One of the issues in the Police and Crime Commissioner election is around whether the job should be held by a politician. This usually involves some debate as to what constitutes a politician, whether concerns are about all politics or just party politics, and whether PCCs will automatically become politicians once elected.
Last week, TopOfTheCops published an article by Jon Collins of the Police Foundation revealing the backgrounds of various candidates, including how many were already Councillors or members of police authorities, while on the same day the Taxpayers Alliance revealed their survey of the annual levels of basic allowances paid to all Councillors, ranging from £1,500 annually in saintly South Ribble, to £16,267 in belt-loosening Birmingham (and more in the Scottish Borders).
This coincidence of political background and pay sits well with the question as to which of the PCC candidates are already professional politicians. Who is spending their life in public service, and who is making a living from public office? Which candidates spend their own money and don’t claim it back, and which are going to town on public expenses? Perhaps these questions give us an insight beyond the political debate toward character and integrity, the sort of thing the public say they want from PCCs?
Tomorrow will see the launch of a new feature on TopOfTheCops whereby we seek, among other things, to help you answer those questions. TopOfTheCops will collate the existing information on what public offices are held by candidates and have a look at their last three years of allowances and expenses. Where they have not been in office for all that time we will happily look back to whatever older sources are available, so former MPs should take note.
But first, a note on methodology. Where possible TopOfTheCops will provide a total annual income, but that will include expense claims such as mileage and subsistence. A candidate could object that this should be deducted from the total, as it represents money spent by the candidate, and not profit. TopOfTheCops has chosen a different path, firstly because some authorities have paid mileage above the HMRC approved rate, including an element of profit, and secondly because some candidates make the expense but do not claim it back, and their virtue is lost in the system. Adding all payments together, while providing what detail there is behind them, gives a little information that can help people to decide precisely what type of candidates they are being offered.
This is not going to be a Big Bang whereby all candidates’ incomes are laid bare on one day. Instead we will start with Avon and Somerset and work our way along. That means you can help – if you want to share what you know about your local candidates, or if you are a candidate and would like to support this effort, just do your sums, show your working out, and remember to quote your sources (with URLs) so that we can follow the links and check. If you represent a Council, Police Authority or other relevant body, make sure that the last three years of data is on your website and easy to find, and put the link on this post.
It may be that this information raises additional questions. Why are a particular person’s expense claims so high? How do they relate to the level of claims made by other individuals in the same institution? Are these claims backed by receipts? Feel free to raise them here, but also to go the relevant authorities and ask them yourselves, but let us know if you do, to avoid duplication, and remember to come back and share the results.
a) Seriously what do you expect – it is fundamentally a local govt position of course councillors will go for it
b) And naming no names I’d much rather have a PCC who has real experience serving on county councils and police authorities and as a magistrate and claimed whatever expenses he was entitled to than some wealthy amateur who had spent less than a year serving on a district council when she threw her hat in the ring,
c) The whole expenses angle is also to say the least dubious – are you seriously suggesting that wealthy councillors who don’t claim all their expenses because they don’t need them (although all my personal business experience suggests that the more someone is paid the more assiduous they are at milking their expense accounts for everything they can get while its the lower paid members of staff who often are owed £ hundreds and thousands and don’t like to claim for it) are better people and better councillors than those who have no such advantages and claim what they are entitled?
Given all that we know or can reasonably assume about Tory and Labour councillors backgrounds this is also an obviously partisan ploy.
d) As for the Taxpayers Alliance report the difference between saintly South Ribble and belt-loosening Birmingham base expenses is almost exactly proportional to their population (100,000 in S Ribble over a million in Birmingham) and if it wasn’t such a pain to find data I suspect that most variances are at least relate-able to differences in population, council level, council organisation (cabinet, mayor, traditional), levels of deprivation and budget size.
Living where I do I have no illusions whatsoever about local councillors and their frailties – but this seems to me nothing more than the crudely Poujadiste right-wing anti-politics approach characteristic of the so-called Taxpayers Alliance and their echo chamber in the media.
1) Glad you like it.
2) as MPs expenses showed, as as you seem to half-acknowledge in c) the truth on expenses is not partisan.
As I expand on in my comment below I don’t actually know what the ‘truth on expenses’ is because the data is not as readily available as it should be – what I do know is that it is vastly more complex than you are presenting it as here,
Given that barring a very few particularly gross cases expenses records don’t swing parliamentary elections I really can’t see why they should impact on PCCs.
You, I and most of however many of us do bother to turn out will mostly vote tribally and on national issues on November 15th – just as we always do,
Oh and generally I do like your site – you’ve done more than any other blogger I can think of to raise awareness of these elections and I’ve recommended it to multiple people on our side.
I just think you are wrong on this issue – there is nothing wrong in principle with experienced local or national politicians running for PCC because it is fundamentally a job for a professional politician – and the forensic analysis of every candidates expenses claims you advocate can only discredit the whole process even further.
The publication of expenses and allowances is not designed to show that there being claimed is wrong in principle. It is to provide information when voters are seeking to determine whether the person they are considering is a professional politician or not, and may have other uses. Whether they consider that to be a bad thing is up to them.
I suggest you look at these so called “experienced” Councillors that are all lining themselves up for this post as PCC that is in effect only a Grand inquisitor, it holds no power at all just as Councillors like it, no responsibility, and no accountability, BUT earning film star wages whilst doing it.
