Is it because I is white?

Do you fancy a job dealing with policing and crime that has a fancy title, pays reasonably well, is available close to home, is flexible, possibly to the point of being part-time, and which allows you to be political but without the tedious necessity of getting elected, or proving that you are qualified for it in any way?

Well, dream on, you can't have it! Applications in your area are very likely closed, because, let's face it, applications were never really open, and you may be the wrong colour and gender anyway!

The job is that of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, a role added to the legislation while it was still in the House of Lords and numerous people were wondering whether one person could really replace 17 members of a police authority and still have time for new responsibilities. So their Lordships, having insisted that all a Commissioner's staff should be restricted from involvement in that nasty 'politics' thing, created one exception, a Deputy, and for this post they relaxed the usual rule in local government that all appointments must be made on merit.

Hmmm. Some PCCs seem to have warmed to this whole “I can hire and fire who I like” approach, and the idea seems to be spreading beyond Deputies, to 'Assistant Commissioners' and to former Police Authority Chief Executives, ignoring the fact that the legal protection around merit does not extend so far. Rumours of deals spread in advance of the election as to who would be given what job by whom, and in some instances the name of the proposed Deputy was trailed in advance, almost like they were playing the Vice-Presidential part of the ticket in that other November election.

Except they weren't actually on the ticket. No Deputy PCCs were elected. It is not an elected position. It is an appointed position but, if the Deputies are not appointed on merit, exactly on what basis are they appointed?

Around the country Commissioners have been tempted to think that the lack of a requirement to appoint on merit disposes of the need for a recruitment process, and so we saw names being proposed on the very first day of office. But they would do well to remember that recruitment processes exist for a reason. They demonstrate transparency, instill confidence around the issue of fairness, and allow merit to be considered – as, whatever the law says is needed, it may be difficult to make a political argument to local taxpayers that they ought to pay someone a wad of cash despite their attributes rather than because of them.

Merit is not so easily avoided, and a quick look at the nomination documents shows Commissioners seeking to justify choices on the basis of, well, merit – that the proposed Deputy would actually be good at the job. Could a Commissioner who has relied on merit to justify an appointment then fall back on their statutory exemption if their lack of an open competitive process were challenged? Why was there no recruitment process to allow them to pick the best?

Commissioners should also remember that the law has not removed decades of legislation on racial and sexual discrimination, among other matters. West Midlands Commissioner Bob Jones gave as the last of 5 reasons for appointing Birmingham Councillor Yvonne Mosquito that “Yvonne complements my own experience and expertise in terms of geography being from Birmingham as opposed to the Black Country and being a black female…” (Emphasis mine)

Really? We can appoint people to posts because of their race and gender now, can we? Are you white and male and fancying the job of Deputy PCC in the West Midlands? There's your tribunal case, right there. I suppose the Equality and Human Rights Commission will be calling the Commissioner on Monday?

This week TopOfTheCops has been working with Martin Beckford, The Mail on Sunday's Home Affairs Editor, to collate and analyse details of the Commissioners' early appointments – you can find more here – note that of the 16 Commissioners saying they will have Deputies, only 2 are planning open recruitment. (You can also find a list from the Police Foundation containing details of most of the Deputies here.)

Perhaps Commissioners would be safer following the lead of Derbyshire Commissioner Alan Charles, who will be putting an ad in the paper next week.

If Commissioners use taxpayers' money to put their mates in cushy jobs no-one else can apply for they risk damaging public confidence and may find their very first act breaks the law.

 

More from TopOfTheCops on Deputy PCCs:-

 

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12 Responses to Is it because I is white?

  1. Canny Brown says:

    Is it true that if for some reason the PCC can no longer ‘serve’, that the Deputy PCC takes over? Without any election???

    • samchapman says:

      Only if the Police and Crime Panel choose them, and only to cover a temporary vacancy. Otherwise there is a fresh election.

  2. Jimpson says:

    Rather than focus on the issues of gender and race you might well have focussed on the appointment of Brian Ashton in Cambridgeshire. What exactly were the attributes that led Sir Graham appointing his long time friend and fellow Conservative? Experience of policing was not one of them.
    http://www.rtaylor.co.uk/shona-johnstone-deputy-police-crime-commissioner.html#comment-75349
    http://democracy.peterborough.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=13088

  3. Colin Skelton says:

    There are several significant issues (problems) with having Deputy PCC’s. The most significant is cost. During the election almost all candidates made great play of the “age of austerity” that we are living in. This is not a position I personally agree with, but many candidates did. 16 of those candidates now wish to appoint a deputy and are willing to pay between £28k up to an astonishing £260k (for 4 assistant PCC’s) each year to have someone to essentially “hold their hand”.
    £260k is the same as about 10 Police officers, which do you think will reduce crime more, four assistant PCC’s or ten Police Officers? Such spending, when candidates cited lack of money as a reason why they could not recruit Police Officers, is disgraceful.

