Million Pound a Year Personal Office for Cambs Police and Crime Commissioner

Sunday, September 16th, 2012. 1:22pm

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.

My View

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 Law

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.

  1. Could the requested clarification please be released in response to this question?
  2. 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?
  3. Could the status of the authority’s treasurer in relation to the transfer of staff to the commissioner be clarified?

See Also

  • Meeting Dorothy Gregson – the current Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire Police Authority who it appears expects to become the Commissioner’s Chief of Staff.

16 comments/updates on “Million Pound a Year Personal Office for Cambs Police and Crime Commissioner

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    Labour Candidate Ed Murphy has tweeted

    Afternoon at Cambs Police HQ. Checked out the PA Offices for the new Commissione, Associate Commissioners or Deputy if one is appointed.

    That’s rather an astonishing tweet – imagine a prospective prime minister checking out number 10 before winning the election and allocating offices!!

    As I wrote in my article I think it would be a bad idea for a commissioner to base themselves at Police HQ.

  2. Ed Murphy

    Evening All
    Richard makes an interesting point about the need for an office or not. My meeting with PA staff went on much longer than timetabled and many aspects were discussed including the budget, staff, and engagement, the role of the panel and case work concerning complaints. I need to get to work ASAP if elected on Nov 15 and planning for this now is important. Engagement is very important otherwise the CC, PCC and CEO could become insulated from the real world. It is essential that their decision making is challenged and processes for doing this in public are established. It seems the shadow panel have moved away from taking up this role.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    I attended the final police authority meeting where I was provided with a response to my question.

    It appears to confirm the chair of the authority misled the scrutiny committee and there is no legislation requiring the police authority to fail to act to reduce its staffing level prior to the transfer to the commissioner.

    I complained there had been no public debate on this matter, all the police authority members sat stony-faced as they always do when the public are making statments except Cllr Shona Johnstone who rolled her eyes at my complaint about lack of transparancy.

    The response indicated some authority staff are on a six month notice period so it will take the commissioner a long time to reorganise the office.

    I’ve suggested putting some staff under the control of the Chief Constable who I’m sure will be able to make use of them – for example community engagement and press staff.

    I’ll chase the authority to post the public Q&A with the meeting papers at:

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    The written response from the Police Authority secretariat has now been published:

    As you have previously been advised the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 will automatically transfer staff employed by police authorities, on their existing terms and conditions, to the employment of the Commissioner on the day they take office. The relevant section of the Act is Schedule 15, Part 2. This was also outlined in the letter from the Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice dated 12 September 2012 and available on the Police and Crime Commissioner section of our website. I believe you have also been referred previously to the dedicated Home Office Police and Crime Commissioners website, which publishes the „guidance‟ that police authorities are working to. The relevant advice is in the Home Office briefing for prospective candidates: “Have you got what it takes? Delivering through your chief executive and monitoring officer.” This information has also been passed on to Cambridgeshire County Council.

    Clearly this does not in any way state, as the County Council scrutiny committee was told, that the police authority needs to keep all its staff on to transfer them all to the commissioner; they could, and should in my view, have wound down their staffing level.

    The Police Authority conducts its business transparently in public. The costs of the Police Authority, including Executive Office Staffing costs, are published in the Authority‟s Statement of Accounts along with details of senior employee remuneration (Chief Executive and Treasurer). The table below sets out the information we are required to provide.

    Post No. of Posts (Full time equivalents) Annual Salary/ Salary Band Notice/Contract Period
    Chief Executive 0.9 £89,300 6 months
    Treasurer and Deputy Chief Executive 0.8 See below 4 months
    Policy and Performance Manager 0.9 £45,537 to £50,214 (full time)
    Policy Officers 3.0 £21,099 to £23,046
    Heads of Engagement and Partnerships 1.6 £34,965 to £39,711 (full time)
    Business Support Manager 1.0 £23,799 to £25,449
    Administration 1.7 £16,938 to £18,093
    Total 9.9

    The Authority‟s Treasurer and Deputy Chief Executive is employed on a consultancy contract. He works four days a week on average (0.8fte) and contract payments in 2011/12 were £74,825. The contract was renewed in April 2012 and will novate to the Police and Crime Commissioner who could terminate the contract. If that course of action was followed, the Commissioner would need to appoint another Chief Finance Officer as this is a statutory post.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Cambridge News is today reporting the new Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright’s position in relation to spending on his office. Their article states:

    He said he expected his support team costs to be 5 to 10 per cent below the former police authority’s budget.

