Across the country the controversial newly elected Police and Crime Commissioners are supposed to be getting down to business. The reality in several areas is that many are hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons, and nowhere is this truer than in the case of Adam Simmonds, the Northamptonshire PCC, who has stacked his new “sprawling” 17-person commission with his campaign staff.
The whole story is an ‘omnishambles’ – a toxic mixture of high farce, cronyism and arrogance potentially leading to an unacceptable politicisation of our police force.
First though, a little background. Mr Simmonds was the Conservative political assistant at Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council, who have been busy slashing funds for PCSOs and plunging the county into darkness by switching off half the streetlights, before he moved into a politically restricted role for the last few years. His political leanings leapt to the fore again when he was selected as the Conservative candidate for PCC in Northants in the summer. How he managed to go through a selection process whilst being politically neutral is an interesting question that has never been satisfactorily answered. Neither was the case of his pay-off – 3 months in lieu of notice even though he was leaving his politically restricted post because he was a political candidate so could not work the notice period!
In another ridiculous twist during the election, the Labour candidate had to withdraw due to a 20 year old offence, but after the nomination papers were in. This meant that he remained on the ballot paper despite the fact that he could not take up the post. Labour withdrew their support and the campaign limped on.
During the campaign Mr Simmonds refused to outline his plans for how he would run the police, saying that people would find out once he was elected. He did join the criticism of a new job advertised at the police authority at £70k as “management madness”. Upon taking office his first action was to email existing staff to say that there was no money left and no jobs could be guaranteed.
So imagine the public uproar a few days later when he appointed 4 assistant commissioners at £65,000 each – one of whom was his election agent and another his press officer! Worse was to come as news leaked out of his seventeen person commission, an increase on the seven people working at the existing Police Authority. One of these jobs was promptly given to the existing Conservative Political Assistant at the County Council!
When we expressed fears of the politicisation of the police with the creation of these posts nobody foresaw just how shambolic and disgraceful the situation would become. The public in Northamptonshire are rightly appalled. Mr Simmonds has a lot of hard work to do to win people round. Given the start, it seems unlikely he will be successful.
* Cllr Brendan Glynane is the Leader of the Opposition at Northamptonshire County Council and the Liberal Democrat rep on the Northants Police and Crime Panel.