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Alun Michael is Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales - but how many people know that...?

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: March 05, 2013

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MORE than threemonths after the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, the vast majority of people in Swansea still have no idea who got the job at South Wales Police.

Former Cardiff South and Penarth MP Alun Michael beat independent candidate Mike Baker to become the first Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) of South Wales in November.

The South Wales elections had a turnout of 14.7 per cent, the third lowest out of Gwent, Dyfed-Powys and North Wales, all of which did not exceed 17 per cent.

A recent Electoral Reform Society poll has shown that almost 90 per cent of people still do not know who their elected representative is.

The Evening Post decided to put this to the test by hitting the streets of Swansea to ask people whether they knew the name of the South Wales Police PCC.

If they did not, we showed them a photo of Mr Michael and asked them if they could identify him.

Of the 22 people interviewed, aged between 18 and 79, only one could name Alun Michael as the PCC.

Only two recognised his face when we showed them his picture.

Twelve out of the 22 people were aware that there were elections in November, while the remaining 10 were not.

One of those interviewed was Emma Tidbridge, 35, of Blaenymaes.

"No, I have no idea" she said, when asked to identify the South Wales PCC.

"Nothing was advertised. It would have helped if there was more publicity so I could know who I was voting for," she said. Mr Michael has said the blame for the low turnout should be laid at the door of the UK government.

But some people have voiced concerns over the PCCs' interaction with the public.

John White, 66, of Sandfields, blamed what he described as Mr Michael's disengagement from local people for not voting.

"I have no idea who he is and I wasn't interested, like many others, because candidates weren't engaging with the community. How was I supposed to vote if I didn't know who he was?"

The PCC's duties include setting out local policing priorities, reporting annually on progress, and setting out the force budget and community safety grants, none of which were common knowledge among the people we interviewed.

"I don't know what he does or what it means to be the commissioner. It seemed more about getting the job than actually doing the job," said Manselton resident Roy Harris, 77, of the PCC role, which is reported to earn a £65,000 salary.

A statement from the Electoral Reform Society said: "The Police and Crime Commissioner vote failed both candidates and voters alike.

"There are lessons to be learned which we want to see implemented for the next PCC election: Never hold another election in the winter months which discourages people from turning out; never leave voters in the dark about who or what they are voting for – ensure information on candidates is provided in mailings to voters; ensure a level playing field for candidates through well-designed election rules."

A Home Office spokesman is reported as saying: "More than five million people turned out to vote for the first ever election of police and crime commissioners, giving them an infinitely bigger mandate than the unelected and invisible police authorities they replaced.

"That number will only grow in the future as people see the real impact PCCs are already making in their areas, delivering on public priorities in tackling crime.

"The Home Office will look at the points made in this report, along with the conclusions of the Electoral Commission's upcoming assessment."

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