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Commissioner scandal not down to rules
1:50pm Tuesday 1st January 2013 in News
MID-WORCESTERSHIRE MP Peter Luff has defended the Home Office after party colleagues slammed police and crime commissioner legislation as “shoddy”.
Mr Luff said “any law is only as good as the people who operate within it” and has rejected calls for the rules to be tightened up.
Bill Longmore, the region’s first elected police chief, appointed his old campaign manager Barrie Sheldon as his £50,000 a year deputy, despite being asked not to by a panel designed to scrutinise it.
Since then, Councillor Paul Middlebrough, who is a Conservative and chairs the Police and Crime Panel, has said the legislation is not tight enough.
Mr Luff said: “It’s an interesting question, but I don’t think you can blame everything on the rules which exist.
“There are some things which should not need to be said out loud or laid down in legislation, because you know you shouldn’t be doing it.
“You can’t blame the law if people abuse it – we all know public appointments should be made in an open and transparent way, whether that’s explicit in the legislation or not.
“Any law is only as good as the people who operate within in it, that’s my view.”
When Mr Sheldon was put forward as the deputy the panel recommended it be scrapped on the grounds there was no open selection process, or a job specification to make the role clear.
The panel also noted that the duo were old work colleagues at Staffordshire Police, did not make it clear before the election of their intentions, and that the £50,000 salary was too random.
Mr Longmore ignored the recommendation, saying Mr Sheldon was “the best man for the job” and the salary was graded at that rate after consulting with West Mercia Police’s HR department.
Mr Sheldon has since gone on to defend the move, citing the Police and Social Responsibility Act 2011 – the legislation which guides new commissioners across the country.
Under the rules, new commissioners can have more than one deputy, are free to select the salary on offer and do not need to advertise the post.
A total of 18 commissioners out of 41 now have deputies on salaries up to £68,000 a year – many of whom are fellow politicians, work colleagues or friends.