Happy Birthday – You’re Fired!

Ann Barnes, described by Blair Gibbs as “Vocal critic of #PCC reform & respected chair of Kent #police authority,” has been attracting a lot of attention over the past few days.

For one, Times Crime correspondent Sean O’Neill asks “Could this be a credible independent PCC candidate to take on the party hacks?“, and she has attracted a good luck message from former Police Federation national chair Jan Berry, one of the high profile people who did not secure the Conservative nomination in the same county.

Also, she has now resigned as Chair, giving up the last few months of position and allowances, possibly as a way of underlining her time commitment to the campaign, fairness to other candidates, etc.

But one thing in particular that has been attracting positive comments (including some from other Independent candidates) and press attention, is her commitment to create a position in her staff as Youth Commissioner, and to subsidise it, in part, if necessary, from her own salary as PCC.

Now a number of candidates had gone as far as to say they wouldn’t claim the whole salary, but this is the first I am aware of who has said they will commit an amount, albeit unspecified, to a particular role.

There is one problem though. In a response to a question from yours truly, Ms Barnes has committed that the post would “be filled by a young person (under 25)“.

This led me to a further question:-

“How do you propose to comply with the law against age discrimination, if you are going to require the postholder is under 25?”

Now, it was a couple of days ago and I’ve not had a response. Running an election campaign can be all-consuming, so it is quite possible the question has been missed, or the answer is being researched.

I’m not an expert on age discrimination, but what I could find was not promising. You can make age a genuine occupational qualification in a job, but you need a pretty good legally defensible reason, and that reason has to be independent of age if I’m reading it right.

And then a different question occurred to me. If you employ a 24-year old in such a role, what do you do on their following birthday? Is it a case of “Happy Birthday – you’re fired”?

If it is, that would appear to be asking for a tribunal – saying that someone who can do a job one day is disqualified from doing it the next solely because of their age.

If it isn’t, the problem is not avoided, because continuing to employ someone who has turned 25 to do a job where the recruitment was restricted to under-25s actually makes the point that the age restriction was not a genuine occupational qualification, and therefore unlawful.

And does this mean that someone could only be recruited on short-term contracts, or so young, that they didn’t reach 25 while employed?

The tried and tested way round this would be not to make the restriction, but to pay a pittance that only a child would be able-to-afford-to-earn/be-desperate-enough-for-the-CV-points-to-do but then we get into ‘job evaluation’, whether a PCC should really be exploiting people, etc, and that seems not to be a very good approach either.

Oh dear.

Now, this is not my specialism so, reader, if it is your’s perhaps you could tell me why my musings are fundamentally wrong-headed and why the law is OK about these things in the comments below?

Or, if I’m on to something, and this turns out to be a plan that is not sufficiently-well thought through, you could get into the far more entertaining business of pointing out similar problematic commitments made by other candidates – because having had a look, I regret to say that I don’t think PCC world is short of such examples.

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3 Responses to Happy Birthday – You’re Fired!

  1. Gillian Radcliffe, Independent PCC candidate for South Yorkshire says:

    I applaud Ann for her idea. OK, so there are details to work out – perhaps around whether the role is technically an employed role or not – but it’s good to see fresh ideas and the independent candidates seem to have more of those on offer than the party candidates so far.
    For me, the whole issue of finding one good person to be the voice of a generation is fraught with difficulties. I think we have to recognise that young people are as diverse in their circumstances and views as the rest of the population. Unless you have an election to identify a person around whom there is some democratic consensus, it would be easy for other young people to write off a selected youth commissioner as being just as “irrelevant” to their lives as the PCC him or herself.
    As a communications and stakeholder engagement specialist, I’ve often had to wrestle with the issue of how you genuinely tune in to the views of different segments of a community, including the socially-disadvantaged. One size never fits all.
    In my case, my intention as PCC would be to have a consultation strategy for all sections of the South Yorkshire population, not just young people. This would have several strands: open channels for listening to views submitted via letter, email, telephone, social media and face-to-face events; strong networking with associations and other collectives that understand and/or represent certain segments of the community (by age, race, issue or geography); themed citizens’ panels and focus groups to encourage debate and sharing of opinion that would inform my decision-making. I could only hope to be the “voice of the people” on policing and community safety issues if I had my ears directed towards them and if I created opportunities for them to question and challenge.
    Of course, let’s not pretend we can give everyone what they want. That is impossible, specially with shrinking budgets, but the important thing is to make decisions informed by the realities of what is going on in our communities, by understanding the impact that they will make and by trying to explain ourselves clearly to people. When we can’t give them everything they want, at least let them know their voice was heard and their views taken into account.

  2. Ken Little says:

    Come on this really is nonsense, the technical and legal requirements to employ a person are clearly something Ann does not fully understand and is a minefield, look at KPA account to see that.
    But I must say grudgingly congratulations it has got all you talking about what it is she says she will do(if elected) for the young of Kent, Note; Mrs Barnes has done nothing for the young as chair for the last 6 years though.
    Here is another better idea and would benefit all the “young victims” that Mrs Barnes has ignored in the 6 years as chair of KPA. Mrs Barnes could donate her allowance from the Association of Police Officers (she has not resigned) and if she is elected add part of her allowance as the new PCC to a victim support unit that would do more to benefit the young then the “ill conceived” not thought out vote catching nonsense that her election manger has no doubt come up with as a “headliner”.
    I would post this on Ann’s web page (but I have been barred!) where it ask for comments from the public of which I am until I serve the returning officer with my application to become the PCC for Kent.
    The best idea I have for all voters is look at your prospective candidate and ask-, what have they done that can be qualified independently that has benefited the general public and not themselves, what can they do as PCC without the Chief Constable authority, and how will they make your police authority more accountable and transparent, If the C C agrees?
    Do not expect to have a deluge of responses from prospective candidates.
    Ken Little independent PCC candidate for Kent

  3. This is an excellent example of an energetic would-be public service reformer starting out as a radical “shoot from the lip” candidiate and gently, slowly, sadly, inexorably descending (nudged? pushed?) into the huge vat of treacle labelled “Rules, protocols, code of conduct, guidelines, standing orders”

    Is there any known cure?

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