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PCC elections delayed due to COVID-19 as contingency plans reviewed

The Police and Crime Commissioner elections look set to be delayed until the autumn due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Electoral Commission confirmed it has written to the government to ask that the elections due on 7 May be put on hold.

A spokeswoman told Police Oracle: “We have sent a letter to the government asking for all May polls to be postponed until the autumn. This includes Police and Crime Commissioner elections.”

Discussions considering this option have been going on for more than two weeks between the Home Office and the Cabinet Office. Now the Electoral Commission, which monitors polling and political party campaigning has stepped in.

It means legislation will have to be rushed through Parliament – as early as next week.

PCCs had already been tipped off that the option was being considered and most were being pragmatic about the situation.

One told Police Oracle: “What can we do. We’re simply waiting to see what the advice from the Cabinet Office is. There is the issue of costs for those who are standing again. Most will have already printed the campaign literature and that will have to be scrapped if it has May’s date on it. Will they be reimbursed?”

It came as the Home Office was told that its contingency plans for police to deal with the coronavirus are to be reviewed by MPs.

As the UK moves to a critical footing to prevent the further spread of the virus, MPs wanted to know what plans were in place for forces such as Sussex and Essex to work with the Border Agency to deal with challenges such as British citizens returning from Italy who are likely to be quarantined.

The Home Affairs Committee made the surprise announcement that it wants to know what the police business continuity plans are and how officers will be safeguarded.

The committee also wants to know the terms ministers will give to officers who cancel leave and rest days if a significant number of officers are unable to work.

It followed concerns being raised by the Shadow Health Secretary, Jon Ashworth, that the government was focusing too heavily on behavioural psychology advice rather than scientific guidance.

The committee will also investigate whether Local Resilience Forums are organised and prepared for the step-change in activity – and whether police forces will be called in to support them.

Forces are already cutting rest days and increasing overtime due to the existing shortage in police numbers and a significant increase in cases of the virus will add to those pressures.

Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper MP said: “It’s very important that all of our public services are prepared for coronavirus. We need to know what preparations the Home Office is and should be making and what practical consequence there will be for police and border force as coronavirus continues to spread.”

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