Tickets Please?

Yvonne Mosquito has had an interesting week so far.

On Sunday the Birmingham Councillor would have learnt that her bid to become Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner had been unsuccessful, and that Bob Jones, who incidentally had been far-sighted enough to provide TopOfTheCops with our first ever Candidate Statement, had won the nomination.

On Monday, the rest of the world found this out.

This morning (Tuesday) she announced “I’m delighted to be running with Lab candidate Bob Jones as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mids

Hmmm. Didn’t take long to bury that hatchet, presumably in Mike Olley, who may still be fuming about Labour denying him the opportunity of being on the party’s internal ballot paper.

And so we have the first PCC American-style ‘ticket’. Forget Obama/Biden, or McCain/Palin or Romney/whoever – welcome to the world of Jones/Mosquito. Is this how business will be done?

Of course, the Americans actually have an office of Vice-President. It’s in the Constitution and everything. On this side of the pond PCCs are allowed to have a Deputy, but they don’t actually have to have one, and obviously Deputies cost money, that has to be both taken from the taxpayer and spent on the Deputy rather than on other policing purposes. Will the public find the provision of a salary for another politician to be acceptable? Is jobs for the girls really any better than jobs for the boys?

In truth this will probably need to come not from the core policing budget but the budget of what up till now has been known as the Police Authority, so what staff reductions or tax increases are being contemplated to make way for that?

In America the Vice-President is elected. Their name is literally on the ticket, and voters vote for them as the Plan B every bit as much as they vote for the main candidate. This will not be the case for Cllr Mosquito. Only the candidate’s name will be on the ballot paper. What we have here is a promise to create at least one Deputy Commissioner post and nominate a certain person to it. It seems to offer that person a slice of the mandate, placing the Police and Crime Panel in an awkward position when the confirmation hearings take place.

The appointment to a position of Deputy Commissioner is, if I understand rightly, one of the few appointments of someone who is politically active that a Commissioner can make. Yet, just because they can be political does not mean that they must, and this action seems to suggest that a Deputy post will be like the Prime Minister appointing a Cabinet, or a Council leader appointing an Executive – something entirely subject to personal discretion, without the normal processes of applications, shortlists, interviews, and all the other equal treatment malarkey. Of course, even the PM or Council leader have checks on what they can do. Ministers need to have a seat in the Commons or the Lords, Council Executive Members need to be elected Councillors, and their appointments often need Council confirmation. Here we have none of that – just an appointment telegraphed 5 months in advance of being elected. Is that how it works?

Tickets are often balanced for a purpose. John McCain, a liberal Republican who many of his party had doubts about, chose Sarah Palin, a not-very-liberal Republican who those doubters could openly embrace. The Vice-Presidential spot is not a consolation prize for the runner-up, but an opportunity for someone to bring some electoral advantage to the table. There is already speculation on Twitter about Humberside. Can Lord Prescott overcome the rancour of the campaign, and tempt ex-police-chief Keith Hunter on board for all the kudos of expertise that might lend to his campaign among ordinary voters?

Finally, in my list of questions and issues that tickets raise, is the tacit admission of ‘I can’t do all this myself”. The Deputy Commissioner is not mainly there in case the Commissioner gets shot. They can have functions delegated to them. Will candidates be willing to go to the public with such an admission, especially facing candidates who are confident that they are quite enough, given all the advisors that come with the job anyway?

Time will tell.


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6 Responses to Tickets Please?

  1. Chris Williams, LGA says:

    It isn’t quite accurate to say that “the money will come from the budget of what up till now has been known as the Police Authority”, From 1 April 2013 there will be two pots available to the PCC; the main police grant, and a commissioning pot, made up of a single community safety grant from the Home Office. There is no ringfencing within either pot other than the needs of the Strategic Policing Requirement.

