Martin Tideswell: Police commissioner faces tough task in wake of £34m cutbacks
SO THERE you have it. A ringing endorsement for Staffordshire's Police and Crime Commissioner.
Less than 12 per cent of voters in the county could be bothered to take part in the poll – the lowest turnout in all 41 police force areas across England and Wales.
In Stoke-on-Trent that figure fell to less than 10 per cent.
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Hardly a mandate for change, is it?
So why the apathy for the election of someone who, it is claimed, has the potential to shape policing in our localities?
Well the narrow winner in this Blue versus Red beauty contest, Matthew Ellis, blames the Government.
Funny that, coming from a Tory.
Yes, the 45-year-old former businessman reckons November isn't a good time to hold elections and bemoans the fact that every household wasn't given information about the election.
All of which is rubbish, of course.
I dare say the turnout figures would have been equally poor in October.
By the same token, you would have to have stayed off the internet, avoided newspapers, the TV and the radio for several months and not know a child whose school was closed for polling to claim ignorance of these elections.
No, I suspect there are other reasons for the low turnout.
First and foremost, they perhaps have more to do with the fact that the new Police and Crime Commissioners are viewed by many as a complete and utter waste of time and money.
It's yet another example of tinkering around the edges of a system that is creaking through basic, chronic under-funding.
They are a sticking plaster for a gaping wound. A political construct to give a veneer of accountability and a smokescreen for the savage public sector cuts.
They are also a slap in the face for 30-year bobbies who are being pensioned off when they still have much to offer the force and the general public.
Given that our usual turnout levels at local election time are around 30 per cent, this result speaks volumes for what people who can usually be bothered to vote think about the new high-profile role.
Mr Ellis, who I don't know from Adam, will receive £75,000 a year for the privilege of telling the Chief Constable how to do his job.
Spin it how you like, but that's what is happening here.
Personally, at a time when experienced bobbies are being jettisoned, I'd rather use this money to keep two and a bit police officers in post. At least theirs is a real job.
Call me old-fashioned but I would have thought Mr Ellis's opponent, Labour councillor Joy Garner, would have wanted that too.
Mr Ellis seems like a nice bloke who is devoting himself to public service – just like councillor Garner.
However, the truth is neither of them have much experience in the way of crime-fighting – in the same way that I wouldn't be much use to The Avengers if Captain America came calling.
I would suggest the fact that there were only two candidates – both from mainstream parties – did nothing to inspire people to vote, either.
For me, policing – at its most basic level – should be apolitical.
Police forces should be, certainly, and so the idea of a Labour or Conservative politician adding his or her party's baggage to the mix doesn't fill me with confidence.
For people in the city, Newcastle and the Staffordshire Moorlands, who did bother to vote but not for Mr Ellis, the situation is even more galling. Of course, he's currently saying the things he thinks people want to hear. More bobbies on the beat, iPads to help officers cut down on paperwork and the sale of that pesky police HQ.
But the crucial question here is this: Can Mr Ellis turn water into wine? Can he help Staffordshire Police maintain its services while cutting £34 million from its budget by 2015?
If not, is he any good in an armed siege or a riot?