Police Foundation warns of appearance of cronyism as almost half of new PCCs move to create well-paid deputy posts
Matthew Grove, who defeated John Prescott to become PCC for Humberside, has had problems with his deputy’s decision to remain a sitting councillor. Photograph: John Giles/PA
Newly elected police and crime commissioners have been hit by accusations of cronyism and empire-building as nearly half of them have moved to appoint deputies on substantial salaries to help carry out their new role.
In one case, a Conservative PCC has proposed appointing 17 new staff, including four assistant commissioners on salaries of £65,000, to take over from the six existing staff employed by the police authority he replaces. Adam Simmonds is proposing to create an office for drug eradication among several other new roles he has outlined in Northamptonshire.
The swift moves by the commissioners to establish themselves come as the police arbitration tribunal recommended the starting pay of new police constables should be cut by £4,000 to £19,000 a year.
The tribunal, which has been asked to adjudicate on part two of the Winsor reforms to police pay and conditions, has also extended talks to July about the introduction of compulsory severance for police officers. Home Office minsters said they would take time to consider the tribunal’s report before making decisions.
The home secretary, Theresa May, wrote to PCCs on Wednesday telling them she had protected their budgets from further reductions in Whitehall funding for the financial year 2013-14 but could not make the same commitment for 2014-15.
Jon Collins of the Police Foundation thinktank said that so far 15 out of the 41 police and crime commissioners have appointed deputies, with another two advertising the posts.
In West Mercia, leading councillors on the new police and crime panel accused the commissioner, Bill Longmore, a former policeman, of cronyism at their inaugural meeting this week for appointing “his buddy” and former campaign manager Barrie Sheldon, also a former policeman, as his £50,000-a year-deputy.
A row has also broken out on Humberside, where PCC Matthew Grove, has named fellow East Riding Conservative councillor, Paul Robinson, as his deputy. Robinson has angered party colleagues by insisting that he remain a sitting councillor at the same time. In the West Midlands where the Labour PCC, Bob Jones, has appointed Birmingham councillor Yvonne Mosquito as his deputy, the police and crime panel has also urged her stand down from her paid role as chairman of a city district committee.
But few PCCs have yet matched the breadth of vision (vision? how about flagrant misuse of public funds ?) of the Northamptonshire police commissioner, Simmonds. He has already appointed four interim “assistant commissioners”. They include, an assistant commissioner for governance, Simmonds’ election campaign agent Kathryn Buckle. It was disclosed on Thursday that he has also recruited a second Conservative official as his new strategic adviser.
In a consultation paper published this week, in which Simmonds outlines the need for 17 staff, he stresses that he faces a much bigger job than the previous police authority. He said the legislative changes that created PCCs place a sizeable number of new and different statutory duties on them.
They include an office for resilience and an office for drug eradication. The latter will “play a new and direct role in drugs eradication” including working with the director of public health to prevent and tackle drugs use and foster a bigger role for the voluntary sector.
Collins, of the Police Foundation, said the legislation entitled PCCs to appoint deputies to undertake what was a big job, “but it doesn’t look good when they have appointed people who have worked on their campaigns or from their parties. They leave themselves open to the criticism of cronyism.”
There is no requirement on PCC to advertise the post of deputy.
From the Guardian