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Why I need a deputy, by Labour police commissioner candidate

Why I need a deputy, by Labour police commissioner candidate

🕔21.Jun 2012

Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has defended his decision to appoint a deputy if he gets the £100,000-a-year post, declaring that “there won’t be enough hours in the day” for one person to do the job.

Bob Jones said he would be astonished if other prospective PCCs did not also appoint deputies and added that he and his nominated second in command, Birmingham city councillor Yvonne Mosquito, would make a highly effective team.

Few people were taken by surprise when Labour leader Ed Miliband declared Coun Jones to be the party’s candidate at the election for a PCC on November 15 following a ballot of members. But his declaration that Coun Mosquito would be deputy PCC was unexpected.

Commenting on Facebook, Coun Mosquito declared herself to be delighted to be “running” for deputy to Coun Jones, while Birmingham MP Jack Dromey repeated the suggestion that she would be running for office.

There are clearly a number of problems with the way Labour are presenting this. Firstly, there are no elections for deputy commissioners. The posts are not statutory requirements, merely appointments that may be made if the PCC thinks a deputy or deputies are required.

So Coun Mosquito is not really running for anything since her prospective new job has already been announced five months before the PCC elections are due to take place. She is certainly not a running mate as in the American Vice-President sense, since her name will not appear on the PCC ballot forms in November and none of the 2.7 million electors in the West Midlands will have a say on whether or not she should be deputy to Coun Jones.

Secondly, although the Commissioner can nominate a deputy, the appointment must be considered by the new Police and Crime Panel – a body of councillors and lay representatives charged with scrutinising the PCC.

Legislation setting out the arrangements states that one of the panel’s first duties is to review the PCC’s proposed appointments of chief constable, chief executive, chief finance officer and deputy police and crime commissioner and to hold public confirmation hearings for these posts.

It is unclear what would happen if the Police and Crime Panel were to object to Coun Mosquito, or any of the proposed appointments. But since most panel members will be according to political party allegiance, and with Labour firmly in control in the West Midlands, it should be assumed that Coun Mosquito’s appointment duly will be rubber stamped.

It is also the case that the selection of a councillor from Birmingham to deputise to a Commissioner who hails from the Black Country will help to maintain the curious balance of powers issues that so often afflict the West Midlands.

Coun Jones says he takes pride in becoming the first prospective Police and Crime Commissioner to announce the identity of his deputy. “At least I am being open and honest and saying who it will be,” he added.

He points out that he signed a Labour Party amendment to legislation setting up the process for electing PCCs to demand elections for deputy Police and Crime Commissioners. But the proposal was rejected by the House of Lords.

“I certainly wanted Yvonne’s name to be on the ballot paper alongside mine in the way that American presidential elections work. But we are stuck with the legislation, although hopefully we will see changes over the years.”

Coun Jones also insists that there will be no additional cost to the public purse arising from the appointment of a deputy. The costs of setting up and running the new PCC administration will be no greater than that of running the Police Authority, which is to be abolished, he declared.

He will pocket a salary of £100,000 if recommendations to the Government from the Senior Salaries Review Body are accepted. Coun Mosquito’s salary is yet to be decided.

He says it is unthinkable that a PCC could operate effectively over an area the size of the West Midlands without a deputy. “There are seven boroughs and numerous outside bodies and organisations and if one person tried to attend all of these meetings including accepting invitations from voluntary organisations, then there just wouldn’t be enough hours in the day.”

Coun Jones also believes it is important to have a deputy who will be able to make decisions when he might be affected by conflicts of interest. There would be occasions when it would be “useful for someone not from Wolverhampton to be involved in things”.

He has committed to a policy of consensus and is promising to place all non-urgent PCC decisions before the Police and Crime Panel for discussion in an attempt to reach agreement about the way forward. “If people can see that measures have cross party support and the backing of independent members of the panel, then they will have greater confidence in the system,” Coun Jones added.

Matt Bennett, one of five Conservatives contesting the party’s nomination to run for PCC, said he questioned whether a deputy was necessary and challenged Coun Jones to spell out exactly what Coun Mosquito would do.

Bennett, a Birmingham city councillor, added: “The announcement that Yvonne Mosquito is to be deputy PCC if Coun Jones is elected PCC is just another example of Labour protecting the tired old status quo. Both of them have been on the Police Authority for years and have achieved very little while there.”

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