This blog discusses the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections. Please note that PCC elections will not take place in Manchester, as the role is due to be merged with that of the Mayor; or London, as the role of the PCC is undertaken by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
On the 5th May, along with the local elections, the first elections of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will be held since their introduction in 2012. There was much speculation about the longevity and relevance of PCCs after the low voter turnout of the 2012 elections; however, this government is committed to further embedding PCCs and looking to expand their powers. As we said in a previous Clinks blog, it is clear that PCCs are here to stay.
PCCs have a number of roles and responsibilities, relating to tackling crime and ensuring community safety. They fund a range of community safety activity carried out by the voluntary sector, and are important strategic figures for partnership and communication between statutory and voluntary services. We have also seen recent moves to give the PCCs responsibility for fire and rescue services, and in some areas to increase their role in the wider Criminal Justice System.
With a number of current PCCs standing down and increased public awareness of the role, many areas are likely to see a new PCC elected on the 5th May, which could lead to changes in local priorities and strategies. The pre-election period is a good time to raise awareness of the centrality of the voluntary sector to community safety, and to build dialogue around local priorities and strategies in the Criminal Justice System; this blog provides information on how to do this. We’ll also be publishing a briefing later this month with more detailed information on the role of PCCs in the local Criminal Justice System and how the voluntary sector can engage with them.
Why you need to do your research
Before you start to engage with the PCC elections, it’s important to do your research and ensure you’re aware of how the PCC in your area fits into and works with local structures. We suggest you:
- ensure you are familiar with your current PCC’s police and crime plan, detailing their priorities
- find out what local partnerships your current PCC is involved with and what boards they sit on
- find out what community safety initiatives your current PCC is funding and, if possible, how long this funding runs for.
All of this information will help you to get a clear picture of the current local context, what is working well, what could be improved, and what issues you want PCC candidates to be aware of.
Although charities are non-political bodies, there are certain rules charities must abide by during pre-election periods (the time between candidates being announced and the polling day). If you campaign to the general public on specific issues related to law or policy, you may need to register with the Electoral Commission as a ‘non-party campaigner’ and declare spending on certain activities. For more information please see the Electoral Commission guidance on charities and campaigning and Electoral Commission guidance for non-party campaigners. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) also has a useful set of frequently asked questions about the Lobbying Act.
Ways to engage with candidates
There are a number of different ways to engage with PCC candidates but how you do this will depend on your time and resources, as well as the candidates themselves. The following gives you some ideas for routes to engagement.
Arrange a visit or event
You might want to invite candidates to visit your organisation to view a project in action, or meet service users and volunteers. This gives candidates a chance to see the impact of your work first hand and allows you to explain how your organisation can support the PCC meet their aims.
Use local media
If there is a particular issue confronting your organisation or your service users, which would be relevant to PCC candidates, or if there is a current news story involving issues relevant to your organisation, it could be useful to contact local newspapers. This can be a good way to raise awareness of your work with PCC candidates and the general public. The Clinks toolkit, Making the most of your local media, has useful information about how to do this.
Use social media
Some candidates are very active on social media, particularly Twitter – you might want to tweet pictures, videos and case studies of your work, or ask questions about their views and plans. For some PCCs and candidates, the public nature of this platform can push them to respond and engage.
Run or attend a hustings event
A hustings event is a meeting where election candidates or parties debate policies and answer questions from the audience. These are an opportunity to ensure that PCC candidates hear the views, priorities and concerns of the voluntary sector and the communities that organisations represent. They also provide a platform for candidates to outline their manifesto commitments and explain their position on key issues. If you are thinking about running your own hustings event, please make sure you read Clinks’ guidance on this as well as the most recent Electoral Commission guidance to ensure you are adhering to the regulations for charities’ conduct during pre-election periods.
Making the case for the voluntary sector
While some candidates may have a good understanding of the voluntary sector, others may not have given it much thought. The pre-election period is a great time to engage with PCCs about the importance of the voluntary sector and Compact Voice have some great tips on how to do this in their Practical Guide to Engaging with PCCs. Additionally, the Home Office has published a briefing for PCC candidates entitled Working with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE), encouraging PCCs to engage with the voluntary sector in their area. While engaging with your PCC could help you secure funding, it is also a great route to involvement with local networks and contributing to joined-up working in your area, benefiting both your organisation and the local community.
To find out more about the candidates standing in your area, you can use The Police Foundation’s list, which includes links to candidates’ Twitter pages. ChoosemyPCC.org.uk will also be providing information about the elections and candidates, including manifestos. Later this month, we’ll publish our briefing for the voluntary sector, with some in-depth information on how the voluntary sector can engage with PCCs to improve partnership work and build local criminal justice networks.
If you have any questions, or would like to share your experience of engaging with PCCs in your area, please email email@example.com – we’d love to hear from you!