THE post of crime commissioner for South Yorkshire’s scandal-hit police force will continue to be held by Labour after the party’s candidate secured more than half the votes in a by-election marred by another “dismal” turnout.
Canon Alan Billings said he believed the post of police and crime commissioner should be scrapped after seeing off an expected surge in support by Ukip’s candidate, former police officer Jack Clarkson, to claim victory.
The former parish priest and deputy leader of Sheffield city council will take office on Monday as a replacement for ex-Labour PCC Shaun Wright, who resigned last month in the aftermath of the Alexis Jay report into child sex abuse in Rotherham.
The by-election, thought to have cost £1.66m, saw a turnout of 14.88 per cent, marginally less than in 2012 when Mr Wright was elected.
Dr Billings’s 74,060 votes gave him 50.02 per cent of the total, just 28 votes above the 50 per cent needed for the result to stand without second preferences being taken into account.
Mr Clarkson, who received 46,833 votes, requested a recount as a second preference vote may have seen Ukip overhaul Labour, but was turned down.
The party saw off Ukip fairly comfortably in Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley but the so-called “people’s army” came within 800 votes in Rotherham.
English Democrats candidate David Allen received 8,583 votes while Conservative candidate Ian Walker got 18,536 votes. There were 2,299 rejected ballot papers.
South Yorkshire’s new PCC will take on the role of overseeing a police force that has become mired in multiple scandals.
The role of its officers in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster are under scrutiny in a new inquest, while an inquiry may be ordered into clashes between South Yorkshire Police and striking miners at the 1984 Battle of Orgreave.
Most pressingly, it faces several investigations into its failure to protect hundreds of children from sexual abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 as well as legal action from victims.
In a victory speech moments after his win was confirmed, Dr Billings said the “dismal turnout” sent a message to David Cameron that his post “should be abolished and the money used to fund frontline policing instead”.
He added: “Until the next Labour government does so there is an important job to be done here in holding the police to account and standing up for community policing. First, we must tackle the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham, victims must be supported, offenders must brought to justice. And those who turned a blind eye held to account and punished.”
Yesterday’s poll was seen as a key test of Ukip’s ambitions in the North a week before the people of Rochester and Strood decide whether to re-elect their former Tory MP, Mark Reckless, on a Ukip ticket. Dr Billings said the result “brought the Ukip advance to a shuddering halt in South Yorkshire”, though Mr Clarkson said his 31.66 per cent of the vote meant he had “done really well”.
He said: “South Yorkshire is a hard nut to crack, but I tell you what, we are in there now. Labour have got to be looking over their shoulders.”