Elections for new police and crime commissioners to oversee policing in the West Midlands risk becoming an embarrassing flop – according to the candidates themselves.
The election of police commissioners on November 15 will mark a dramatic reform in the way forces are governed, but critics have accused the government of failing to ensure voters are kept informed and encouraged to take part in the ballot.
Ministers have ruled out sending a letter to every home with details of the vote, even though this is standard practice for the election of MPs, MEPs and mayors.
Instead, there will be a website and a freephone number residents can ring asking for information.
The decision has been criticised by watchdog the Electoral Commission.
And speaking to the Birmingham Post, Conservative and Labour politicians hoping to become candidates in the West Midlands election said they were concerned lack of publicity, and the decision to hold the election in November, would lead to a tiny turnout – and might benefit the far right.
A very low turn out would also not give the person elected, who would wield considerable power, an electoral mandate for change. It comes as West Midlands Police faces fresh criticism over its controversial plans to sign deals which could be worth up to £1.5 billion over seven years in a partnership programme with private sector firms.
One of the first decisions a police commissioner will face is whether to press ahead with the scheme, which critics describe as “privatisation”.
But all the potential candidates the Post interviewed said they would either review the plans or scrap them outright. And the Commons Home Affairs Committee has published a damning report which suggests the force and its partner Surrey Police don’t know what the partnership programme is meant to achieve.
The report said: “The committee is not convinced that Surrey and West Midlands Police fully understand, or are fully able to articulate, the process they are undertaking.”
None of the political parties have so far selected candidates, but a number of front-runners have already emerged.
Labour activists in the West Midlands have been sent ballot papers to choose a candidate from a shortlist of two.
These are Wolverhampton councillor Bob Jones, who is finance chair on the existing West Midlands Police Authority, and Birmingham councillor Yvonne Mosquito, also a long-standing member of the Police Authority.
Barrister Ayoub Khan, who was a Birmingham councillor until local elections on May 3, is the only publicly-declared candidate for the Liberal Democrats.
And Joe Tildesley, a retired police officer who served for 30 years and became national chair of the Police Federation, hopes to become the Conservative candidate. He is a councillor in Solihull, where he is cabinet member for children and young people.