    It also gives the budget for the Commissioner’s Office as £900,000

    My view is that 90-95% of the Police Authority’s budget is a huge amount for the Commissioner to be spending on his office.

    In 2010/11 the Police Authority spent £210,206.19 on members’ expenses and allowances.

    This is more than 20% of a £900,000 budget.

    So one way of viewing the new Commissioner’s intended spending on his office is he does not even plan to realise the savings that would accrue from having got rid of the police authority members and their associated expenses and allowances.

    The Commissioner has said he will set up office in South Cambridgeshire District Council’s headquarters in Cambourne and employ staff to attend public meetings, one based in Peterborough and one in Cambridge; both of these activities will add to the costs of his private office.

  6. Paul Lythgoe

    The total cost of the Police Authority in the year to April 2012 was £836,000. Members allowances and costs were £227,000 and the Office Staffing Costs were £329,000 with 8 FTE’s (according to the published accounts – your figures above suggest 9.9FTE’s – mismatch could be the self employed Finance Director). The Members Allowances were shared between 20 PA members with Ruth Rogers receiving £23k in the period.
    So, the new Commissioners Office will have an increase to 11 staff and an increase of 7.5% in running costs if as he states these costs are around £900,000. It is rather worrying then that Sir Graham Bright sees this as a saving of 5 to 10%.
    In addition to the Commisioners OFFice costs there are the costs of the PCP which will be mat to start with by the Home Office – estimate at upto £53,0000. Include this and the costs of transfer to the new PCC system will be 13% increase on the full year to April 2012.
    Not a good start when Sir Graham Bright was elected on a platform that stated
    ” -Value for money. Effective and value for money policing with no extra burden on our Council Tax.”

    P.S. Given the recent furore over consultancy contracts it is interesting to see that the PA’s Finance executive was on a consultancy contract. Presumably this had nothing to do with Tax Avoidance?

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      The £900,000 quoted in the Cambridge-News article is not attributed to the commissioner; though it is clearly approximately the cost of the Police Authority.

      The discrepancy between the reported 11 staff and the 9.9 quoted above could have many explanations; for example there could be 11 different individuals who together equate to 9.9 full-time equivalents.

  7. Paul Lythgoe

    The discrepancy I refer to is between the 8 FTE’s stated in the Medium Term Finanacial Plan for 2012 and the 9.9 FTE’s in your report above for the old PA. Of course, Sir Grahams Office of 11 may include part time work. The Chief Executive is, for example, quoted as a 0.9 FTE when she worked for the PA. On close reading you are correct it is not clear who is claiming the Office costs will be around £900k . But to show a saving of 5 to 10% he has to be below £800k including the costs of the PCP – will he do this?

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    Even at £800,000/year in my view that would be an astronomical cost for the commissioner’s office. To some extent the need for staff will be determined by demand from the public for casework but I can’t see any need for the Commissioner’s office to be staffed at a level significantly different from that of an MP for example.

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Liverpool Echo is reporting Merseyside Police Authority staff are to be offered voluntary redundancy, and the Commissioner the Commissioner there to openly advertise for a Chief of Staff.

    This is strikingly at odds with what has happened in Cambridgeshire.

    It is notable though that while Commissioner Bright has submitted a proposal to the Police and Crime Panel for the appointment of his deputy, he is yet to submit one in relation to an appointment of a Chief of Staff despite the Ex Cambridgeshire Police Authority Chief Executive Dorothy Gregson describing herself as “The Chief Executive, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner” .

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