    I’ll go further and predict that the new Deputy and Assistant PCC’s will actually inhibit the ability of our Police Services to reduce crime. They all appear to have no experience of Policing and in some cases, little experience of actual work. So they will drag resources and effort away from Policing as they attempt to learn the role and job. As they have little knowledge of Police and crime they will fall back to managing by opinion. This is one of the reasons cited by John Seddon as being responsible for such poor management practices in the UK. I agree with his diagnosis and it will be interesting to correlate crime figures to Deputy/Assistant PCC’s spending in a few years’ time.

    So these new people will actually make reducing crime more difficult and, I will wager, actually enact policies that will either promote crime or inhibit others ability to fight crime.

    A second point is that these will be the first tranche of political appointees, chosen for their political ideology and not their experience or knowledge. This is the worst kind of cronyism, best exemplified by appointing your own election agent, it happens in the US and now we have it here.
    I’ll make a second prediction, over the next few years we will see political PCC’s and their deputies make some highly dubious contracting decisions. I suspect this will apply to Conservative PCC’s more than Labour or independent but nonetheless, we will see private companies lobbying hard and inappropriate decisions being made that go against the public interest. But these decisions will enrich private interests at the expense of the public

    This first tranche of deputies and Assistants is also setting the groundwork for corruption, albeit, with the best of intentions.

  4. Guy The Mac says:

    “Do you fancy a job [...] that has a fancy title, pays reasonably well, is available close to home, is flexible, possibly to the point of being part-time, and which allows you to be political but without the tedious necessity of getting elected, or proving that you are qualified for it in any way?”

    To be fair thiis is no different to a Ministerial Spad. At least in the W.Mids elections it was made clear before the vote who the deputies would be, so it did feel a bit like voting for a double ticket, even if it wasn’t formally so.

  5. Glyn says:

    The PCC himself need not do very much if he appoints staff to do the work, while he busies himself spending the salary. In last Thursday’s (North Wales) Daily Post was a half-page advert (how much did that cost?) for the following staff:
    Chief Executive. Salary circa £75,000
    Chief Finance Officer (p/t) with a salary of £60,000 applied pro rata
    Communications Officer. Salary £28,947

    All of these salaries are well above the average for North Wales. No doubt these people will appoint their office managers, receptionists, speech writers, finance officers, newsletter editors and so on. There was no mention during the campaign that the new PCC would need an army of staff. Whatever the merits of the applicants, will they stand a chance if the political PCC (who stood, cleverly, as an Independent in North Wales) does not like them?

  6. Pingback: PCCs – I’m Sick of Them Already. Whose Idea Were They Anyway? « retiredandangry

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  8. It's not as if you were not warned says:

    So PCC’s were widely criticized as a concept – backed by only those with no Policing experience and are now proving to be a political pork barrel for party hacks.

    QED

  9. ssjgr01 says:

    I find it distressing that you choose to focus on one particular appointment – perhaps driven by your own political persuasion – rather than an overall critique of the process.After all four assistants to another PCC is equally worthy of comment. I personally believe that the PCC legislation should have covered these issues.

    • samchapman says:

      There will be further comment, including on Adam Simmonds and his 4 assistants in a few hours time.
      However, the West Midlands appointment, with an explicit reference to the appointees ethnic and gender characteristics was clearly the most worthy of comment. Appointing someone to any other post because they were a white man would have had a lot more attention than this blog, and rightly so. I view this as the most legally problematic in the public domain. If Matt Bennett had been elected there and appointed Councillor Mohammed Arif with similar wording my point would have been the same.

    • samchapman says:

      There will be further comment, including on Adam Simmonds and his 4 assistants, in a few hours time.
      However, the West Midlands appointment, with an explicit reference to the appointee’s ethnic and gender characteristics was clearly the most worthy of comment. Appointing someone to any other post because they were a white man would have had a lot more attention than this blog, and rightly so. I view this as the most legally problematic in the public domain. If Matt Bennett had been elected there and appointed Councillor Mohammed Arif with similar wording my point would have been the same.

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