There's plenty of time for a chat for these two ladies outside a polling station in Benwell
THE region’s first Police and Crime Commissioner elections have been branded a “farce” with eight out of 10 people not bothering to cast their vote.
Election experts are predicting yesterday’s turnout figures will be the lowest ever recorded for a UK election.
In the North East, the Electoral Reform Society believe just 18.5% of people went to cast their votes for the first commissioners of Northumbria Police and Durham Constabulary.
The winners of the election are expected to be announced this afternoon.
In the Northumbria Police area, Conservative representative Phil Butler, Labour’s Vera Baird, Alistair Baxter of UKIP and Peter Andras of the Lib Dems competed for the role.
In the most radical shake-up of the service for half a century, the new commissioners, who are expected to earn up to £80,000, will control police budgets, set priorities and have the power to hire and fire chief constables.
A Labour Party source said: “Early indications are that it is an extremely low turnout in the region and polling stations haven’t been very busy.
“It was the Government’s flagship policy and there hasn’t been enough information out there for people.
“People are saying they didn’t know about the election or who the candidates were.”
Chronicle reporters were stationed at polling stations across Tyneside and noted just a handful of voters trickling through the doors.
At Gosforth Parish Church Hall in Newcastle, 12 voters turned up in a three-hour period and only two turned up between 8am and 9am – a traditionally busy period at the polls.
In Durham, council staff received fewer postal votes than expected and at a polling station at Durham Cathedral only 50 people voted in six hours.
Candidates from all political parties standing for the Northumbria job made last-ditch attempts to encourage people to vote yesterday, making several personal appearances at polling stations across the region.
Katie Ghose, chief executive for the Electoral Reform Society, said: “The Government has succeeded in turning its own flagship policy into farce.”
“The Government appears to have run an experiment in how low it could drive voter turnout. Polling stations across Northumbria and Durham stood empty because voters knew next to nothing about the role or the candidates they were expected to chose from.
“The Home Office have operated on the assumption that ‘if you build it they will come’. Democracy doesn’t work that way.
“The case for PCCs was not made by Government, and by refusing to provide a mail-shot candidates were denied the opportunity to make their case to voters.”
Turnout figures for Northumbria and Durham will be confirmed later today but are expected to have sunk far lower than this year’s mayoral election in Newcastle, which stood at 31.9%.
The Liberal Democrats ill-fated Alternative Vote referendum in 2011 also saw more head to the polls with a turnout in Newcastle of 41% and Durham of 35%.
Nationally, the lowest ever turnout is the EU Parliamentary election in 1999 at 23%.
Police and Crime Commissioner turnout
Total for Northumbria is 16.8 per cent.
By region in percent
Newcastle - 17 Gateshead - 17.4 North Tyneside 16.1 Northumberland 16.5 South Tyneside 16.6 Sunderland 17.2