Commissioner Graham Bright – Office Costs and Deputy Appointment

On the 6th of December 2012, on the morning of the day of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel meeting which will be asked to consider Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright’s proposed appointment of Brian Ashton as his deputy, I went on the Paul Stainton Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to talk about the proposed appointment and the amount Mr Bright is planning to spend on his office.

Paul Stainton and I questioned how Mr Bright is able to give an assurance he will be saving money compared to the Police Authority given his proposed additional spending on his deputy and other staff. The question of why the Commissioner is apparently seeing the ~£200,000 saved each year by not having to pay Police Authority members any expenses and allowances as cash for him to spend on his office, rather than a saving which ought be banked before we even get to talking about any additional costs the Commissioner might cut, was raised.

I sought to stress that the Commissioner has one pot of money, and what he spends on his office, and appointing his friends and Conservative party colleagues to well paid positions, is not available for front-line policing.

I have also written to the two Cambridge councillors who are members of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel:

Cllrs Bick and Wilkins,

In advance of your consideration of Commissioner Bright’s proposed appointment of his friend Brian as his deputy on £28,000 for 2-3 days work I would like to draw your attention to the following:

  • The commissioner’s proposal does not make clear if Brian Ashton would be paid his £28,000 “on-payroll” and have income tax and national insurance deducted at source. I suggest the panel recommend this occurs to preclude the possibility of any tax avoidance.
  • The arrangements for any expenses for Mr Ashton have not been made clear, nor have arrangements for any potential other payments or benefits, for example office costs or computer equipment.
  • Brian Ashton, was interviewed by Chris Mann on the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Drivetime show last week; in that interview he said he might do less than 2 days a week towards the end of the period.
  • Graham Bright didn’t mention he was going to appoint a deputy during the election, certainly didn’t say he had his friend Brian in mind, or that he was thinking of paying him 28K for 2-3 days a week.
  • On BBC Cambridgeshire, on Drivetime, about a week ago Commissioner Graham Bright was asked what he and his deputy will be doing, he replied :

    ” I can’t at the moment because we’re still getting to grips with exactly what we will be doing.”

    In light of this I would suggest the panel recommend he waits and sees if he needs a deputy, and what he needs them to do, before making an appointment.

  • Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is openly advertising for a deputy – and perhaps seeking to make an appointment on merit, this is something you could recommend happens in Cambridgeshire, in the interests of maintaining public confidence in the Commissioner and his staff.
  • The suggestion salaries for Deputy Police and Crime Commissioners are by the Government has appeared in the local press. This is not the case, the panel may wish to clarify this and ensure the position is clear to the public.
  • There is no current clarity on the question of if the Commissioner may appoint further deputies in the future.

I have placed the radio interviews I have referred to on YouTube and linked to them from:

I also note there has been no sign, in public at least, that the commissioner requested a confirmation hearing for Dorothy Gregson who appears to have become effectively his Chief of Staff. I would also suggest the panel ought carefully consider the role Gregson plays in the confirmation hearings given she is a key member of the Commissioner’s staff.


See Also

39 responses to “Commissioner Graham Bright – Office Costs and Deputy Appointment”

  1. Graham Bright was interviewed by Paul Stainton.

    • Mr Bright said the Police Authority cost around £970,000 [per year] and that he is budgeting for his office to cost £866,000.
    • Mr Bright said his “field officers” will would be considered, “an additional thing” and “an operation” therefore will not be considered part of his office’s costs. This appears to me to be an attempt to mislead people, he cannot claim to be making savings if he is just artificially moving spending away from his office and over to the police.
    • Asked why he wouldn’t spend some of the £866,000 he has allocated for his office on police officers, Commissioner Bright said: “well you need to have an organisation behind you”.
    • Paul Stainton asked Mr Bright to breakdown his proposed spending and Mr Bright replied:

      Well I’m not going to tell you that

      Paul Stainton pushed Mr Bright:

      Paul Stainton: “If you don’t know what your budget is how do you know you’re going to make a saving unless you’ve got a crystal ball or something?”
      Graham Bright: “But I do know what my budget is.”
      Paul Stainton: “But you’re not prepared to tell us?”
      Graham Bright: “Absolutely right.”
      Graham Bright: “You’re going to have to wait until the whole thing is published, it will be totally transparent, it’ll all be published and by the middle of February the whole thing will be out in the open.”

