The chair of Cambridgeshire Police Authority, Ruth Rodgers, was called to appear before Cambridgeshire County Council’s Police and Crime Scrutiny Committee on the 13th of September 2012. Rodgers was asked to explain why the authority was not giving notice to its staff despite its impending dissolution and why the authority was expecting all the authority’s staff, which cost around a million pounds a year, will be required to man the incoming commissioner’s personal office.
Members of the scrutiny committee accused the Police Authority of tying the hands of the incoming Police and Crime Commissioner. Authority chair Rodgers told the committee that keeping all the staff on was not a decision the authority had taken, but something required by law. Rodgers stated that the Chief Executive of the Police Authority was required by law to become the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Chief of Staff. There was clear scepticism shown towards what the Police Authority chair said. County Council officer Robert Jakeman suggested the committee ask the Police Authority to write to the committee explaining exactly which posts it believes have to be maintained post-election by law and which the authority has merely opted to transfer to the commissioner. The committee asked the Police Authority to quote in writing the relevant legislation supporting the view expressed by its chair, and also asked to be provided with copies of any guidance the authority has received on the matter (eg. from central government). The committee agreed unanimously to formally seek the requested clarifications in writing from the authority.
I think it is wrong of the police authority to assume that an incoming commissioner will want to spend as much running their personal offices as has historically been spent running the police authority, and that they will want all the staff kept on. The police authority costs in the region of a million pounds a year to run, and the committee’s clerk (styled the Chief Executive) is paid around a hundred thousand pounds a year.
No commissioner candidate has yet said they intend to spend a million pounds a year on their personal office or that they want to spend a hundred thousand pounds a year (more than their own seventy thousand pound salary) on their chief of staff. I would be astonished if anyone even went to the polls with such a manifesto, never mind got elected.
This is something I have been trying to draw to public attention for some time. In June 2012 I used the public speaking slot at a full police authority meeting to raise the issue. I said:
I would like to suggest the authority make arrangements so an incoming commissioner can, if they wish, start making savings as soon as possible, and are not lumbered with expensive ex-police authority staff for months on end.
As usual with public questions to the police authority; the response given was not really very enlightening.
The police authority secretariat is effectively refusing to be abolished and unless something is done it intends to carry on regardless largely unaffected by the disbanding of the police authority and the election of a commissioner.
The only relevant law as I understand it is Schedule 15, Part 2, of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.
This states that staff in-post at Police Authorities will be transferred to “the new policing body”. However it does not say that Police Authorities should not wind down their complement of staff as they move towards becoming defunct, it certainly doesn’t say that staffing levels should continue as they have been under the Police Authority or that the Chief Executive of the Police Authority automatically becomes the Commissioner’s Chief of Staff.
Options and Considerations for an Incoming Commissioner
- Given the short time available for a new commissioner to shape their election promises into a policing plan, set a budget and finalise a precept decision they may well have to initially work with the existing staff as there will be no time to give notice to the existing staff and recruit and appoint replacements.
- It may be an incoming commissioner doesn’t think the Chief Executive is the best member of staff to act as their Chief of Staff, they could appoint another member of staff from among those they inherit to the top job.
- The commissioner could ask the ex-Chief Executive to spend their notice period supporting the Police and Crime Panel, helping them set up the mechanisms for monitoring police performance using the experience of the police authority.
- A commissioner could use the staff inherited to launch and run an open recruitment process for their replacements, perhaps at lesser salaries.
- An incoming commissioner could make some of the staff inherited available to the the police, putting them under the control of the Chief Constable. This might make sense in relation to for example press and PR staff, who could be used to support police community engagement and local democratic priority setting.
- There is a big unknown in terms of Police and Crime Commissioner office staffing: casework. We don’t yet know how much correspondence from the public the commissioner will get and how many, if any, staff will be required to deal with that. Where possible I would like to see correspondence carried out in public, where it relates to matters of policy and strategy, with only truly personal elements of correspondence remaining confidential.
- While it might make sense for a commissioner to have a member of staff working for them based at Police HQ I would like to see a commissioner working primarily outside Police HQ, perhaps from their own home, to keep costs down and to maintain independence and accessibility.
- A commissioner may wish to retain research and data manipulation staff in order that they can effectively monitor police performance and ensure that their views are informed by evidence. It may be this post is best shared with the Police and Crime Panel; even though the Police and Crime Panel’s role is to scrutinise the Commissioner I would like to see a Commissioner working closely with the panel and ensuring it is well resourced and is able to support as well as scrutinise.
- On a related point, it will be interesting to see if it is possible for Commissioners to hire a firm of accountants to fulfil the role of “commissioner’s chief finance officer” rather than requiring the employment of an individual. Cambridgeshire Police Authority currently contracts the role of “treasurer” to John Hummersone, via “Hummersone Consulting (Sole Trader) rather than employing Mr Hummersone directly. Presumably this will mean there is no finance officer to transfer and an incoming Commissioner in Cambridgeshire will need rapidly set up a process for appointing one.
Conflict of Interest
The Police Authority are advised by their staff. In this instance the question is about if those staff should keep their jobs or be given notice prior to the disbandment of the authority so the staff have a personal interest in the decision. Authority members ought to have had to think for themselves and to treat any advice from their staff with due scepticism.
Police and Crime Panel Could Investigate
Cllr Mac McGuire was present at the scrutiny committee meeting, he speaks for Cambridgeshire County Council, on the Police and Crime Panel.
McGuire said that the Police and Crime Panel could scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner’s staffing levels and come to a view on if they had overstaffed their office.
This will be an interesting meeting as the commissioner will have to say their hands were tied by the outgoing authority; they will only be able to explain what they did to mitigate the problem and reduce wasteful spending.
Question to the Final Police Authority Meeting
Cambridgeshire Police Authority is to hold its last ever meeting on the first of October 2012. The meeting accepted public questions / statements and I have submitted the following
The authority’s chair Ruth Rodgers told Cambridgeshire County Council’s Safer and Stronger Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 13th of September 2012 that the law requires the Police Authority to keep all its staff on and transfer them to a newly elected commissioner with the authority’s Chief Executive automatically becoming the Commissioner’s Chief of Staff.
The scrutiny committee were sceptical and requested written clarification of the position, including citing the relevant legislation and providing copies of any guidance the authority has received.
- Could the requested clarification please be released in response to this question?
- Could a summary of authority’s current staff numbers, costs of employment, and notice/contract periods, be provided so that it is clear to what extent the outgoing authority have tied the hands of the incoming commissioner and what staff related spending the authority has committed the commissioner to?
- Could the status of the authority’s treasurer in relation to the transfer of staff to the commissioner be clarified?
- Meeting Dorothy Gregson – the current Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire Police Authority who it appears expects to become the Commissioner’s Chief of Staff.