LABOUR’s Shaun Wright has been elected as South Yorkshire’s first police and crime commissioner.
The Rotherham Council member for Rawmarsh, deputy chairman of the South Yorkshire Police Authority, polled 74,615 votes.
Turnout in South Yorkshire overall was 14.93 per cent, with 149,188 people voting out of the 1 million eligible.
There were 22,546 votes in Barnsley, a 12.6 per cent turnout. 58,785 votes cast in Sheffield, 32,634 in Rotherham and 35,323 in Doncaster.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the elections had proved a ‘shambles’ and that the electorate ‘didn’t have enough information’.
“We warned the Government repeatedly that they had the wrong approach and that turnout would be low,” she said.
“Theresa May and David Cameron didn’t listen and it is shocking that they have spent £100 million on these elections rather than on 3,000 police constables instead.
“Time and again on the doorstep people told us either they didn’t have enough information, didn’t know the elections were happening, didn’t support them or didn’t want to go out in the dark to vote.”
In the most radical shake-up of the service for half a century, the new commissioners, who are expected to earn up to £100,000 a year, will control police budgets, set priorities and have the power to hire and fire Chief Constables.
Elections are being held in 41 police areas outside London. The Electoral Reform Society predicted a turnout of 18.5 per cent, which would be below the previous record low in a national poll in peacetime of 23 per cent in the 1999 European elections.
The society’s chief executive, Katie Ghose, said: “This election has been a comedy of errors from start to finish.
“The Home Office has operated under the assumption that ‘if you build it they will come’.
“Democracy just doesn’t work that way.
“There have been avoidable errors at every step, and those responsible should be held to account.”
Critics claim the police reforms will lead to the politicisation of the service, with police and crime commissioners (PCCs) championing populist measures at the expense of less headline-worthy initiatives.
Although the commissioners will be there to hold the force to account, opponents fear they will attempt to interfere with day-to-day operational matters.
A number of former senior officers have raised concerns about the reforms.
Ex-Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair initially encouraged people not to vote, saying the roles were ‘very strange’ because the police areas were too big for any individual to properly represent, though he later backed away from this position.
Sir Hugh Orde, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said there would be ‘huge issues’ if the proposed commissioners demanded that local needs were met at the expense of national priorities, such as child protection, anti-terrorism and major crime units.
But supporters insist they will improve accountability among police forces and make them more aware of the priorities of local demands.
Home Secretary Theresa May argues that the commissioners will become the ‘voice of the people’ and will be ‘visible, accessible and accountable’.
Some 54 of the 192 candidates standing are not linked to a political party.
A number of current and former politicians stood, with by-elections sparked in Manchester Central and Cardiff South after Labour’s Tony Lloyd and Alun Michael quit Parliament to fight for contests for the new posts.
Former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott faced a close fight with Godfrey Bloom, Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire UKIP MEP, for the role of Humberside PCC.
The Government has come in for criticism for refusing to cover the cost of leafleting to give voters information about the new posts and basic details about the candidates standing for them.