Cllr Shona Johnstone as Cambridgeshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner?


Sunday, November 18th, 2012. 10:54pm

Cambridgeshire’s new Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright’s election, albeit with just 3.96% of the electorate making him their first choice, gives him a huge amount of patronage.

Mr Bright is free to spend as much as he likes on staff he appoints to his personal office and on salaries, expenses and allowances for “deputies”. Mr Bright may well seek to give these jobs and positions to his friends or members of his party. (It was noted by one person I discussed this with that there is a theoretical limit, the size of the policing budget which will be in the Commissioner’s hands: ~£135m/year).

These staff and salary costs, and his other office costs, are almost certain to be a much more significant cost than the salary of the commissioner himself even though it is the latter which has been the subject of discussion during the campaign with some candidates offering not to take it all, or to spend some of it personally on what they consider good causes.

Graham Bright said very little during the campaign on this subject; he certainly didn’t stand on a platform alongside a pre-selected deputy, or even so far as I’m aware say he would appoint a deputy.

My view is that as he didn’t stand on a manifesto saying he would appoint a deputy he has no mandate to appoint one; never mind pay them a hefty salary from taxpayer’s funds which he could put towards policing.

Cllr Shona Jonhstone

The Editor of the Cambridgeshire Times tweeted on the morning of the Police and Crime Commissioner count to say:

He followed up with:

Cllr Johnstone sought the Conservative nomination to stand as their party’s candidate for the position of Police and Crime Commissioner (despite being a member of the Police Authority and so ineligible for the role). Cllr Johnstone was present with Graham Bright at the count, and was one of those who surrounded him after the result was announced and sought to restrict and control access to him (an activity she was joined in by other Conservatives and members of the Police Authority secretariat).

At the count I asked Cllr Shona Johnstone:

Are you expecting to become Deputy Commissioner?

She responded to say:

I have no comment, that’s for Graham to decide

I pushed, asking:

So you’re not expecting it at the moment then?

to which Shona Jonhstone said:

It’s for Graham to decide.

Shortly after speaking to Cllr Johnstone I asked Graham Bright for his thoughts on deputies but he studiously ignored me, as he had done previously when I had sought to ask him about his staff.

While waiting for the result at the count many people spoke about how various senior Conservatives in the region had responded when they had heard Cllr Shona Johnstone was being considered for the position of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.

At one of her last Police Authority committee meetings Cllr Johnstone called for the recruitment of more illiterate people as police officers.

Role of Police and Crime Panel

There is some scrutiny of the appointment of a Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner by the Police and Crime Panel; but all they can do is make a recommendation to the Commissioner after having considered:

  • (a) the name of the person whom the commissioner is proposing to appoint (“the candidate”);
  • (b) the criteria used to assess the suitability of the candidate for the appointment;
  • (c) why the candidate satisfies those criteria; and
  • (d) the terms and conditions on which the candidate is to be appointed.

It is however up to the Police and Crime Commissioner if they accept or reject the recommendation of the panel.

Source : Section 9(2) of Schedule 1 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.

BBC Radio Interview

I discussed patronage, and the cost of the commissioner’s office when I discussed the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections on BBC Radio on the day after the election:

See Also

12 comments/updates on “Cllr Shona Johnstone as Cambridgeshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner?

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    Cllr Johnstone has tweeted:

    This could indicate that she is not to be offered the role; or will decline it.

    Cllr Johnstone also tweeted:

    Clearly without pointing to the specific elements she considers inaccurate this appears to simply cast aspersions on the quality of what I have written. The key element of my article is the video and the tweets from John Elworthy, both of which speak for themselves and both of which I have made available to readers.

    Lastly Cllr Johnstone also tweeted:

    Cllr Johnstone was ineligible to stand as Police and Crime Commissioner under Section 65(4) of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 which lists being a member of a Police Authority as being something which results in “disqualification from election or holding office as police and crime commissioner”.

    This was something I’ve also noted in my article on John Pye. I and others watched to see if Ansar Ali would manage to resign from the Police Authority in time to exploit a the loophole in the legislation which, despite apparently being intended to ensure a change from the old regime to the new, allowed Police Authority members to resign just before standing as Police and Crime Commissioners. He just managed it.