    • Bright claimed to be doing a “much much bigger job” than an MP
    • Bright said: “

      I haven’t got policies, in terms of overall

    • Graham Bright claimed to have told the public he was going to have a deputy, field officers, and new offices. I followed the election closely and did not see anywhere where Mr Bright said he would appoint a deputy
    • Bright said: “The public can make their decision on me in three and half year’s time”.
    • Bright claimed the old committee [the police authority] “didn’t have the same responsibilities I have got, to the public”.
    • Commissioner Bright said: “every other commissioner has appointed a deputy”. Earlier this month the respected TopofTheCops website reported sixteen [of the forty one Police and Crime Commissioners] were saying they would have deputies, with two planning open recruitment.
    • Commissioner Bright said he was quite happy with one deputy. [Paul Stainton pointed out he was to appoint “field officers” too…]
    • Commissioner Bright said his proposed field officers would be out in the community listening to what people are saying. He did not explain why he was not planning on doing this himself. Mr Bright claimed the old authority didn’t do this and “weren’t mandated to do that”. I don’t think that’s right, the Police Authority weren’t much good at communicating with the public, but it was something they were supposed to do, and made nominal efforts at.

  2. Journalist Martin Beckford tweeted yesterday to say 17 of 41 Police and Crime Commissioners are appointing deputies. That’s a long way what Cambridgeshire’s Graham Bright claimed when he said: “every other commissioner has appointed a deputy”.

    • BBC Radio Cambridgeshire investigated this during the day, and reported on the drive time show that they had checked with BBC reporters nationwide and had come to a similar conclusion, only about half of the Police and Crime Commissioners are currently appointing deputies.

      BBC Cambridgeshire said they had been in-touch with Mr Bright again in relation to the error, and thanked him on the drivetime show for “helping us with our enquiries”.

  3. >>Graham Bright claimed to have told the public he was going to have a deputy, field officers, and new offices. I followed the election closely and did not see anywhere where Mr Bright said he would appoint a deputy<<

    Perhaps he meant he told people he chose to speak with, obviously as he refused to speak to you, you weren't able to be privy to this information.

  4. Sir Graham states that the Police Authority cost around £970,000 per year and that he would run his office for £866,000 per year. This does not add up with the published accounts for the police authority 2011-2012 which states the costs as £838,000 (p.41 So either the accounts are misleading or in the last year the Police Authority increased its costs by 17% which seems unlikely. The cost of the Authority members were given as £202,000. Well given that the Police and Crime panel costs around £55,000 on top of the proposed £866,000 then the new mode of governance will cost an additional 10% assuming that the Commissioners and Deputies costs are born by his own office. Looking back at past accounts in 2009-10( the costs were appreciably higher than the last 2 years at £932,000. So, it is possible that Sir Graham has chosen to compare his office costs with a past year, but hopefully we do not have to wait until next February before he makes clear on what basis the Police Authority costs were £970,000.
    From the interview above it appears that Sir Graham intends to employ “field officers” and defines them as operational. I am not clear how field offices working for the Commissioner can be operational in any sense since the role is explicitly precluded from acting in an operational role. As I read it his field officers have a political role and cannot therefore be employed by the Police, and have to be employed within his office.

    • Picking a figure from years ago to compare his costs against would be rather cheeky. I’m not sure if this is what he’s done – another way the costs could be greater is if overhead costs from the police, eg. for the offices within police HQ are included.

      I doubt the field officers will have a “political” role; but what I thought Bright was promising during the election was additional officers who would be working for him, and not simply extra police staff working on public engagement. My own view is that those police staff working on neighbourhood watch ought be given a broader remit to work more comprehensively with everyone, not just self selecting neighbourhood watch groups.

  5. Photo from the PCP meeting

    I observed the first meeting of Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Panel on the 6th of December 2012. The purpose of the meeting was a “confirmation hearing” for Brian Ashton who had been proposed by Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.

    When I arrived the members of the panel were in a secret, private, pre-meeting. They appeared in public for an hour long question and answer session. The Police and Crime Commissioner made a short statement to introduce his friend Brian at the start of the public proceedings, his first appearance in public since taking office. Chairman McGuire asked the Commissioner to sit in the public seating after his contribution, but he just moved a few seats away from Mr Ashton, next to his Chief Executive (who was in the officer, not public, seating).

