to ‘listen to the public’ to rebuild trust.
After becoming police and crime commissioner yesterday, Labour’s candidate and former vicar Rev Dr Alan Billings admitted the number of voters taking part in the £1.6 million by-election had been ‘dismal’.
But he promised: “I want to listen to what the public are saying” - and added he plans to gain trust by showing he is serious in tackling the tough issues.
Rev Billings won with a 50.2 per cent majority - but only 150,361 people from the county’s roughly one million electorate had their say at polling stations, which means each vote cast cost around £10.
Turnout was slightly lower than at the last PCC election in 2012, at 14.88 per cent compared to 14.92 per cent. It means only seven per cent of South Yorkshire cast a vote for Rev Billings to win.
One polling station welcomed just three voters all day, despite hopes that turnout would rise in the wake of the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal which led to former Labour PCC Shaun Wright standing down.
Dr Billings, who will be sworn in officially on Monday, insisted the post needed to be filled - even though he thinks it should be abolished and funds given to frontline policing.
He told The Star: “The job is relevant in that the police need to be held to account and, under the current system, if it’s not done by the PCC nobody does it.
“I will get the public on board because I think they will understand I am serious about getting a grasp on historic issues like Hillsborough, Orgreave and Rotherham.
“I think also that I need to meet, and I have been meeting, a lot of people so I want to continue that.”
Many Star readers said they had seen no point in voting - or admitted they were among the 2,000-plus voters who turned out to the ballot box but then deliberately spoiled their ballot paper.
Peter Chan said on Twitter: “I voted and spoilt my paper as I disagree with PCCs - the candidates are money grabbers.”
Neil Midgley posted: “It is the first time I have not voted in 25 years. I’m hoping mass apathy will convince the next Government to scrap PCCs.”
Dave Thornley said: “I disagree with elected PCCs, and the Shaun Wright episode showed they have no accountability and cannot be political.”
Dr Billings, who lives in Crookes, Sheffield, has pledged to give half his £85,000-a-year salary to South Yorkshire charities supporting victims of crime.
He also said the post had to be filled - until it was abolished if Labour gets into power at the next General Election - as the police will face ‘difficult questions’ in the next few months.
He pledged to make sure ‘victims are supported, criminals are brought to justice, and those that turn a blind eye are brought to account’ to rebuild trust in the police.
Police training should be improved, officers should be more ‘visible’ on the streets to keep communities safe, and a better deal for the force needs to be sought from the Government, he added.
He said: “I’ll make sure victims are put first and that people are never, ever let down again.
“I’ll fight for real change in South Yorkshire Police so we can begin to rebuild public trust and confidence.”