Some Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) are in the news this week, however it’s not for their crime fighting plans. In a report in the Mail on Sunday, 16 out of 41 PCCs have said they will appoint deputies. The legislation does allow for this, however it appears the way the legislation is interpreted varies from one PCC to another.
Adam Simmonds, Northamptonshire’s PCC, is a former senior officer at Northamptonshire County Council. Before the election he said he would be a progressive, considered, and modern thinking commissioner, although there appears to be nothing modern about his decision to appoint four assistant commissioners at £65K a year each. One of his assistants will be his former election agent, Kathryn Buckle. This has lead to accusations of cronyism, which is hardly surprising. It looks like Mr Simmonds is trying to build an empire around him, despite the fact he already has paid staff he inherited from the old police authority.
West Midlands PCC, Bob Jones, has appointed Yvonne Mosquito as his sole deputy. She will be paid £65K a year for a 32-hour working week, and will continue as a councillor earning a reported £27K – a total package of £92K. West Midlands is a large police force area, so he may need some additional help, but how did he decide on a salary of £65K for the equivalent of a four-day week? If she is serious about her new role, how will she find the time to continue as a councillor? How much of her time will be diverted away from being a deputy PCC to fulfil her council roles?
It is reported in the Hull Daily Mail that Humberside PCC, Matthew Grove, has appointed a fellow Conservative councillor, Paul Robinson, as his deputy on £45K a year. He said that Mr Robinson will have a contract of employment and very specific requirements to help deliver his targets and manifesto pledges. He also said it will be a full-time job and not some political jolly. We do not know what those specific requirements are, as they have not been published. and although Mr Grove has said it will be a full-time role, Mr Robinson has claimed he will be working four days a week. This would mean the deputy’s full-time salary is £56,250. Mr Grove will resign his East Riding Council seat in the New Year, but Mr Robinson will remain as a councillor. If being a deputy is a full-time role (as Mr Grove insists) it makes you wonder how Mr Robinson – just like Yvonne Mosquito – will find the time to continue as a councillor.
There is also a conflict of interest as councils appoint members to the new Police and Crime Panel. Mr Robinson could find himself being ‘grilled’ about decisions he has made by friends and colleagues who sit next to him in the council chamber. The same goes for Ms Mosquito.
At the moment, PCCs are inundated with work. As they are new, the media is interested in them, and they also have to write five-year police and crime plans. After that, who knows how busy they will be. It seems that many of them are simply appointing their friends and colleagues to well remunerated positions without any clear idea about what they will be doing, what hours they should work, or what a fair salary should be.
There is then the problem with accountability. PCCs were scrutinised through the election process. The same cannot be said of their deputies. Although Police and Crime Panels will interview prospective deputies, they cannot block their appointment. Basically, PCCs can say they note the panel’s recommendation, and then do what they like. This is not healthy for democracy. More information on the legislation can be found here.
The upside is unlike unelected police authorities, in three and a half years PCCs will have to go back to the voters and ask for another mandate. Mr Simmonds in particular needs to remember this. Those PCCs who appear to be more interested in empire building, and awarding potential non-jobs to their friends, rather than addressing local priorities, will hopefully be shown the door.