Do you fancy a job dealing with policing and crime that has a fancy title, pays reasonably well, is available close to home, is flexible, possibly to the point of being part-time, and which allows you to be political but without the tedious necessity of getting elected, or proving that you are qualified for it in any way?
Well, dream on, you can't have it! Applications in your area are very likely closed, because, let's face it, applications were never really open, and you may be the wrong colour and gender anyway!
The job is that of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, a role added to the legislation while it was still in the House of Lords and numerous people were wondering whether one person could really replace 17 members of a police authority and still have time for new responsibilities. So their Lordships, having insisted that all a Commissioner's staff should be restricted from involvement in that nasty 'politics' thing, created one exception, a Deputy, and for this post they relaxed the usual rule in local government that all appointments must be made on merit.
Hmmm. Some PCCs seem to have warmed to this whole “I can hire and fire who I like” approach, and the idea seems to be spreading beyond Deputies, to 'Assistant Commissioners' and to former Police Authority Chief Executives, ignoring the fact that the legal protection around merit does not extend so far. Rumours of deals spread in advance of the election as to who would be given what job by whom, and in some instances the name of the proposed Deputy was trailed in advance, almost like they were playing the Vice-Presidential part of the ticket in that other November election.
Except they weren't actually on the ticket. No Deputy PCCs were elected. It is not an elected position. It is an appointed position but, if the Deputies are not appointed on merit, exactly on what basis are they appointed?
Around the country Commissioners have been tempted to think that the lack of a requirement to appoint on merit disposes of the need for a recruitment process, and so we saw names being proposed on the very first day of office. But they would do well to remember that recruitment processes exist for a reason. They demonstrate transparency, instill confidence around the issue of fairness, and allow merit to be considered – as, whatever the law says is needed, it may be difficult to make a political argument to local taxpayers that they ought to pay someone a wad of cash despite their attributes rather than because of them.
Merit is not so easily avoided, and a quick look at the nomination documents shows Commissioners seeking to justify choices on the basis of, well, merit – that the proposed Deputy would actually be good at the job. Could a Commissioner who has relied on merit to justify an appointment then fall back on their statutory exemption if their lack of an open competitive process were challenged? Why was there no recruitment process to allow them to pick the best?
Commissioners should also remember that the law has not removed decades of legislation on racial and sexual discrimination, among other matters. West Midlands Commissioner Bob Jones gave as the last of 5 reasons for appointing Birmingham Councillor Yvonne Mosquito that “Yvonne complements my own experience and expertise in terms of geography being from Birmingham as opposed to the Black Country and being a black female…” (Emphasis mine)
Really? We can appoint people to posts because of their race and gender now, can we? Are you white and male and fancying the job of Deputy PCC in the West Midlands? There's your tribunal case, right there. I suppose the Equality and Human Rights Commission will be calling the Commissioner on Monday?
This week TopOfTheCops has been working with Martin Beckford, The Mail on Sunday's Home Affairs Editor, to collate and analyse details of the Commissioners' early appointments – you can find more here – note that of the 16 Commissioners saying they will have Deputies, only 2 are planning open recruitment. (You can also find a list from the Police Foundation containing details of most of the Deputies here.)
Perhaps Commissioners would be safer following the lead of Derbyshire Commissioner Alan Charles, who will be putting an ad in the paper next week.
If Commissioners use taxpayers' money to put their mates in cushy jobs no-one else can apply for they risk damaging public confidence and may find their very first act breaks the law.
More from TopOfTheCops on Deputy PCCs:-
- Tickets Please?
- A Balanced Ticket
- Dream Ticket?
- Boris leads the way on PCC team building (and can there be only one Deputy?)
- Deputy PCC – a role that raises questions