Peers blast 'shambolic' preparation for police commissioner election
PREPARATION'S for next month's police commissioner elections have been labelled "shambolic" after it emerged that £350,000 worth of English-only ballot papers are likely to be shredded.
Peers agreed emergency legislation to allow bilingual ballots in both Welsh and English on Monday night, just 48 hours before a deadline for sending out postal ballots in Wales.
An oversight in the Bill for commissioners meant only papers in English were initially authorised, and as a precaution ballots were printed in English in case the legislation could not be amended — now those papers are likely to be pulped and replaced with bilingual ones.
The public go to the polls on November 15 to elect a police commissioner for each force, powerful new posts which come with control of budgets, the ability to decide policing priorities and the power to hire and fire chief constables.
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Labour and Plaid Cymru said it was ridiculous that the language issue had come to Parliament for approval so late in the day.
Labour peer Lord Touhig said: "With the passing of this order, allowing the use of bilingual ballot papers, the English ballot papers already printed will be thrown away — £350,000 spent on creating waste paper."
Lib Dem peer Lord Roberts said it was "a shambolic way" to undertake any sort of election, and added that it was "beyond my comprehension."
Postal ballots are due to begin being issued at 5pm today.
Returning officers in Wales have a duty to see the Welsh language is given equal status to English.
Government ministers said it was not unprecedented for similar orders to be passed shortly before elections, and that the same had happened before the 2010 general election.
Lord Taylor, for the Government, said the cost of the bilingual ballot papers would be met from the Home Office budget for the elections, which is around £75 million.
Each force in Wales and England will have an elected commissioner who will carry out the work of the existing police authorities.
The UK Government says the commissioners will make police forces more accountable to the communities they serve — but opponents have claimed they will lead to politicisation of policing.
There are four candidates standing in South Wales — two independent candidates in Tony Verderame and Mike Baker, along with Labour candidate Alun Michael, and Conservative Caroline Jones.
The Dyfed-Powys Police election is a straight between Christine Gwyther for Labour and Christopher Salmon for the Tories. Neither Plaid nor the Lib Dems are standing in the police commissioner elections.