    I was one of two members of the public present. Commissioner Bright brought along an entourage of his office staff (well he’s got ten already so he’s got to find them something to do), there were also officers from Peterborough City Council watching.

    Following the question and answer session, which lasted just under an hour, the panel expelled the press and public (me and the other member of the public observing) and entered secret session to deliberate. I was told by officers to expect their recommendation to be published on Tuesday.

    Key Points:

    • The hearing had two things to investigate, one was Brian Ashton’s suitability for the role, and the other was the terms, conditions and other arrangements for his appointment. Chairman Cllr McGuire appeared to not be aware of this latter responsibility of the panel and there was no mention of his 2-3 day a week working arrangements, or the size of the salary.
    • Cllr Tim Bick (Liberal Democrat, Cambridge City Council) asked if Brian Ashton would be paid on-payroll or via a service company. Mr Ashton replied to say he had in his public sector roles been paid both via a service company and via the payroll. The service company was used when he was on the Primary Care Trust, on the grounds that if a GP had the role they too would have been paid via their company. Mr Ashton said that he was “emphatic” that in relation to the deputy commissioner role he will be paid on-payroll and tax and national insurance will be deducted from his salary via PAYE. Conservative Councillor Irene Walsh complained that Cllr Bick’s question was unfriendly, and promised her party colleague Mr Ashton her questioning would not be so challenging.
    • Photo from the PCP meeting
    • Cllr Walsh asked Mr Ashton how he got involved with riding for the disabled. Mr Ashton replied: “I was asked to”, he also added he was allergic to horses and if he touched a horse, and then his face, he comes out in a rash. For some reason Dorothy Gregson, who is styling herself Chief Executive of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office, laughed at this.
    • Cllr Kevin Wilkins (Liberal Democrat, Cambridgeshire County Council) asked Mr Ashton why he had made a big point about having been a member of the Conservative Party for over forty years in his written statement to the panel, but had not mentioned policing. In reply Ashton said he thought the question was if he would work in the interests of all sectors of the population, not just Conservatives, and gave an example of his lobbying to keep a hospital in Ely
    • Chairman McGuire opposed Cllr Kevin Wilkins’ question, saying that it was to be expected that the deputy would be a political appointment, and one of the elected commissioner’s fellow party members.
    • Pushed on the question of his experience of policing, Mr Ashton said he had been lucky not to have come into contact with police (presumably he meant as a victim of crime?), he said he had “no intimate knowledge of policing” but said he had “read a lot”. (This prompted quite some reaction on Twitter when I reported it live, with people asking what he had been reading).
      Pushed further Ashton admitted involvement with Ely’s CCTV scheme, where volunteers man the control room – he appeared proud of this despite a recent review saying it had “identified a number of issues which were considered of highest importance in terms of non-compliance with the DPA”. Aston said it saved the police in Ely time to have the system based locally rather than in Cambridge. Ashton said as a councillor he had also been involved in setting up “panel meetings”.
    • I felt that only Cllrs Bick and Wilkins were really taking their roles seriously; other members asked irrelevant or vacuous questions and didn’t pursue them.
    • Photo from the PCP meeting
    • Non-councillor member of the panel Christine Graham made no contribution at all to the meeting. It would appear that the councillors on the panel have appointed a dud, however someone who keeps quiet might well have been what they were looking for, despite not having admitted that in the public materials associated with the position.
    • Cllr Bick asked Mr Ashton if he had any convictions. Mr Ashton replied: “are you asking about my speeding offence forty years ago?”.
    • Mr Ashton confirmed, unprompted, that as deputy he wouldn’t only spring into action in the absence of the commissioner; but would be acting as a critical friend.
    • I sought, and obtained, permission to photograph and film the meeting. A condition was imposed saying I was not allowed to move around. Chairman McGuire stated the host authority’s rules were in-force, and an officer told the panel these were that filming and recording could only take place with permission of the chair (though I couldn’t find any reference to recording (other than recording of votes – ie. which councillor voted which way) when I read Peterborough City Council’s constitution prior to attending). County Councillor James Palmer took a flash photo of the proceedings mid-way through without permission but was not challenged by Chairman McGuire.
    • Cllr Palmer declared an interest saying Mr Ashton (he called him Cllr Ashton but later corrected this) encouraged him to stand as a councillor.
    • I broadcast the core part of the meeting live online (it is now available as a recording), it had 13 live viewers. The quality is pretty poor, I used my telephone, rather than my video camera. Then again it was hard to see who was speaking, and at times hard to hear, from where I was. I’ve also made a video of the Commissioner’s contribution available on YouTube.
    • The other non-councillor member, Raja Ali, asked a question. He struggled to make himself understood and councillors were visibly straining to hear him. He asked how Mr Ashton would work with the diverse groups which make up Cambridgeshire’s population. Mr Ashton said he was aware a wide range of people had come to reside in Cambridgeshire. The example he chose of how this can be a problem, was coarse fishing, he said that Eastern Europeans moved to this country and didn’t realise they could go coarse fishing and eat what they catch, he said they didn’t understand the laws which people who’ve grown up in the country have become aware of naturally. (Personally while I was aware of the need for rod licences, I had no idea of any prohibition on eating what you catch), I’ve heard Pike and Carp are considered rather bony, and therefore not generally eaten in the UK, but also that Eastern Europeans consider them more of a delicacy.

