Election cop out: Staffordshire sees sees lowest turnout as Matthew Ellis wins police commissioner role
CONSERVATIVE Matthew Ellis will take charge of Staffordshire Police after an election victory overshadowed by the lowest turnout in the country.
The region's first police and crime commissioner (PCC) narrowly beat Labour's Joy Garner by 3,648 votes as just 11.97 per cent of voters in the city and county took part in the ballot.
It was the lowest turnout in all 41 police force areas in England and Wales.
In Stoke-on-Trent just 17,820 of the 188,349-strong electorate voted – a turnout of 9.46 per cent – and two polling stations received just 14 votes each.
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Retired police officer and Conservative John Dwyer narrowly beat Labour's John Stockton to win in Cheshire, where the overall turnout was 14.08 per cent.
Nationally the turnout is thought to be the lowest in British history for a nationwide election, raising question marks over the mandate PCCs have to preside over force budgets and chief constables.
Victorious Mr Ellis, who received 51,237 votes, defended his right to take on the powers but criticised the Government's handling of the election.
He said: "Everybody had a chance to take part if they wanted to. An awful lot of people didn't, but it was a fair election. November was not a good time to hold it. I hope the Government will learn a lesson.
"Not ensuring every single household received information about the election has saved a bit of money, but in my opinion it would have been worth it to make sure everybody truly understood what this is about."
Figures show Labour city councillor Mrs Garner won the city's backing with 10,725 votes to 6,674 and edged Newcastle with 5,786 votes to 4,606, as well as winning in Tamworth and Cannock Chase.
But Mr Ellis triumphed in the Staffordshire Moorlands with 5,399 votes to 3,838, and victories in Stafford, South Staffordshire, East Staffordshire and Lichfield gave him an overall 51.85 per cent share of the vote.
A total of 98,826 votes were cast and 2,843 ballots spoiled out of an electorate of 849,784. Mrs Garner, who got 47,589 votes, blamed the turnout on Government 'incompetence', adding: "It's a record low turnout and it does not bode well. It will affect every winning candidate's position.
"If they're in dispute with their chief constable they will not be able to say they have 50 per cent of the population behind them."
Paul Hackney, returning officer, said: "People who were in touch with me before the election have been saying they weren't going to vote because they didn't feel there was a choice or had information about what the candidates stood for and felt it was not appropriate to vote."