Whatever the motives of Huffpost’s source, they were not about promoting the Conservative cause or the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, and they have certainly got people talking. Tim Collins has been pushed into denying to Michael Crick that he is withdrawing. Labour candidates have been storing quotes to produce later in the campaign, and Conservatives who want to be TopOfTheCops are breathing easier at the thought that someone else will pick up the nomination and campaign tab after all, while also feeling miffed at being included in the group at whom number 10 are greatly disappointed.
So let’s test another of the points from Huffpost – especially the suggestion that “Another issue has been on pay. Some high-fliers who initially expressed an interest in standing cooled off when they discovered the salary range, between £60,000 and £100,000 depending on the size of the police force.”
Some PCC candidates have been saying they won’t take the full pay. Lord Prescott reckons that a life of arguing that you get paid the rate for the job commits him to taking the lot. Are there really candidates for whom that much money is not enough?
Well, it is clear that there are some non-candidates for whom it isn’t. Former Detective Superintendent Michael Gradwell raised the issue with the Lancashire Telegraph in January. He didn’t want the job anyway, which allowed him to flirt with a degree of honesty that actual candidates may lack, and so said “It is such a complicated job I’m not sure £85,000 is enough.”
To many ordinary people this suggestion will seem bizarre, but then ordinary people probably don’t know much about police and other public sector pay. You won’t find a lowly Assistant Chief Constable on less than what is recommended for the Police and Crime Commissioner that his boss’s boss reports to. You may find the Chief Superintendent that reports to that ACC on more. Your average family doctor will earn more than the highest paid Commissioner, and as for the highest paid GP’s – don’t get me started. Sorry, what was all that noise about protecting the NHS?
Indeed the Commissioner’s proposed pay arrangements are a curious thing. Around £122,000 was set aside on average by the Home Office (£5 million / 41 Commissioners = c£122,000) – suggesting an average salary of around £100,000 for Commissioners, but the Senior Salaries Review Board recommended to the Home Secretary salaries of between £65,000 and £100,000. They did this by running a job evaluation scheme on the Commissioner post to determine job weight, and then deducting salary from what they would pay someone appointed to the post because the office holder was a politician, which may seem an odd approach when PCCs will risk losing their jobs every 4 years, and local government swears by the primacy of Job Evaluation!
Of course the interesting thing is that despite having had the report for 3 months, no salary has yet been set. Will austerity win? Will the need to encourage candidates and profile push the salary higher? Will the Home Secretary worry about what happened with MPs’ expenses when they moderated their actual salaries to suit the public mood? Or is it like being Prime Minister – who really does a job like this for the money?