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Election Protocol 2024

1. Introduction

This protocol sets out the arrangements to ensure that candidates and potential candidates participating in the election for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Warwickshire are dealt with in a fair, transparent and impartial manner.

The protocol also provides guidance and safeguards to all staff of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) for Warwickshire, and Warwickshire Police, to avoid allegations of bias.

2. Roles and responsibilities

Key roles are as follows:

  • The Police Area Returning Officer (PARO) is Steve Maxey, Chief Executive of North Warwickshire Borough Council. The PARO is responsible for delivering the election in accordance with the Electoral Committee’s Guidance.
  • The OPCC nominated point of contact is the Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer, Polly Reed. The Chief Executive is responsible for providing advice and guidance to stakeholders, including staff members, ensuring that resources of the office are not used for election purposes.
  • The Chief Constable will nominate a single point of contact (SPOC) who will be responsible for liaising with the OPCC Chief Executive in respect of queries and enquiries. They will also provide a link to the policing of the election.

The Chief Executive and/or the Chief Constable will seek guidance from the PARO regarding any activity they believe may interfere with the election.

3. Key dates and milestones

  • The pre-election period will commence when the PARO publishes the Notice of Election, this is likely to be mid-late March 2024. The pre-election period will end when the newly elected PCC takes office.
  • The list of candidates confirmed as standing in the election, known as the statement of persons nominated, will be published. This is likely to be early April 2024. There is a distinction between prospective candidates (those nominated by a political party or expressing interest in the role before this date) and those confirmed as candidates by the statement of persons nominated.
  • The election will take place on Thursday 2 May 2024.
  • The vote count will be conducted, this could take place on election day, or in the days immediately following, this depending on PARO arrangements and other elections taking place. The Oath may be arranged to immediately follow the count.
  • On Wednesday 8 May 2024 the current PCC’s term of office will end. The Deputy PCC will also cease their role on this date.
  • On Thursday 9 May 2024 the newly elected PCC’s term of office will commence. It is anticipated that they will have made the declaration of acceptance of office prior to this date.

Whilst the ‘pre-election period’ is not defined as an Act of Parliament, restrictions are placed on local authorities (also applicable to PCCs and their Deputies) by the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity 2011, which refers to periods of heightened sensitivity during elections. Much of this sensitivity is about exercising greater care to observe laws and rules, which apply in any event, and recognising that public bodies and offices are likely to come under greater scrutiny at election times.

The following should also be taken into account:

  • The restrictions placed on PCCs by virtue of the Code of Practice on Local Authority Publicity[1].
  • The impact of the Seven Principles of Public Life – the Nolan Principles, by which PCCs are bound as holders of a public office.
  • The impact of the PCCs Oath of Office[2].

During the pre-election period, the following restrictions will apply:

  • Where practicable, the OPCC and Warwickshire Police should avoid making and publicising major decisions which are novel, contentious or repercussive, or that may be deemed to be politically sensitive.
  • The OPCC and Warwickshire Police websites should be politically neutral and must contain only factual information.
  • Documents which promote the PCC should not be published.
  • OPCC staff, police officers and police staff must ensure that they neither support nor contribute to the activities of a candidate at any time.
  • Clear records of all dealings with candidates throughout the pre-election period must be maintained to ensure transparency and accountability, unless the incumbent PCC is conducting their statutory responsibilities.
  • OPCC staff, police officers and police staff must not agree to be photographed or used as part of any campaign.
  • OPCC staff, police officers and police staff should take particular care with their use of social media, particularly their profile, that is likely to be deemed as commentary in a professional capacity.

Further guidance:

4. Engaging with candidates

The following principles apply:

  • Prospective candidates, confirmed candidates and political parties, must be treated equitably and have equal access to information.
  • Prospective candidates, and confirmed candidates, remain members of the public and are not entitled to confidential information.

The OPCC will seek to identify prospective candidates publicly announced. The Chief Executive will contact each prospective candidate and invite them to an introductory meeting and offer to share any information requested. Where candidates make representations directly to individuals in the OPCC or Warwickshire Police this must be brought to the attention of the Chief Executive and a record will be made.

4.1 Visits

If a candidate would like to visit the OPCC or Warwickshire Police the request will be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the nature of the request, and availability of personnel to support this. The Chief Executive must be made aware of such a request before it is agreed, to ensure consistent decision making. Where the request is to visit Warwickshire Police, the force SPOC will also be part of the decision making process.

4.2 Contact register

The OPCC will maintain a register of interactions with candidates on the OPCC website for transparency. Where information is released to a candidate it will be made available to all candidates via the website, and the Register will be updated. A record of matters discussed with candidates will also be listed. All requests directed to Warwickshire Police will be discussed with the OPCC Chief Executive and logged in the Register, with the response, to ensure full transparency and impartiality of treatment.

4.3 Briefing meeting

The OPCC Chief Executive will invite nominated candidates to a briefing meeting, following the publication of the Notice of the Election. The time and date will be published on the OPCC website election pages. This meeting will provide information to candidates about the OPCC and Warwickshire Police. The PARO will also be notified of the briefing date so as to inform candidates of the service being offered. Questions will be taken and candidates will be requested to submit advance notice of specific questions in order to provide factually correct and accurate answers. The briefing will not cover the running of the election, which will be the subject of separate arrangements organised by the PARO.

