The ludicrous story of Northamptonshire’s new Police and Crime Commissioner

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.

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27 Comments

  • Its to be expected – I’m sure the Lib Dem/Labour/ other candidate elected would have done similar and the opposition would have cried foul

  • That is a scandal and an outrage and I hope we absolutely milk it.

  • Thanks, Brendan for the update.

  • Yet another reason why we should be campaigning to make sure we never elect our Police Commissioners ever again. Great expose.

  • Richard Dean 21st Dec '12 - 12:36pm

    Democracy is a process by which the electorate learns how to choose. This is a valuable learning experience. Let us hope that it results in correction this time and an improved choice next time.

  • Regarding political restrictions you may find this useful
    http://www.lge.gov.uk/lge/core/page.do?pageId=119739
    “The cumulative effect of these restrictions is to limit the holders of ‘PoRPs’ to bare membership of political parties, with no active participation within the party permitted…. they may not speak in public so as to create the impression that they are speaking as an authorised representative of a political party”.By becoming a candidate I would consider that he resigned his job and is not entitled to a pay off.

  • You lost me at “slashing funds for PCSOs”. Good for him. We really don’t need our pavements clogged up by the waddling ranks of the beneficiaries of what was never anything but a scheme to create non-jobs for the useless.

  • Andy Boddington 21st Dec '12 - 12:53pm

    Its little different in West Mercia. PCC Bill Longmore has appointed of his election agent Barrie Sheldon at £50K a year, despite the West Mercia Police and Crime Panel refusing to back the appointment.

    A role that starts with cronyism is never going to be able to fulfil the role of being an independent overseer of the police. Commissioners are building empires when they should be using their efforts to ensure that policies and resources are effectively directed to reducing crime.
    Does anyone know what the budgets of the Commissioners are?

  • David Allen 21st Dec '12 - 1:14pm

    “Democracy is a process by which the electorate learns how to choose. This is a valuable learning experience. Let us hope that it results in correction this time and an improved choice next time.”

    No, democracy in this case was a misbegotten process by which the electorate tried to make clear its opposition to this election, but its views were ignored and the results declared legitimate. Let us hope that we campaign to abandon PCCs altogether next time.

  • Richard Church 21st Dec '12 - 1:48pm

    What we are going to see in Northamptonshire is a power tussle between Adam Simmonds and the Chief Constable, although in public they will deny it. The old Police Authority (which Brendan and I have both been members of) employed a handful of staff, none of whom were on high salaries and many were only part time. If the commissioner is employing senior managers on £65,000 a year, what will be the need for those managers currently employed by the force as part of the Chief Constable’s management team? Through his control of the purse strings, Simmonds will take control of huge aspects of the internal management of the force, leaving the Chief Constable only with his operational independence to fall back on to determine what police officers are doing from day to day.

    Simmonds demonstrates a move to an American style of local government, where people move freely between the local civil service and local politics, taking their cronies with them. Future Tory and Labour governments will like this model, and use it bring in elected executive mayors by the back door. First the fire service will be an easy picking to tack onto the commissioners empire, then aspects of social services. Increasingly, it will be former public servants who are elected to these offices, retired police officers or like Simmonds former local government officers. The role of the councillor, rooted in their communities and with a life outside local government and administration will be further weakened, and local government will be left to so called ‘experts’.

    This will be long remembered by our party as the worst compromise we made in the coalition agreement.

  • Richard Dean 21st Dec '12 - 1:57pm

    It’s always nice to have someone repeat one’s comments word for word! :-)

  • Tony Dawson 21st Dec '12 - 4:11pm

    @Richard Church:

    “This will be long remembered by our party as the worst compromise we made in the coalition agreement.”

    I would love that to be the case. I still think the NHS ‘deforms’ are massively worse, not least because they are a good two scales of magnitude larger. But this is bad enough, particularly because it is not obvious that the government either has any powers to prevent this kind of misbehaviour or any wish to do so. Where are the speeches from Ministers condemning all this?

  • Richard Church 21st Dec '12 - 7:40pm

    @Tony Dawson. I said this would be the worse compromise of the coalition agreement. NHS reform wasn’t in the coalition agreement.
    Simon, I understand the appointments Simmonds has already made are interim, and thererfore the Nolan rules or rules covering local government don’t apply. However they may apply for the permanent post and will have the advantage of experience.

