Jobs for pals mess ‘ticking time bomb’

THE Home Office has come under fire for “shoddy legislation” that has allowed police and crime commissioners to appoint their deputies.

The chairman of the region’s police and crime panel, who is a Conservative, said his own party’s ministers had creating a “ticking time bomb” by creating the police and social responsibility Act.

Under the rules for PCCs, they can appoint more than one deputy, with no salary guidelines, and were not required to make their intentions clear on assistants before being elected.

It has led to criticism up and down the country, with 19 PCCs taking on deputies so far, mainly fellow politicians, friends or old work colleagues.

And although the police and crime panel can recommend an appointment not go ahead, the end decision rests with the PCC.

It led to Bill Longmore, West Mercia’s new elected boss, appointing former campaign manager and fellow ex-policeman Barrie Sheldon on a £50,000-a-year deal.

Councillor Paul Middlebrough, the chairman, said: “As a panel we have next to no powers – the most we can do to any PCC, when we’ve had a complaint and investigated it, is to say ‘he’s been a naughty boy’.

“The Home Office has overlooked many aspects of the legislation, it’s just sloppy.”

Panels do have powers to reject a tax precept, and the planned appointment of a chief constable, but otherwise act as advisory groups.

Worcester Robin Walker admitted he has “concerns” about aspects of the legislation but insisted the main focus must be on Mr Longmore refusing to follow a recommendation of the panel.

“The panel did make a recommendation and it really is a shame he did not go along with that,” he said.

“I do feel any panel’s view should carry a great deal of weight, and would have hoped he’d follow that advice. It’s a decision people will judge him on, like any elected person.”

The Home Office has released a statement defending the legislation.

It said: “PCCs must make appointments in an open and transparent way.

“In the case of deputies, appointments are subject to a public confirmation hearing and recommendation by the police and crime panel.

“PCCs must publish key information to allow the public and the panel to hold them to account. This information includes budgets, contracts, tenders and salaries of the PCC, deputy and senior staff.”

Mr Longmore has declared his deputy as “the best man for the job”, saying the £50,000 salary was decided upon after consulting with West Mercia Police’s HR department.

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