THE region’s new police and crime commissioner wants to appoint a deputy on £50,000 a year - leading critics to accuse him of “backroom dealing” and “cronyism” at a public meeting.

Bill Longmore, who became West Mercia Police’s first elected boss last month on a turnout of 14 per cent, is set to appoint his old campaign publicity manager, Barrie Sheldon, as his number two.

He will be asked to work a 37-hour week in return for a basic £50,000 salary plus expenses and a pension.

The position would be funded by the taxpayer, like the commissioner’s own £75,000 job.

The commissioner and proposed deputy, who both worked at Staffordshire Police, were grilled by outraged councillors during the first meeting of the West Mercia police and crime panel held on December 5.

The panel refused to back the appointment, but have no power to veto the commissioner’s decision - leading Councillor Sebastian Bowen to describe the panel as “a bulldog with rubber teeth”.

Worcestershire County Council leader Coun Adrian Hardman led the assault at a tense meeting, asking Mr Longmore why plans to appoint a deputy were not mentioned in his campaign literature.

Coun John Campion said: “There will be accusations of cronyism.

“Why are you choosing to give £50,000 a year of public money to an individual without a competitive process?

“Your first major decision is a backroom deal that can be seen as you putting one of your buddies in a highly paid job.”

Concerns were expressed that the deputy would duplicate the role of commissioner, not complement it, creating three chief constables.

The committee’s chairman, Coun Paul Middlebrough, said Mr Longmore’s plans were a matter of “grave public concern”.

Mr Longmore took offence at Mr Sheldon being described as one of his buddies.

He said: “I don’t like the word crony being used. To me, it’s all about getting the right person for the job.

“There has never been anyone like me in the way I think and act. The similarity is that we both have the passion and commitment and want to go and do a good job.”

Mr Sheldon revealed he had not yet decided whether to take his pension and redundancy pay, which would push up his salary to £70,000.

Although contracted to work 37 hours a week he said it would be more like 60 hours, and claimed if there had been a selection process he would have been the best person for the job.

Written notice will be given to the commissioner of the panel’s recommendation and he is expected to reach a decision soon on whether to follow their advice.

On Friday, the commissioner issued a statement saying he was yet to receive the panel’s recommendation and could not, by law, confirm the deputy’s appointment until he had considered it.