      Mr Ashton said he and his brother had previously held a controlling interest in a factory in Lambeth, he said he coped with the diverse communities in that part of London who made up his workers and thought they were happy with him as he was with him.

      My view is that the coarse fishing example, while real, an odd thing to raise when he could also have talked about translation costs, and impacts; or about the way travellers are treated by the police.

    • Most councillors appeared keen to ask about the Police and Crime Commissioner’s policies. It was certainly odd, given the interest, that the first formal Police and Crime Panel meeting held in public did not hear from the Commissioner. Chairman McGuire had to stop a number of lines of questioning, and Mr Ashton had to say on a number of occasions that he couldn’t make a policy commitment, or comment, on behalf of the Commissioner.
      Councillors asked about:

      • Costs of the Commissioner’s office; Mr Ashton repeated the rather vague line saying it would cost less, adding a caveat of “on a like for like basis”. He appeared to suggest that communicating with the public was a new responsibility, and hence would incur extra cost over the Police Authority. Cllr West wasn’t happy with this view of the Police Authority, he said that in his opinion the Police Authority had worked quite well.
      • If Community Safety Partnership grants would be continued; Mr Ashton said he could not make any “public promise on the continuation of grants.
      • Local meetings to set priorities and hold the police to account; Mr Ashton said “a similar sort of thing” would continue, but wasn’t able to make any promises, or give any details, beyond saying that.
      • A member of the panel urged the deputy commissioner to understand some elements of the population have a very poor image, perception and expectation of the police. I thought this was getting way off the topic of assessing Mr Ashton’s suitability for the role, or considering the terms of his appointment
    • Mr Ashton noted that “merit” was something the panel were not being asked to assess.
    • At the request of a councillor member of the panel the doors to the council chamber were closed while the meeting was in progress. There was no obvious reason for this, but it might have put off members of the public arriving late from entering.
    • Mr Ashton was asked if it was true that he had been tasked with making savings from within policing which would pay for ‘his department’. Ashton’s response was vague but did appear to confirm the premise in the question that there will be a “department of the deputy commissioner” within the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office.
    • Chairman McGuire said he had been looking at how the Americans run confirmation hearings for their Vice-Presidents to prepare him for the hearing.
    • Chairman McGuire noted the panel didn’t have a veto on the deputy’s appointment, but said they did have one with a Chief Constable appointment.
    • Mr Ashton said the confirmation hearing had been his first interview since attending a university interview at age of 18. Ashton said that interview had been held in a similar grand hall, however then his interviewers had been raised on a dais, he said it was good to see the Police and Crime Panel on the same level as him.

    The meeting was held in the opulent surroundings of Peterborough City Council’s council chamber in the Peterborough Town Hall. A pair of union jacks was on display, and other flags were dotted around the room. There were large chandeliers, heavy curtains and an ornately painted wooden ceiling. The furniture was modern and luxurious. A number of councillors (who are mainly from local councils other than Peterborough City Council) commented on the furniture and fittings and said they would like something like it for their own councils. I don’t know if any of these were from South Cambridgeshire District Council which has been under fire (to use the Cambridge News’ parlance) for planing to spend £45,000 on new tables and chairs for its council chamber. There was also a nespresso style coffee machine.

