INDEPENDENT candidate Martin Surl has been elected Gloucestershire's first ever Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
The 54-year-old former superintendent prevailed in a closely fought contest, defeating his nearest rival, the Conservative candidate Victoria Atkins, by 4,247 votes.
Mrs Atkins, a criminal barrister from the Cotswolds, won the largest number of first preference votes, with 28,422 ballots being cast in her favour compared to the 27,676 for Mr Surl, 13,741 for Labour candidate Rhupi Dhanda and 8,663 for the Lib Dem hopeful Alistair Cameron.
However, because she failed to obtain an overall majority under the supplementary voting system, second preference votes were counted and Mr Surl emerged victorious.
He won 8,910 of the second preference votes, considerably more than the 3,970 claimed by Mrs Atkins.
Once the first and second preference votes had been added together, Mr Surl was left with a winning total of 36,586 votes compared with the Tory candidate's 32,339.
In his acceptance speech, delivered at Stratford Park Leisure Centre in Stroud where the count took place, the ex-police officer said it was a 'tremendous honour' to be elected Gloucestershire's first ever PCC.
Mr Surl, who retired from the force in January after 32 years service, said he would stand up for the interests of everyone in the county and not just those who voted for him.
"I stood as an independent and I will represent all of those who voted for me, all of those who felt the need to spoil their ballots, all of those who didn't vote and all of those who voted for another political party," he said.
In total, 80,618 people turned out to vote in the election - a figure equivalent to 17.1% of the Gloucestershire electorate.
Of those 2,115 spoilt their ballot papers - a higher proportion than in most elections, suggesting that a significant number of people chose to do so intentionally in order to register a protest vote.
In a statement released following Mr Surl's victory, Gloucestershire Constabulary's Chief Constable Mick Matthews said: "I would like to offer my congratulations to Martin Surl on his appointment to the new role of Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucestershire.
"Today marks the start of what I am sure will be a strong working relationship between the Constabulary and the Commissioner to deliver our purpose of keeping people safe from harm and inspiring the highest levels of confidence in us, their local police.
"The Constabulary is committed to working positively with the PCC in the future to ensure the focus remains upon delivering a police force that best serves our communities in Gloucestershire."
For more on Gloucestershire's first ever PCC election see next week's SNJ