Last week's joint effort on Deputy PCC appointments between TopOfTheCops and the Mail on Sunday seems to have struck a chord, being followed by a number of articles such as those in the Guardian and the Times and an item on yesterday's Today programme on BBC Radio 4 (1 hour and 10 minutes in), where Northamptonshire Commissioner Adam Simmonds (who isn't appointing a Deputy but has 4 interim Assistants) and the Police Foundation's Jon Collins both acquitted themselves very well.
Both accepted the need for transparency in appointments including such wild innovations as the use of advertisements, and Adam Simmonds joined a list so far populated only by Dorset Commissioner Martyn Underhill and Leicestershire Commissioner Sir Clive Loader in indicating that he didn't anticipate needing to recruit a Deputy. Many Commissioners have yet to come to a firm conclusion (23 have not proposed a Deputy) and a couple are recruiting a Deputy using open recruitment processes.
So this week TopOfTheCops has been working once again with the Mail on Sunday to explore a related issue – that of Commissioners who have enough time for another paid role, but not enough time to do without a Deputy.
Possibly the most egregious example is that of TopOfTheCops regular and Lancashire Commissioner Clive “what has he done this time” Grunshaw.
Back in May I heard a rumour that mere County Councillor Grunshaw (as he then was) had told one of Labour's internal selection hustings meetings that he intended, if elected PCC, to drop his role as Wyre Labour group leader, but to retain his roles on the County and Borough Councils and to seek re-election for them as they came due. So I asked him to confirm whether this was his intention and to elaborate on how he hoped to find time to do all the various roles he would hold.
Here is his reply:-
I'm happy to confirm that the views that have been attributed to me are misleading, mischievous and inaccurate. This has not been raised with me during hustings and if it had been I would have indicated that I see the role of Police & Crime Commissioner for Lancashire as a full-time position (how could it be otherwise?).
Hope this helps?
The emphasis is mine but the words are his and clear enough, one might think. So how odd that, straight after the election, we see this story in the Lancashire Evening Post, “Police Chief set to stay with council” and confirmation that he has resigned his position as Wyre Labour Group leader, but will be retaining his paid roles at Lancashire County Council and Wyre Borough Council for the short term at least.
Hang on – isn't that pretty much what he denied in May? And what happened to Commissioner being a full time position and “how could it be otherwise”. There's some stuff about avoiding a by-election, except that I have separately been advised that they are not held within 6 months of an actual election, which is the case with the Commissioner's County Council seat.
Perhaps he's already feeling the pressure though, as he has decided to go with a Deputy in the form of fellow Labour activist and former Police Authority colleague Ibrahim Master, who you may remember Grunshaw was disciplined for mistreating during the Labour selection campaign.
This post was advertised in…. oh wait, no it wasn't! Grunshaw didn't have to spend a moment thinking about it as Commissioner, because he announced his choice months before he was even elected. I've worked with Ibby in the past, and suspect the Commissioner will have a higher batting average with him than without him, but Clive has clearly missed the opportunity to attract other Lancashire talent on a competitive and non-partisan basis.
I don't mind if a Commissioner thinks he needs a Deputy. It is a big job and one person is unlikely to have all the skills and time to do it effectively on their own when just one bit of the job was taken forward by 17 different people in the past. In fact, the approach that Adam Simmonds has adopted, appreciating how much is new work, and building a team up from what is demanded, seems eminently sensible (and well worth a read).
Also I understand that if someone has 6 months to go as a Councillor, it probably makes more sense to honour the commitment made when elected to that post, rather than leave those constituents unrepresented.
But I do mind if people run so many jobs together that they cannot do them effectively, or if they go back on their word by keeping roles they had promised to drop, because that diminishes both them and the many offices they hold.
Commissioners may need extra staff to do a bigger job, but who will believe this if they keep other jobs themselves? Taxpayers will be suspicious that, having paid for the Commissioner, they are having to pay again for a Deputy to cover their absence.