    Overall I thought it was a dull meeting; I suspect the interesting bits would have been those held behind closed doors before and afterwards. I note Chairman McGuire gave no reason for expelling the press and public, or for holding the pre-meeting unannounced (ie. in secret) and in private.

    Mr Ashton spoke very slowly, and often took the subject well away from what he was being asked about. I didn’t get the impression he had any passion, or ideas, to bring to the role. It also wasn’t at all clear what he would be asked to do – beyond the rather odd and cryptic exchange about him making enough savings to cover the cost of his “department”.

    Wondering If I Ought Observe

    Prior the meeting I tweeted:

    Wondering if I should spend my time & money going to P’boro for the Police & Crime Panel. I might not get to see deliberations & decision…

    Tom Lloyd replied:

    We won’t so you must. Sorry!

    and Rupert Moss-Eccardt added:

    @TomCLloyd @RTaylorUK I’ll chip in!

    I ended up spending £4 on parking, and probably £10, if not more, on petrol. Then witnessing the history which was Cambridgeshire’s first Police and Crime Panel meeting and first appearance of the commissioner in public is, I suppose, priceless, even if I was right to predict I wouldn’t get to see the deliberations or the decision get made. Maybe Rupert will buy me a coffee next time I’m in Ely…

  6. The BBC are running an online article headlined: “Cambridgeshire PCC Sir Graham Bright criticised over deputy choice”.

    It quotes Labour’s Ed Murphy as saying Mr Bright has created a “sweet shop for his mates”. It also quotes Liberal Democrat Rupert Moss-Eccardt as saying “being a Conservative seems to be the only qualification”.

    The BBC article states:

    The panel’s decision on whether or not to appoint Mr Ashton is expected to be made public next week.

    The panel’s decision is only if to recommend appointing Mr Ashton under the proposed terms, or not, or to suggest any changes to the arrangements. The final decision is up to the Commissioner, who has to consider what the panel says, but is free to ignore them.

    • This will prove to be a difficult gig for Sir Graham if his early decisions on the make up of his office are so easily challenged in the media. Selecting placemen rather than experts in the field may prove his undoing. Let us see what the Conservative dominated panel decide.

  7. If field officers are employed and selected by Sir Graham they are clearly playing a political role. He is a political appointment and his staff serve him in the same capacity.

    • There are laws on political impartiality for all of the staff of the commissioner’s office, other than the deputy(ies); they ought be more like the civil service. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in practice.

  8. Ther whole issue of this unnecesary post needs to be discussed. It would be better for Commissioner Graham Bright to resign now. He clearly is out of touch with the public mood.

    If the Prime Minister had the courage, he would abolish the posts and get rid of the sprawling quangos the new Commissioners are creating.

  9. Meeting in private beforehand and afterwards does comply with the law and with the national guidance we put out with the LGA.

    Beforehand, a private part of the meeting will allow the Panel to decide on their questioning strategy – who will ask what, and when. It means that the Q&A session will hopefully be more targeted.

    Afterwards, it is appropriate that discussions on whether or not to recommend appointment are held in private because members will need to receive legal and HR advice on their planned position which will relate to the employment position of a named individual (ie the candidate) and so this falls within the exemptions around the Data Protection Act.

    The reason for the delay in public notification, again, comes from the guidance we produced. While usually it would be best practice to publish a decision immediately afterwards, we have suggested a built in delay to recognise the significant implications of a recommendation for refusal. The position is slightly lessened for the “political”, deputy appointments, but certainly for the other posts a recommendation for refusal would probably be career-ending – certainly for the Chief Constable position. The five day period is built in to allow the PCP, PCC and the candidate to take any advice on a planned decision to ensure that everyone involved is being fair to the candidate. The reason why this delay is built into all decisions (even where the recommendation is to approve) is that if you only delay the decision when you are planning to recommend that someone not be appointed, the mere fact of the delay will indicate to outside observers that the appointment is to be rejected.