4.4 Incumbent PCC standing for re-election

The incumbent PCC, if they are seeking re-election, is to be treated the same as any other candidate with all requests for information being recorded and shared on the OPCC website.

Unlike many other elected positions, the incumbent PCC maintains office throughout the declaration and election period and up to Wednesday 8 May, and therefore continues to have statutory responsibilities. However, care must be taken to ensure that activities, especially during the pre-election period, are restricted to statutory roles that could not be perceived as influencing the election. If required, the OPCC Chief Executive will utilise existing delegations to demonstrate political neutrality in decision making.

5. Publication of information

The OPCC Chief Executive will arrange for a series of factual briefing materials to be developed and posted on the OPCC website. Candidates requesting information that is already covered within these documents will be directed to that website.

Both organisations operate a publication scheme under the Freedom of Information Act and have personnel with responsibility for responding to requests. Any request for information will be published in accordance with these arrangements. Where it is clear that the request for information is directly related to the election, the response to the enquiry will also be linked on the register.

The OPCC has no role in monitoring information published by other organisations or news outlets. However where factually incorrect information has been published, which could impact on confidence in the PCC or Warwickshire Police, a clarification may be provided.  This should be done in a neutral manner, and the OPCC Chief Executive will decide whether it is appropriate to do so in consultation with the PARO where appropriate. Such a clarification will also be published in the Register.

6. Use of photographs and images

The OPCC and Warwickshire Police will seek to ensure that their imagery and livery is not used in any campaigning or publicity material. Where it is so used, the OPCC Chief Executive will consider the need to request the candidate to remove or withdraw the material. Each case will be judged on its merits, but include consideration of the profile of the image, the message given, the degree of publication already achieved and the likely reputational damage and confidence in policing.

Until the pre-election period commences, it is acceptable for candidates to be filmed or photographed with police offices or staff or OPCC staff; provided that the individual is content to be filmed/photographed (taking into account the requirements of political neutrality).  However, once within the pre-election period, OPCC staff, police officers and staff must not be filmed or photographed.

7. Standards of behaviour

The PCC, Deputy PCC and OPCC Staff are ordinarily bound by their Code of Conduct, and Warwickshire Police are bound by the Code of Ethics. Individuals will be expected to behave in such a way that maintains public trust and confidence in the organisations, demonstrating political neutrality at all times.

Should anyone seek to support a candidate in the election, the OPCC Chief Executive or Chief Constable will provide suitable work related advice and guidance, assessing each case on its merits.

7.1 OPCC

All OPCC staff (with the exception of the Deputy PCC) are in politically restricted posts, according to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. This means that staff should routinely consider whether their activity is it likely to affect or influence the outcome of the election.

Guidance is available to staff to clearly outline expectations around political activity

7.2 Warwickshire Police

The political neutrality of the police service underpins the legitimacy of Warwickshire Police to enforce the law and enhance the safety of all those within the county. The public should be confident that officers and staff will serve them loyally and impartially.

Police Officers

The Police Regulations 2003 sets out the conditions of service for officers. This includes at all times to not take any active part in politics and abstain from any activity likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of duties, or which could give rise to an impression of taking part in politics. Furthermore, the ‘Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020’, also highlights the expected standards of behaviour, including honesty and integrity, and equality and diversity.

During the pre-election period all officers must be politically sensitive when dealing with party political and independent candidates, their representatives and supporters. Officers must avoid any action that is, or might reasonably be perceived as being, supportive of any party, candidate or opinion. This includes encouraging anyone to vote for a certain candidate, treating candidates differently, supporting or attacking the views of candidates, or putting themselves in a position that could be used by a party or candidate in support of their campaign. This restriction includes the use of social media.

The PCCs Elections Order 2012 puts some additional restrictions on police officers during an election:

‘A constable of police for any police area may by word, message, writing or in any other manner, endeavour to persuade any person to give, or dissuade any person from giving, his or her vote, whether as an elector or as proxy at a PCC Election’.

Police officers should therefore refrain from encouraging the electorate to vote, through any form of interaction, whether this be through neighbourhood meetings or any contact through their day-to-day business.

Police staff

Some senior members of police staff hold ‘politically restricted’ roles (as included in their contract of employment) and cannot actively support PCC candidates. More generally, although the ‘Standards of Professional Behaviour’ do not cover every eventuality, a core element is ensuring that a staff member behaves in a manner which does not discredit the police service or undermine public confidence in the service.  Any act which could bring the impartiality of the police into question will no doubt undermine public confidence in the service.

Some members of staff may wish to be involved in election campaigning, and guidance will be provided to ensure the rights of the individual are conducive to public confidence in the service. Particular care must be taken with Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who may be directed to patrol a polling station[3], to ensure they have not taken an active part in campaigning in the run up to the election, and certainly not in that area.

7.3 Post-election

The newly elected PCC will be supported in an induction programme which will be prepared by the OPCC, supported by Warwickshire Police. The OPCC Chief Executive will work with the PCC to identify particular requirements based on their knowledge, skills and experience and tailor the programme to suit. National bodies such as the Association of PCCs (APCC) will also arrange induction and training activities to which the PCC will be invited.

[1] S6 Local Government Act 1986, as amended by Schedule 16, paragraph 173 of the Police Reform and Local Responsibility Act

[2] PCC (Declaration of Acceptance of Office) Order 2012

[3] Election Registration and Administration Act 2013