    So the PCC can have whatever size staff they want, and do with the money whatever they want too; theoretically they could have no staff at all other than the statutory minimum (a Chief Exec and a Chief Finance Officer), or they could have hundreds. There will be some skills – for example, commissioning – that will be absent from the existing Police Authority staff and may need to be recruited into the PCC’s team.

    Given an area the size and complexity of the West Midlands, and the opportunities being opened for PCCs to sit on partnership commissioning groups like Health and Well-being Boards, it is likely that a PCC will need to delegate some functions to a deputy. They just won’t be able to be in many places at the same time.

    Initially, the clause allowing the appointment of deputies was inserted so that the Mayor of London could delegate the policing duties to a deputy mayor.

    • samchapman says:

      Thanks Chris – the point is that this is Opportunity Cost – this money comes from the taxpayer and can support police governance, policing or, as you rightly say, other priorities such as Community Safety. Let’s say the Deputy post pays £40,000 per annum, nearer £50,000 with on-costs – that’s £50,000 not being spent on one if those other things.
      If the PCC reduces the cost of governance in other areas to pay for this, he still gets the staff of the Police Authority, so may need to let some of them go, or to forego savings from the change from Police Authorities.

  2. Sceptical of PCC's says:

    Did you miss the BBC poll yesterday? It’s very relevant

    The research by the think-tank Policy Exchange also suggested politicians were considered least suitable for the role from a choice of six backgrounds, which included ex-military officers.

    A YouGov poll of 1,711 people said 34% thought PCCs were a “good idea”.

    The Home Office said PCCs would “give a voice to the public”.

    PCCs will replace police authorities in 41 areas in November.

    They will have powers to hire and fire chief constables, set police force budgets and commission some criminal justice services.

    Of those questioned, 34% said they were a “bad idea” and 32% “didn’t know”.

    Even Conservative voters are not convinced, with only 44% of the survey’s 396 Tory respondents saying they were a “good idea”.

    • samchapman says:

      Patience is a virtue – if every article contains too many subjects it becomes hard for anyone to keep track. Will look at the Policy Exchnage Poll later.

  3. Prospective Local Sheriff seeks Deputies – I would advise every PCC candidate to get at least one straightaway, and preferably as many as possible. I’m sure we’ll see most of the ‘unsuccessful’ Labour candidates who didn’t make it through the selection procedure making a dramatic return to the limelight in this way. It’s the safest way for political parties to try and neutralise internal dissent of the ‘this constituency ain’t big enough for da both of us’ variety – having failed to run open primaries which is what they should have done.

    As our LGA correspondent points out you can’t be in two places at once. So when that opportunity to speak with community leaders who are outraged about the imposition of a youth curfew in Bangor city centre clashes with the radio interview you’ve been offered by BBC Wales in their Wrexham studio, you’ve got all bases covered. I’m planning to have at least n rotating Deputies so I can be in at least (n+1) places at once if necessary. Judging by the headlines earlier this week my opponent in North Wales would like n to be 99 …

    I must say I’m getting a bit bored with the ‘expense of PCCs’ argument. Any candidate who allows that phrase to pass their lips should be forced to forgoe their salary. My prospective ‘running mate’ pointed out the other day that when you add up all the Police Authority member allowances you get a figure in excess of £150K (see how useful they can be!) so I don’t quite see where the opportunity cost lies. Come on Sam these constituencies are just too big for one person to be everywhere pleasing all the people all the time! Admit it – secretly, you too want to put the Police and Crime Panel in an awkward position so you can have your wicked way with them at the confirmation hearings. I certainly do.

    The expense of the PCC elections is a different matter of course – but I worked out it’s around 50p per household per year, if anybody would like to quote me. Seems a relatively small price to pay, particularly in those areas where PCCs find ways of shaving more than 50p off the proposed increase in police precept next year.

    Richard Hibbs
    Independent Candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner in North Wales

  4. Sceptical of PCC's says:

    That’s 50p per household but how much will it be per vote?

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