On the 12th May Conservative Katy Bourne was sworn in for her second four year term as Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) having easily won a lack-lustre campaign.
The PCC elections use a supplementary vote system and although Bourne didn’t win 50 % of first preference votes and a run-off was required, her majority over Labour increased from 2012.
The first PCC elections in 2012 had an abysmal turn-out with Staffordshire recording the lowest at 12%, Sussex achieved 15.3 %.
In 2016, helped by having local council and Mayoral elections on the on the same day, turn-out increased. England and Wales averaged 26%. Sussex aided by council elections in Adur, Hastings and Crawley reached 22.5%
PCC Bourne subtracted 15.3% from 22.5% to get 42% .
The only public event in the campaign was a round-table debate on Radio Sussex at 9 O’clock on a working Tuesday morning. Judging by social media activity not many voters were listening in. All four challenging candidates had similar messages. They would stop Police cuts and put more bobbies on the beat.
Labour’s Michael Jones said that bobbies on the beat were integral and PCSO numbers could be maintained.
Patrick Lowe, for UKIP, would tear up the current Police plan and recruit more officers.
The Greens’ James Doyle said: ” Bobbies on the beat are the eyes and ears of the Police force.”
But Katy Bourne replied: “Bobbies on the beat is a twentieth century policing model and has to be changed for modern-day crime challenges. ”
Election results showed Ms Bourne received most votes in every Sussex council area except Brighton and Hastings.
In the 2012 campaign Ms Bourne, a local councillor, had promised a PCSO in every community. With police funding cuts this seemed an impossible promise to keep, and was. She now says police numbers are operational matters decided by Sussex Chief Constable Giles Yorke.
Sussex Police Numbers
The 2015 Sussex Police Plan pledges more cuts and a move away from bobbies on the beat, many officers are to be based at six main response hubs which will cover Sussex.
Chief Constable Yorke writes: ” The size of the financial challenge means we will need to reduce the size of our workforce by 700 officers.” Three hundred police staff will also go.
The Chief Constable says he has made cuts of £50m but may need to make £57m more.
So the 2016 Sussex PCC election wasn’t about bobbies on the beat although voters reading Conservative campaign leaflets and taking a quick glance at PCC Bourne’s achievements might think it was.