However we were also raising awareness of the PCC elections in November and it was a reminder of just how little known the police and crime commissioner elections are at the moment, with very few people having heard about the role at all.
Obviously anyone reading my blog is probably more likely to have heard of the role if nothing else as I've been blogging about it on and off for a while but it's probably worth being reminded of why this election matters. In dry government speak the person elected will:
- representing all those who live and work in the communities in their force area and identifying their policing needs
- setting priorities that meet those needs by agreeing a local strategic plan for the force
- holding the Chief Constable to account for achieving these priorities as efficiently and effectively as possible
- setting the force budget and setting the precept
- hiring and if necessary dismissing the Chief Constable
That's a massive responsibility and there isn't that much in terms of checks and balances on that single person.
I believe at present locally it is a 2 way fight between Labour and the Conservatives literally as well as in practice as the Libdems are not standing any candidates nationally, and there are no independents or smaller parties declared in the Thames Valley. This could either be good as making it a simple choice or mean that turnout will be even lower than in some other areas.
However regardless of whether you are an enthusiastic supporter of the Labour or Conservatives or just want to make sure that the less bad candidate gets in it's I think anyone interested in democracy needs to think about how they can help turnout amongst those they know. I'll be doing my bit by ensuring as many people as possible in my ward, and other wards in Reading, not only get a leaflet about our candidate but also have a face to face conversation about the election.
It's not just about winning over people to support our excellent candidate but also about ensuring that the voice of residents in Reading is heard loud and clear.