Monday, 22 October 2012

Challenging the new Police Commissioner (before they are even elected)

Today saw the first meeting of the new Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel, the committee which will oversee and scrutinise the work of the soon-to-be-elected Commissioner.

There are 16 councillor members - five from Cornwall, one from the Isles of Scilly, two from Plymouth, one from Torbay Unitary, one from Devon County Council and one from each of the district councils in Devon. In addition, we have appointed two lay members.

Today was mostly about briefings and understanding the role. But the real works starts once the Commissioner is elected on the 15th November. The Panel will then scrutinise his or her budget and crime reduction plan as well as holding confirmation hearings for appointments to top jobs including the Chief Constable.

Already I have used my membership of the panel to question the decision by the outgoing Police Authority to advertise for a £55,000 a year spin doctor for the new commissioner. I think there are higher priorities than this for spending public money. Even if a press officer is needed, the going rate for such a job is a lot less than £55k.

I was also disappointed that there was talk of the new Commissioner having a team 'equivalent to a Minister's Private Office'. That implies quite a large staff of special advisors and spin doctors - altogether excessive for the task at hand. We'll have to see where the new Commissioner decides his or her priorities lie. Will it be to build up a fiefdom or to put resources back on the street?

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