    Ultimately the critical factor is fairness to the candidate in line with employment law. Confirmation hearings are very delicate things, as you have to skate around these issues. You might think that this makes them pretty useless as a tool for effective scrutiny, but obviously not having observed any in action I couldn’t comment.

    • I didn’t see any evidence of a co-ordinated questioning strategy at the meeting I observed. There was no structure to the Q&A with members of the panel jumping in with their own questions and not following a theme, or drilling down to obtain answers.

      I would have liked the reasons for the pre-meeting and for entering private session to have been given in public, and for the panel to vote on going into private session. I would have thought there might have been some points which members of the panel might have wanted to make in public. Perhaps for example making clear that they would be looking in detail at the proposed terms and conditions of employment.

      As for a confirmation hearing not supporting a Chief Constable appointment being career ending – I would hope not. The views of a handful of, potentially ill-prepared, and ill-informed councillors ought not be able to end a professional career. I can envisage situations where a panel might think a candidate lacks the experience and background to be their Chief Constable but would think them entirely suited to other policing jobs elsewhere at the same or similar rank.

    • I agree that the reasoning for going into private session should always be made clear to those attending.

      The general consensus (which of course does not make it correct) is that a recommendation to refuse appointment, or an exercise of the veto, would be pretty much career-ending for a prospective Chief Constable. Because the bar for refusal or the veto should – rightly – be set very high, such a refusal basically means that the candidate is so ill-suited to the job that it makes them unappointable. This isn’t a matter of minute degrees, but a judgment that a candidate is so devoid of the right skills and experience that they shouldn’t even have made it onto the appointment shortlist. It would suggest systemic failures in the PCC’s HR systems too.

      ACPO and others (I have tried to find citations – has proved difficult, will keep looking) expressed concerns about the probity and fairness of the system of confirmation hearings when the Bill was going through Parliament. Protecting the candidate from unfairness is a critical need given the high stakes.

      These stakes are lessened for the PCC’s staff, but are still high. The stakes are low for the deputy appointment but arguably this is the area in which the PCC has maximum discretion.

      It will be difficult for the PCP to carry out effective scrutiny of a deputy appointment where there is no agreed job description or no agreement as to the likely role, and hence skills necessary, for the job.

  10. Message I received

    “Ed, I write to you letting you know of my frustrations working at Cambridgeshire Constabulary since the election of Graham Bright. I have worked here for many years along with my other colleagues who have worked hard to make the savings required following the cut backs in budgets. As an example, I this week was installing some 11 year old equipment to be used in front line Policing but in a time of austerity we all work together to achieve the savings and buying new equipment is no longer an option. Well that is except Sir Graham , who wishes to be independent. To achieve this he says he must work from the Council offices at South Cambs District Council. This has an ongoing rental cost of £18,000. We are having to buy furniture and then install special computer equipment as this is a none Police site costing many more £1000’s, and then the relocation cost’s involved in moving the staff from the Police HQ. ( Despite the fact there is a perfectly good office at the Police HQ where the Police Authority managed to perform their duty while still being accountable to the public ). Meanwhile the Constabulary have sites available at no cost. Does he really believe the public will believe him that this will make him more accountable? This I believe is more to do with what he wants and the week willed management here do not have the courage or conviction to stand up and say this is simply wrong, especially Dorothy Gregson who seems to be trying to gain favour with him. He should not be spending money while the rest of us make savings. I want the public to know”

    Folk in the Cambs Police Services are getting pissed off. I expect the CEO D Gregson will say no and take no more from this buffoon soon. Ed M.

  11. Job Description: Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner:

    1) Maintain the position of having no priorities whenever the PCC is not available to have no priorities himself, eg due to being privately in Brussels

    2) Er…

    3) That’s it!

    4) Salary and hours by negotiation

  12. And in the run up to the election, the now Commissioner made it clear to me that he would be appointing a large number of his previous associates to his office. He indicated he would have to see whether he liked the police authority’s chief exec and her staff or not. Interested to know whether, in his budget plan he includes any redundancy costs for staff he has inherited. How much?

  13. The Police and Crime Panel have published their decision to approve Mr Ashton’s appointment.

    While the decision notice contains the phrase “the Panel had regard to .. the terms and conditions on which the candidate was to be appointed” this appears to be a mere nod to their legal responsibilities. I saw no sign the salary or terms of employment had been considered in depth during the public part of the meeting, and the decision notice makes no comment on the salary, or terms of employment and does not even reiterate the assurance obtained by Cllr Bick during questioning of Mr Ashton relating to paying him via the payroll.

