Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Wow – that was close!  But Conservative returned as PCC

Incumbent Matthew Barber (Conservative) has been re-elected Police & Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley Police Area – but by a slim margin.

With its very broad reach, 13 local authorities make up the Thames Valley Police Area, including Milton Keynes, Oxford City, Reading and Slough as well as West Berkshire Council.  Nigel Lynn (whose day job is CEO of West Berkshire Council) was appointed Police Area Returning Officer, so the count took place at Newbury Racecourse.

Last year was the big election of councillors in our district, which Kennet Radio fans will remember produced a major shift in political make-up of West Berks Council from Conservative to LibDem.  So, West Berkshire was voting only for its PCC.  Turn-out is often quite low and so it proved, with just under 20% of our 121,125 electoral roll exercising its franchise and our authority being comfortably first to declare, which it did around 12.30pm.

Locally, Matthew Barber’s 9,362 votes were more than 4,000 ahead of Labour’s Tim Starkey.  Perhaps surprisingly, in an area generally considered to be a contest between the Conservatives and LibDem’s, Tim Bearder trailed in third place, another 500 votes behind.  The two independents together bagged another 4,000 or so votes.

Eleven of the 13 local authorities had councillor elections happening as well as the PCC vote, so their turn-out was rather higher and their declarations later.  As the results rolled in, Matthew Barber seemed to be holding a steady lead until some of the bigger authorities, such as Reading and Oxford City, returned thumping votes in favour of Labour’s Tim Starkey.  It was all hanging in the balance, with only a few hundred votes between Matthew Barber and Tim Starkey with just South Oxfordshire District Council to declare – in favour of Mr Barber, who pulled ahead with something over a 2,000-vote majority.

Turn-out was ho hum at 25% but the protest vote was large, with approaching 80,000 votes for two relatively unknown candidates with modest campaigns, approaching one in five of the votes cast.

Matthew Barber took his oath of office shortly after the result was declared, just after 2pm.