  • Tony Dawson 21st Dec '12 - 9:00pm

    Sorry, Richard, you are right. The NHS stuff was not in the Coalition agreement. It was in the ‘Coalition programme for Government:

    “in the crucial area of public service reform,
    we have found that Liberal Democrat and
    Conservative ideas are stronger combined. For
    example, in the NHS, take Conservative thinking
    on markets, choice and competition and add
    to it the Liberal Democrat belief in advancing
    democracy at a much more local level, and you
    have a united vision for the NHS that is truly
    radical: GPs with authority over commissioning;
    patients with much more control; elections for
    your local NHS health board. Together, our ideas
    will bring an emphatic end to the bureaucracy,
    top-down control and centralisation that has so
    diminished our NHS.”

    :-(

  • andrew purches 22nd Dec '12 - 9:44am

    Within the regulations covering activities of all serving Police and Prison Officers, there is a mandatory requirement that no Political affiliation or activity can be undertaken whatsoever by any member of any force or Prison establishment, from Chief Constable / Prison Governor downwards. Why then has the legislation for the election of Police Commissioners flown in the face of this absolute requirement? Perhaps a Judicial Review might be able to throw some light on this ?

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Dec '12 - 6:51pm

    Simon Shaw

    So a Police Commissioner may appoint a single Deputy Police Commissioner NOT on merit. But every other appointment (including “Assistant” Commissioners) has to be on merit

    Presumably the “merit” is “I know him, he’s a mate of mine, so I know he would do well”. Who can argue with that? This is what all these “one-man one-vote” (i.e. one man has all the power) posts are about, whether executive mayors or police commissioners – they are supposed to lead to government which is better because it is more personalised, all accountable to one person, no nasty bureaucracy and having to work through committees. What better illustration of this than getting rid of all the bureaucracy surrounding appointments in old-style local government and moving simply to “I’ll appoint my mates”?

  • Richard Boyd 22nd Dec '12 - 7:04pm

    Of the 5 Essex Police Authority charimen, 1993 – 2012:
    The fist, Labour lasted 12 months then had to resign due to overzealous claims for mileage and station attendance
    (363 days in one year)
    The second, LD, was me who served out the remainder of the term to 1997
    The third, Tory, was deselected (officially due to ill health) because the Tories thought he was soft on the other parties.
    The fourth, Tory, was forced to resign by the combined pressure of the Police staff association, and all non-Tory members, including magistrates and Home Office nominees_ because of his “One Man Band” approach – and the
    management and other problems that had resulted in the Chief Executive going on extended Garden Leave .
    The final (Independent) chairman was a “holding appointment” pending election of the PCC.

    The new PCC chairman (Tory) retired naval officer now announces he should./could have stood as an indepentent
    and needs a staff to help him sort our the inherited shambles of the Police Authority. Oh ! and the Chief Constable resigned within days of the PCC election.

    No problems then.

    Now my view that a LD candidate (me?) was a ticket to a disaster may be vindicated.

    Richard Boyd, OBE, DL.

    Now you

  • Chris Stanbra 23rd Dec '12 - 11:01am

    Simon (not Shaw) – “Its to be expected – I’m sure the Lib Dem/Labour/ other candidate elected would have done similar and the opposition would have cried foul”
    Can’t speak for Labour/others, but NO the Lib Dem candidate would not have done similar.

  • Chris standbra

    And how can you be so sure?

    I would not have expected the LD to support a lot of things that they have but did. I would also not expect them to accept cash from dubious sources but they have. Who would expect them to be represented by an expenses cheat in Govenment but the are

    Who knows about the pcc elections seeing the party did so badly

    This holier than thou attitude is starting to grate now we see you performance when in power. It doesn’t help your credibility you know

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Dec '12 - 7:08pm

    Simon Shaw

    But the Chief Executive, the Chief Finance Officer, “Assistant Commissioners” and all other staff must be appointed “on merit”. In terms of the Nolan principles that must surely mean that the posts are advertised and interviewed for in accordance with normal Employment Law good practice.

    Yes, but who decides what is “merit”? As I said, these posts are one-man-one-vote – ALL decision-making is on the hands of one person, therefore if that person decides the mark of merit is that someone is a mate of his, he can do so, at least it’s awkward to stop him doing so.

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