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.