KCC Councillors in Kent (some sit on the Kent Police Authority) some are candidates for PCC in Kent sacked staff (social services)with redundancy payments etc. then about a year later gave them “golden hello’s” to come back to work.
Those same Cllrs invested over £50k in Icelandic Banks for a 1 or 2 % interest rate (yes really) and lost Tens of Millions doing so, KPA lost £6 Million, and wrote off £800k.
I could feed you all day Roger with facts about this idiots, try like I did “for nothing” being a School Governor, Saving Herne Bay High School from closure, Barton Court Grammar School, took the Government to law on an aptitude test for the Chaucer School (and won) Kenneth Clarke School minister (look at the Times results A to C grades best in Country for HBHS).
I stopped Library closure in Kent, campaigned against VAT on fuel (15%) and I am not a Councillor, so please don’t make sweeping statements that are not backed up with facts.
This is an excellent idea, Sam. The more information the public can go on, the better.
My own public allowances and expenses is zero as I have not served on a council, police authority or similar. I will be most interested to learn the position for other candidates. Ultimately, the public will decide what is relevant and whether they feel they’ve had value for money.
Excellent piece of work Sam – We need to go onto phase 2 then and ask all candidates will they be full time or part time if they are successful? -and by full time – will they give up any businesses they are running or remain directors of companies – Paid or unpaid? – Any that don’t answer deserve to lose their deposits for not being open with the electorate, who need to know what sort of person they are paying for and how many hours they intend putting into the post.
The other thing of grave concern to me, given possible interests behind them, is how much candidates are being funded by? – Party and no party – In Lincs to date one candidate has refused to answer this – you can guess which one – whereas others are happy to answer. The one who has not answered has just boasted about over 300,00 leaflets in the warehouse – what about the cost of those, and delivering them? – Its; hard to beleive that comes from the pocket of a middle manager in NACRO with no current job.
It should be of grave concern to everyone, and if he is funding them from his own pocket, all he has to do is say so – as he could have dome over “Twitter followers” and the rumour machine will stop. All I ask is for every candidate to be open honest and truthful –
As the crudity of the ‘Taxpayers Alliance’ analysis was bothering me I added in the population figures here:
Compare base allowances to population (which is a not unreasonable top level proxy for the complexity of a council’s work as it will drive revenue, expenditure etc) and you see that the variance between English councils tends to follow the population – Birmingham pays its councillors ten times what S Ribble pays theirs because Birmingham has ten times as many people and accordingly larger budget etc.
But generally speaking smaller councils do seem to pay more relative to the population served than large ones.
The real outliers factoring in pop are almost all Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish councils which pay far more relatively than English ones (and as these are basic allowances presumably don’t even include travel costs which must be very significant for the big rural ones).
Now this is almost as radically incomplete as the ‘Taxpayers Alliance’ data as council size (no. of councillors), level, type, budget etc all need to be factored in to get a real idea of a councillors cost-effectiveness (or at least the theoretical scope of their job).
The financials I can probably manage as I do seem to recall seeing this data in one spreadsheet somewhere but the rest would be ridiculously time consuming to collect.
I’d also love to add in political control but this is extremely hard to map as AFAIK nobody collects together data nationally in an easily accessible format.
But the bottom line is that this issue cannot be shoe-horned into a simplistic anti-politics narrative – local politicians levels of involvement and responsibility vary hugely from council to council and it is logical that allowances should vary likewise.
Somebody certainly needs to do an objective and rigorous VFM exercise comparing councils and councillors but that somebody is certainly not an organisation as ludicrously biased as the ‘Taxpayers Alliance’,
Sam (notwithstanding Roger’s accusation of the TPA being Poujadiste which I wholly agree with – although I think their ‘campaign’ is more sinister than that) I think this issue goes far deeper than this.
These new PCCs will have quasi presidential powers which will be unique in British Governemnt. The fact that PCPs have to muster a 2/3 vote to overturn just a few of the powers exercised by the PCCs will mean that they will be mostly toothless tigers.. The PCCs will rule with little accountability except for the next election in 2016.
For me this means that the people standing for the these hyper-powerful positions should be 100% transparent about all their interests and undergo the kind of scrutiny we saw being applied to the London Mayoral candidates. I don’t just want to know how many expenses and allowances the candidates receive but also where all their money comes from and how much tax they pay etc. I think that is the least we should expect.
It may be too late to adjust your plans now.. but if you can…
You shouldn’t see this initiative as either an attempt to assume deity or to abolish privacy, both of which I consider beyond the purpose of this site. There are also certain practical matters, whereby the wonderful thing known as the British Constitution seems to have left me bereft of the powers need to acquire those details, and the beauty of market economics has not provided me with the free labour of sufficient skilled slaves to complete that sort of task. I hope you will therefore forgive the more modest nature of my current endeavours.
Expenses and allowances can be misleading for a number of reasons, including the distances some people have to travel and the availability of public transport (close to zero where I am).
What would be interesting would be the number of current Police Authority councillor members who claim Police Authority allowances, but don’t actually turn up to meetings, let alone actually do any of the additional duties needed e.g attend local meetings, volunteer for specialist roles / tasks.
I know of a lot of PAs where the councillors to as little as possible, less than they should, and still claim everything going, leaving the independent members to do the vast majority of the work.
“Where they have not been in office for all that time we will happily look back to whatever older sources are available, so former MPs should take note.”
Hampshire and the Isle of Wight must be really looking forward to seeing the Rt Hon Michael Mates’ numbers then!