Blue Monday – addressing the democratic deficit

25 Feb

PCCs waking up to the news that the elections failed them, and failed the electorate won’t be surprised. Many of them made representations during the run-up to the election that this was a poorly implemented policy. Most tried really hard to be everywhere and made a massive use of social media during their campaigns to raise awareness. Probably most frustrating was the lack of a direct mailshot to households about the candidates.

The fact that only 10% of people know the name of their Police and Crime Commissioner is depressing given the importance and power held by the successfully elected post-holders. The Electoral Commission said they had been handed a “poison chalice”. Frankly this is so much old news to the PCCs collectively, they knew the scale of the issue when elected: Turnout figures, spoilt ballot paper protests and, the reform of police pay and conditions alongside cuts to policing budgets generally provides them with two key challenges. Here I am interested in the challenge which is the democratic deficit.

When the APCC analysed the candidates’ manifestos the most frequently repeated phrase was community engagement. As a former police authority member I was pleased to see this, authorities were too ‘remote’ from the public and if this post is to be a success, for me, a genuinely improved sense of engagement and control of policing and crime prevention would be proof of concept. There are some obvious measures that you could judge the role by and the people inhabiting the role. Electoral turnout would be a key measure in my opinion. But, this won’t happen unless PCCs are making fundamental changes in design now. To have any chance of a meaningful citizen engagement, three years is fully required to make a difference. 800 responses to a survey from populations of c 1million isn’t meaningful,  it won’t shift perception and it won’t get people to the ballot box.

PCCs can’t wring their hands in response to this report, and I don’t believe they will. The response of the PCCs to this issue is already positive and serious:

-Using social media to manage reach and increase transparency

– Many are planning to arrive at genuine citizen engagement and control of policy and budgetary decisions

Hands up to being an optimist but in spite of the implementation ‘blundering’, these new posts could provide more meaningful democracy than the existing ones if for no other reason that, necessity *is* the mother of invention.

 

 

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