EXPERTS are predicting a low turnout but a Conservative victory as voters go to the polls to elect a new Thames Valley crime commissioner today.

The polls opened at 7am and will stay open until 10pm.

The winner is expected to be announced tomorrow afternoon.

But Dr Stephen Fisher, Oxford University politics fellow and tutor at Trinity College, said: “I expect it will be a very low turnout. Local people are very confused about what it is all about and the information about how to chose between these candidates is very thin.

“That means it is more likely that the people who vote will do so according to party allegiances. In the Thames Valley area, the party that normally does best is the Conservatives, so I suspect it is going to be a significant Tory majority.”

The six candidates said voters had the chance to decide the future of local policing.

Tory candidate Anthony Stansfeld predicted less than 30 per cent would vote.

He added: “I don’t think it has caught the public’s imagination. It’s been difficult to get the message across.”

UKIP’s candidate Barry Cooper said: “We will be lucky to get more than 24 per cent.

“The sheer geographical area has been an enormous challenge.”

But he added: “It’s going to happen and it’s going to bring an element of democracy to policing.”

Tim Starkey, Labour’s candidate, said people should vote because the commissioner will control a £371,000 budget, police numbers, priorities and services.

He added: “It is important for what is at stake. All of these will have a big impact on crime and communities.”

Oxford magistrate John Howson, who is the Liberal Democrat candidate, said: “Although most people are focused on the police role, the PCC will have a much wider responsibility including victims of crime, witnesses, and also crime prevention.”

Independent Geoff Howard said he would not be surprised if the turnout was as low as 15 per cent.

Patience Awe, the other independent candidate, said: “There are still quite a large number of people that feel in the dark.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to reach them and tell them the significance of the election.”

What it's all about

POLICE and Crime Commissioners are being elected today for 41 police forces in England and Wales. They will be accountable to the public and tasked with engaging with the community.

The £85,000-a-year position’s responsibilities include setting the force’s budget and priorities.

They will also have the power to appoint and dismiss the Chief Constable.
The winner will start work on November 22 and elections will be held every four years.

Votes can be cast at hundreds of polling stations across Oxfordshire.
Polling stations will be the same as used for local council elections.

Voters will be given a first and second preference when casting their ballot, called the supplementary vote system.