    The panel approved Mr Ashton’s appointment despite feeling the need to explicitly recommend he increases ” his understanding and appreciation of the diversity of the various communities which exist across the whole County”.

    Notably the support appears to be from the whole panel; there are no minority views expressed along with the decision and no indication of a contested vote among members of the panel (though the decision is not minutes of the meeting).

    • The Committee was not unanimous. Cllr Bick and I voted against, as did another member of the committee.
      I thought Mr Ashton showed knowledge of neither policing and crime nor the Constabulary area outside East Cambs (he was really hopeless on the different challenges facing the cities of Cambridge and Peterborough), nor did he give any evidence as to how he would address this lack of knowledge. I thought he was very poor indeed and certainly not worth appointing.

    • Colin Rosenstiel tweeted: “Isn’t there one more non-Tory on the panel, from Peterborough?”

      er…don’t be silly! Labour put out loud press releases attacking the Conservatives and then vote with them at the meetings – as they did over G4S privatisation. 🙁

    • It is encouraging to hear that there are some dissenting views within the Police and Crime Panel. Unfortunately this body has been so constructed as to provide no check or balance on the actions of Sir Graham Bright. The appointment of his friend, Mr Ashton, shows that having a knowledge and understanding of the area he serves and policing is the least of his concerns.

  14. In relation to Graham basing himself at Cambourne this seems to me to be eminently sensible. He is not a part of the police service for one and more importantly some of his constituents might feel intimidated having to visit police HQ to talk to their elected representative. In relation to deputies I would have preferred P and CCs who where planing to appoint deputies to have campaigned on a joint ticket, but this was the first election and I would expect this to change by the next election. Deputies have an explicitly political role being the only member of the commissioners staff that aren’t politically restricted. On the subject of his ‘outreach workers’ based in Cambridge and Peterbourough I expect these roles to be to help the commissioner and his office to be more available to his constituents over what is, quite frankly, a large geographical area.

    • The Cambourne office costs seem to be significant from what has been passed on by Ed. Half the cost of a police officer just in rent and not only that but Sir Graham has chosen to have a address which means he has to buy extra gadgetry to run at RESTRICTED. It also seems a little strange that he claims to want to be separate from the police but has signed up to having them monitor and filter all his email.

      On to the outreach workers. From what is known publically he is planning to use operational money for them. That’s another or two police officers lost.
      Finally, the Council Tax decision he appears to have made is another £0.5m cut (could be 14 officers).

      Can someone please explain this to us?

    • The budget (well a very brief document without details) has been published as the paper to item six at:

      It shows an extra £39,000 for staff (other than the Commissioner and Deputy) within the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office compared to the Police Authority. Presumably this is the outreach workers, so perhaps the Chief Constable has refused to consider them operational.

      If their role is simply to keep in touch with public meetings I wonder why they are full time roles, and not volunteer or casual posts.

  15. Richard,
    I refer to my earlier post regards Police Authority budget costs for 2011- 2012. Costs published for the Police Authority in the annual statement of accounts 2011-2012 are stated as £838,000 ,in the 2013-2014 budget plan laid out he lists these costs as £970,000. The discrepancy is in the old authority costs listed in the earlier budget as £187,000 and in the published plans today as £217,000. In addition travel etc was listed last year in the budget as £29,000, and in the current plan as £50,000 for the same period. A difference of £61,000. The staffing costs were listed by the old authority as £347,000 in 2011-2012 and in the current published plan they are listed as £427,000. There is no explanation of the differences between the 2 published documents. Why could this be?

  16. What is not mentioned in the new budget statement is the hidden cost of the Police and Crime Panel. This is to be funded by the Home Office at up to £53k per annum plus £920 per member allowances. If the PCC is able to claim savings this should also be included in the new costs.

  17. At the Police and Crime Panel meeting on the 7th of February 2012 Liberal Democrat Cllr Bick questioned why the commissioner was using the £970,000.00 figure for the cost of the Police Authority in 2011/12 as the basis from which to claim he was making a saving. Cllr Bick said a member of the public (perhaps Mr Lythgoe?) had written to him suggesting the £838,000.00 figure ought to have been used instead.

