Claims of cronyism among Police Commissioners

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The introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners is one of David Cameron's most radical and ambitious policies, and one he was determined to accomplish. The aim was to do away with local police authorities which the Prime Minister described as being "invisible" and distant from ordinary people, and to replace them with directly elected officials accountable not to a bureaucracy or politicians but to voters.

The elected commissioners would have considerable power and would, in effect, oversee how we are policed.

  • They would control and set budgets
  • Appoint Chief Constables who would answer to them
  • Set the policy priorities for the police forces across England and Wales
  • Forty one such commissioners were elected on November 15th 2012

However, barely two months in office a number of them are already facing controversy.

ITV News has learnt that 10 of the newly-elected commissioners have been publicly accused of cronyism. 4 of them have appointed friends and political allies to senior posts.

The race to become Police Commissioner for Humberside received national attention when the Conservative candidate, Matthew Grove defeated one of the biggest figures in national politics, former Deputy Prime Minister for New Labour, John Prescott.

Lord Prescott stands next to the winning candidate Matthew Grove after November's results
Lord Prescott stands next to the winning candidate Matthew Grove after November's results Credit: Press Association

Just weeks after taking over Mr Grove appointed his political ally Paul Robinson to the post of Deputy Commissioner. Mr Robinson has so far insisted on staying in his other job as a local councillor for East Riding and said that he would do his job as Deputy Commissioner four days of the week for which he will be paid an annual salary of £45,000.

As Police Commissioner, there is nothing to prevent Mr Grove from making this appointment. The Police and Crime Panels which scrutinise the appointments of commissioners like him make recommendations, but have no power to block any of the decisions. 8 of the 9 members of the Humberside panel advised against the appointment of Mr Robinson but Matthew Grove insists on retaining Mr Robinson.

He told me:

I think it's a good example of me making a decision which I think is the right decision. I've picked a deputy who I know can help me deliver my promises to the public… I've chosen someone who is similar to me - he has a good record of challenging and fighting on behalf of his community and I know he is absolutely committed to my manifesto pledges and I know that because he helped me write them and he's been involved in my campaign and from the day the election results were called he's been working with me.

Mr Grove says that in order to deliver the specific campaign pledges that he has made, he has the freedom to pick his own team, even if the posts go unadvertised, just in the way that the post of Deputy Prime Minister is never advertised.

It's a similar argument put to me by Adam Simmonds the Conservative Police Commissioner for Northamptonshire and at 35-years-old the youngest elected to the post.

He's committed himself to try to reduce crime in the county by a staggering 40%, something he rejects as being unrealistic.

Adam Simmonds, Conservative Police Commissioner for Northamptonshire
Adam Simmonds, Conservative Police Commissioner for Northamptonshire Credit: ITV News

Mr Simmonds is accused not only of giving highly paid jobs that were not advertised to his friends and allies but of doing so in a way that went against the spirit of what he had campaigned for. Before his election he reacted to an advert for the post of senior manager by the Northamptonshire Police by saying; "It's beyond belief that this job is being created at this time".

Yet he has appointed 4 interim Assistant Commissioners, two of them political allies, each at a salary of £65,000. That's equivalent to 11 constables on our streets. He said he felt his decisions were scrutinised not just by the Police and Crime Panel but ultimately by the electorate who he would have to face in three-and-a-half years time.

He told me:

Just because someone is a political ally doesn't mean they are not good at their job, or that they're not qualified for the job. I need allies, I need people who understand the politics of what we are dealing with.

This controversy comes at a time when police forces across the country are facing budgetary cuts and where the public's expectations are not diminishing. One of the fears is that these criticisms undermine the confidence that victims of crime have on the new commissioners.

Almost exactly a decade to the day that her daughter, Letitia was shot dead in Birmingham, Marcia Shakespeare attended the first conference bringing together victims of crime and newly-elected police commissioners.

Marcia Shakespeare, the mother of shooting victim Letitia Shakespeare
Marcia Shakespeare, the mother of shooting victim Letitia Shakespeare Credit: Press Association

Marcia was adamant, saying:

Politics doesn't matter to me. I want the best people for the jobs because ultimately it is about making our streets safer.