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Coronavirus: Uncertainty over Kent PCC and Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone local elections

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The Kent police and crime commissioner election could be put on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The poll is due to take place on May 7 but may be among the growing list of events that could be postponed to help limit the spread of the infection.

Coronavirus could delay three elections in Kent
Coronavirus could delay three elections in Kent

The Home Office, which is responsible for crime commissioners, is reported to be weighing up whether to put the elections on hold - along with local council elections. Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone both have elections but are the only authorities in Kent to have them.

In an email sent to board members of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, chief executive Susannah Hancock said the Home Office, in discussions with the Cabinet Office, had sought legal advice on postponing the elections.

The concerns are that if the election of 40 crime commissioners does go ahead, it could add to the risk of the infection being passed on. Additionally, there could be worries that managing the elections could be affected if staff manning polling stations and those employed to count votes are struck by illness.

A decision to defer any election would probably need to be made by the end of March, with formal notice of the poll due on March 31. Candidates nomination papers have to be submitted by April 8.

Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott
Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott

Meanwhile, a solicitor from Rochester has been selected by the Liberal Democrats to contest the PCC election in May.

Graham Colley, who stood as the party’s candidate for Rochester and Strood in the general election, said that if elected he would emphasise long-term solutions to address reoffending.

He said crime was a “symptom of a problematic society” and the solution did not lie in “gratuitous fixes” advocated by the Conservatives.

“Policing cannot change society, it can only seek to prevent its worst effects until society solves its own problems,” he says on his campaign website.

Mr Colley has contested three general elections in Kent, twice being picked as the candidate for Mid Kent and Faversham and last year stood in Rochester and Strood. He has also served as a county councillor.

Current commissioner Matthew Scott (Con) will also stand. Labour will select their candidate later this month and no other candidates have been put forward yet.

The commissioner who is paid £86,700 has the job of maintaining an efficient and effective force but has no role in frontline policing.

Turnout in the crime commissioner election since their introduction in 2012 has been notoriously low, with widespread public indifference. The last poll saw a turnout of just 20% in Kent and Medway, raising questions about their mandate.

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