Review plea after ‘no’ vote

Olly Martins
Olly Martins

Police boss Olly Martins has described the current referendum rules as “an affront to democracy” following the ‘no’ vote to increase the police precept in the county.

He is calling on the Electoral Commission to conduct an urgent review of the regulations he had to follow when residents were asked to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to an increase in the amount they pay towards policing on May 7.

He believes the referendum question and the information he was allowed to provide to taxpayers were inadequate to the task.

The Police and Crime Commissioner was “deeply disappointed but acceptant” of the outcome which saw most voters saying ‘No’ to his proposed 15.8% increase - an annual rise that amounted to £24.80 extra for a Band D property.

Condemning the unfairness of a process which he believes did not allow people to make an informed decision, he said: “The question set by the government on the ballot papers failed to mention what the cash amount of the increase was. Furthermore, it created the misleading impression that the percentage rise was on the whole of the council tax.”

He also believes that the Bedfordshire referendum, held on the same day as the General Election, “established beyond doubt that the heavily restricted amount of information and promotional activity allowed for by the regulations is insufficient to allow people to make an informed decision. This has all since led to frustrated residents expressing to me their dismay at the wording, and saying they would have voted ‘Yes’ if they had understood what they were being asked”.

Mr Martins had triggered the referendum by setting a rise in the police precept that was greater than 2%.

With Chief Constable Colette Paul advising that 300 more officers are needed to bring the force’s resource level up to the average, Mr Martins concludes: “I will continue to press for fairer funding for Bedfordshire Police, as county representatives have for at least the last 10 years, but I will also press the point that in the light of our experience the government should now review the regulations so that they support rather than stifle democratic debate.”