A LOW turnout and the success of independent candidates was a nationwide feature of the police and crime commissioner elections and were reflected in the result in Hampshire.

Last Thursday’s election, the worst county-wide turnout in history, saw Independent candidate Simon Hayes win – beating off the challenge of former Conservative minister Michael Mates, after second preferences were taken into account.

Mr Hayes insisted he has the mandate of the people for the £85,000 a year job and blamed poor Government publicity and the winter timing of the poll for the apathy.

Voters in Test Valley were slightly more enthusiastic than average with 17.9 per cent voting – beaten only by Winchester where the turnout was just over 20 per cent. In Gosport just 11 per cent bothered to vote.

After his win Mr Hayes said: “I think it’s disappointing and disturbing that people were not aware of the election taking place and were not aware of the influence of the role.

“There is now a great responsibility to show those who did not vote that the role of the police and crime commissioner has value to them.”

Mr Hayes said his main mission would be to reduce Hampshire’s high reoffending rate which is currently 75 per cent.

The Electoral Commission described the national turnout of 15 per cent as “a concern for everyone who cares about democracy”.

Mr Hayes, who is now the chairman of Crimestoppers Hampshire and Isle of Wight, is a former chairman of Hampshire Police Authority and also an ex-Conservative leader of New Forest District Council.

Despite his past political links Mr Hayes said he was a true independent with no support from the party.

He said: “When we started this, we had no real anticipation that we would get this far. The expectation was we wouldn’t win but we thought it was important to give the electors of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight a chance to vote for an independent candidate.”

When the second preferences of the defeated candidates were added Mr Hayes overturned a deficit to end with 80,669 to Mr Mates’s 65,804.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall said: “On behalf of the force, I would like to congratulate Simon Hayes on his election to the role of Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire.

“Hampshire is a successful forwar d - t h i n k i n g force which has seen a significant reduction in crime levels across the two counties over the past five years.”