Electing new police and crime commissioners for the first time on a cold November night was â€œnot in the interests of votersâ€, a critical report has found.
Elections for police and crime commissioners were marred by a record-low turnout with around one in seven bothering to go to the ballot box
Members of the public were left in the dark about the elections and who was standing in their area as the Home Office â€œdid not have sufficient resources or the level of expertiseâ€ to run the election, the Association of Electoral Administrators warned.
The Cabinet Office should oversee all future elections and ensure that electoral law and funding are in place six months before voters go to the polls, the report said.
PCCs, which replaced existing police authorities in 41 force areas across England and Wales, have the power to set force budgets and even hire and fire chief constables.
But the first elections last November were marred by a record-low turnout with around one in seven bothering to go to the ballot box, prompting a detailed inquiry by the Electoral Commission.
Just 120,000 leaflets about candidates were dispatched before the elections and turn out would have been higher if they had been sent for free to all voters, Labour claimed.
The AEA, which has nearly 1,700 members, said it found the detailed rules on how the elections should be run and how much could be spent in order to deliver them were both “extremely” late.
â€œIt is not in the interests of voters or the effective administration of the electoral process to hold a major national poll in November,â€ it said.
â€œElectoral administrators were expected to deliver elections on the basis of extremely late legislation and without certainty about how much money they could spend. It is to their credit that they managed to do so.â€
It warned the Home Office, which was responsible for delivering the elections, â€œdid not have sufficient resources or the level of expertise to do so effectively and the electoral process suffered as a resultâ€.
The group added that, in the future, â€œproperly coordinated national public awareness campaigns will be vital to ensure that voters are properly informed about what is happening in their area and how to participateâ€.
A Home Office spokesman said: â€œThese elections marked the biggest democratic reform in policing in our lifetimes.
â€œMore 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.
â€œThat 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.â€
The spokesman added: â€œThe Home Office will look at the points made in this report, along with the conclusions of the Electoral Commission’s upcoming assessment.â€
PCC elections timing ‘not in the interests of voters’