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Britain’s whiter than white police commissioners

Britain’s whiter than white police commissioners

🕔24.May 2013

policeMedia coverage of a critical report by MPs into the first six months of Police and Crime Commissioners has focused almost entirely on the absence of proper scrutiny of the new system.

But tucked away towards the end of the Commons Home Affairs Committee report are a few paragraphs that make some important points about the unrepresentative state of public affairs in Britain today.

The country’s first PCCs are overwhelmingly male and almost half of the 41 are former councillors or MPs, which was perhaps predictable. Equally predictable, sadly, was the failure to select an ethnic minority candidate in any police force area where one of the main political parties was likely to win.

Consequently, the PCC club is whiter than white.

Even in force areas with a substantial ethnic minority population, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester for example, political parties failed to follow their own claims about respecting and supporting diversity.

In the West Midlands, Labour party members bothering to vote in the candidate selection process overwhelmingly backed Bob Jones, a former police authority member and Wolverhampton councillor who went on to become PCC with a £100,000 salary.

At the PCC election Mr Jones was up against Conservative Matt Bennett and Lib Dem Ayoub Khan. Yes, Mr Khan was an ethnic minority candidate, but he never had the slightest chance of winning.

An attempt by Birmingham Labour black councillor Yvonne Mosquito to become the candidate failed. But Mr Jones swiftly appointed Cllr Mosquito as his deputy commissioner and agreed to pay her £65,000 a year.

The committee report sums up the lack of diversity: “Analysis of the professional experience, gender and ethnicity of police and crime commissioners is relevant for assessing whether they genuinely reflect the diverse public whom they are elected to represent.

“Thirty-five of the new police and crime commissioners are male, six are female. Fifteen seats were contested by an all-male line-up of candidates.

“We note that the small number of women elected stems from the fact that 18 per cent of candidates were women, rather than an expression of voter preference.

“The first police and crime commissioners are a monoculture. Only one in seven are women and there is a complete lack of representation of ethnic minorities amongst the commissioners.

“All national political parties have made a virtue of the importance of diversity, but this does not seem to have extended to the candidates for police and crime commissioners.”

The committee makes the point that the hefty cost of standing in the PCC elections, a £5,000 deposit and 100 signatures was required, is likely to have put off independent candidates from standing. Only Labour out of the main parties funded its candidates directly.

The Home Affairs Committee report concludes: “There was clear cross-party support for the conclusions of the Speakers Conference on Parliamentary Representation, which highlighted the barrier to diversity created by costly election processes—the implications for diversity of a high-cost election should not have come as a surprise.”

The committee report highlights examples of ‘cronyism’ with commissioners appointing political colleagues as their deputies or assistants. Bob Jones, for example, appointed three assistant commissioners, all Labour councillors and former police authority members, on salaries of £22,500 each.

The committee listed the following examples of “political or personal contacts” being hired by PCCs.

  • In Greater Manchester the PCC appointed his former constituency worker, Clare Regan, as his Policy Adviser without advertising the role.
  • In Northamptonshire the PCC appointed three interim Assistant Commissioners on £65,000 each, two of whom were in his campaign team. The roles were  made permanent after an open recruitment process.
  • The PCC for Kent has appointed her Liberal Democrat campaign manager with no apparent policing experience as an adviser with a salary of over £70,000.
  • The PCC for Surrey has appointed a former colleague in the Metropolitan Police as his deputy, with a salary of £50,000.
  • The PCC for West Yorkshire has appointed Isabel Owen as Deputy PCC with a wage of £53,000 a year. She is a former Labour parliamentary candidate with no policing experience. The role was only advertised to Labour Party colleagues.

Bob Jones does, however, attract an element of praise from the MPs for financial prudency. The West Midlands is one of 19 forces to cut costs during the transfer to PCCs.

Mr Jones’s office costs £1.8 million a year to run compared to the £2 million cost of running the former police authority – a reduction of 5.5 per cent. He pledged during the election campaign that the budget for commissioner’s office would be less than that for the police authority.

West Mercia fared even better, managing to cut costs by 32 per cent. The office of Staffordshire PCC Matthew Ellis, though, costs 27 per cent more to run than the police authority.

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