    The commissioner and his staff responded; admitting the £970,000.00 wasn’t the actual cost of the Police Authority in 2011/12; they said this was the budgeted cost but savings had been made. Their argument was that they are comparing a budgeted cost with a budgeted cost so like with like, even though the actual spend for 2011/12 is now known.

    The budget presented by the commissioner and accepted by the panel has £866,000.00 budgeted for the Commissioner’s office costs in 2013/14. This is described as an 11% cost reduction when compared with the £970,000.00 figure.

    My view is the £866,000.000 ought be compared with a figure of £635,935.00 and be described as a 36.18% increase in office costs under the commissioner as compared with the Police Authority, with some of that due to the salaries of the commissioner and his deputy. That latter figure is the Police Authority’s actual total expenditure of £838,000.00 in 2011/12 minus the £202,065.00 spent on members allowances and expenses during that year as there are no longer any members of the police authority. For both of those figures see p43 of the Police Authority’s 2011/12 accounts PDF.

    The Commissioner and his staff stated they had received correspondence from a member of the public on this point; they said they would be responding to that individual but did not commit to publish their response.

  18. Richard
    I am staggered by the comment that you quote that showing a saving in the current budget against a previous budget is any evidence of real savings. This is pure fantasy accounting more so if they know the actual costs. As for the figure of £970,000 no publicly published document states this figure as the budget for the Police Authority in the period 2011-2012. Given the secrecy our local Government seems to enjoy, it may well be the case there is an unpublished document with this figure in.

  19. The commissioner has today published his spending over £500.

    As well as thousands of pounds spent on consultants, and other items I’ve noted previously, the April 2013 data (CSV) shows a number of lines for weekly payments for a temporary Personal Assistant / Admin Officer at a cost of around a thousand pounds per week, the sums range from £970.13 to £1086.55. Annualised this would be a further very costly ~£50,000/year addition to his already expensive office costs.

    The Commissioner’s March disclosure shows another expensive temporary member of staff, and further to £1700 spent on an advertorial in the Cambridge Edition magazine in Jan 2013* a payment of £800 to County Life Ltd has been made for an “advertorial” in the South Cambs Magazine Spring Issue.

  20. Sir Graham Bright in his latest interview with Paul Stainton again made the claim that his office is cheaper than the Police Authority that preceded him. However, many times he repeats this it is not true. The published accounts for the last full year of the Police Authority show that they spent £837,000, an underspend to their initial budget of £970,000. Sir Graham has continually claimed that he will save 11% by budgeting only £866,000.

    John Humersome replied on behalf of the PCC office to a letter on this issue, and claimed that comparing the Police Authority budget with the PCC budget was a more appropriate comparison. This seems a fairly unique accountancy practice to me – normally one would expect savings to be calculated against actual expenditure and not a past budget. The conclusion of the letter was useful as he states, “The likelihood of such an underspend recurring is now much reduced as there has been a rigorous examination of every line of the Commissioner’s budget and the demands on the office are increasing.”

    Clearly as Sir Graham continues to increase the size of his office an underspend becomes even less likely.

    Sir Graham also continues to suggest that Parish Councils will be his primary means of engagement- he still fails to recognise in his public pronouncements that Cambridge does not have any Parish Councils. It is also worth recalling that while Sir Grahma may have gained a mandate in the fens he came third in Cambridge only just beating the spoilt ballot papers. His election like the County council election really underlines the need for Cambridge City to become a unitary authority, and not governed by a council and PCC whose views are not held by the majority in the city.

  21. Paragraph 33 of a Home Affairs Select Committee report published on the 23rd of May 2013 lists Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner as one of just 5 commissioners in the country didn’t provide them with the information they needed to assess if the commissioners were going to cost the taxpayer more or less than the police authorities did.

    Interestingly the figure not supplied was that for the Police Authority; it may be that the Commissioner has now accepted comparing his budgeted spend with the authority’s budget isn’t a reasonable thing to do given the huge disparity between the Police Authority’s budget and what they actually spent.

    Had he provided the figure for the amount spent the report would have shown him to be budgeting to cost more than the Police Authority cost, breaching his manifesto commitment.

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