  2. stephen ginns

    Re rumoured Shona Johnstone appointment: As this is a public office, I trust that there will be complete openness in the appointment process – ie. the post should be advertised publicly , candidates short-listed and interviewed, references followed up, and notice of successful candidate made publicly.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    Commissioner Bright has announced his intention to appoint Brian Ashton as a deputy on £28,000 per year to work two to three days per week.

    A “confirmation hearing” is to be held on the 6th of December in Peterborough where the Police and Crime Panel will consider both the suitability of Mr Ashton for the role and the appropriateness of the proposed working arrangements and salary.

    Mr Bright writes:

    I have known Brian ASHTON for many years.

    Mr Ashton writes:

    I have been an active member of the Conservative Party for 45 years.

    Mr Bright has not said if this will be his only “deputy” appointment.

    I’ve tweeted members of the Police and Crime Panel suggesting Mr Bright pays his deputy via the pay-roll as his submission to the panel was not clear if this was his intention. None have responded.

  4. Dave

    I think the biggest problem with this appointment is the manner in which it is being done. The PCC nominates his deputy to the Policing Panel who can unanimously reject the nominee if desired; however, the PCC can still appoint under this circumstance. This is not democracy, is it? Surely the deputy should be the runner-up in the election as they have the strongest mandate, or alternatively (especially in this the first Commission term) the former Chief Executive.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      The “deputy” is not the person who takes over if the Commissioner can no-longer do the job.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    Mr Bright has been on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire defending the £28,000 per year to work two to three days per week salary saying it even when added to his £70,000 is cheaper than the £200,000 costs of the Police Authority (by which he means members’ expenses and allowances of the Police Authority – the full costs of that organisation were much higher).

    Asked if he could say what he and his deputy will be doing in an average week Mr Bright replied:

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

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      A newspaper article openly based on the above radio interview has been published on the Cambridgeshire Times website:

      http://www.cambstimes.co.uk/news/cambridgeshire_s_first_police_and_crime_commisioner_defends_deputy_s_salary_1_1716726

      It wrongly suggests the deputy’s salary is set by the government. This is not true, and not what Commissioner Bright has claimed. What he has explained is that he has come up with the salary for his deputy by taking his salary (which is set by the government) and applying his own rationale of taking 80% of it first, then taking a “pro-rata” fraction to account for a 2-3 day week.

      The statement by the commissioner which has been mis-quoted is at 2:56 in the interview above; it is clear the Commissioner says it is his salary, not his deputy’s that has been set by the Government.

      This wasn’t the only “error” apparently made by the journalist when quoting from the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire interview:

      However at 1:17 in the above interview the Commissioner does say “I wanted someone who could complement me”.

      It’s a radio interview, we can’t know if the Commissioner meant “complement” or “compliment”, I don’t think reporting he said “compliment” is technically inaccurate. We’ll have to wait and see what role the Deputy takes on…

  6. Paul Lythgoe

    “Mr Bright may well seek to give these jobs and positions to his friends or members of his party.”
    With his first appointment you seem to be correct. Brian Ashton and Sir Graham are clearly relaxed together as seen at the Patrons Club Dinner http://www.southcambridgeshireconservatives.org.uk/event/patrons-club-annual-dinner.
    My concern about the appointment of Brian Ashton is summed up in the reasons that Sir Graham gives for appointing him. He is complementatry to Sir Graham and thinks like him.
    With so small a mandate – just 4% of the potential electorate it may well have been wiser to find someone who may think less like him and help bring balance to his decision making. Sir Graham has form in over responding to tabloid moral panics. Thus was born his legislation on video nasties and raves, his unfortunate interview with Brass Eye, and his condemnation of a film for blasphemy that now 18 years on has a standard film classification. His electioneering started with the outrageous claim that Cambridgeshire folk were scared to leave their homes. He concentrates his plans on addressing anti-social behaviour that only 1.4% of respondents to a police survey believe that in their locality is an issue, and that he cannot adequately define.
    It would have been good to see some recognition in this appointment that in Cambridge and Peterborough he was outvoted by other candidates.
    As for the appointments to the Police and Crime Panel it would have been good to see some recognition that Cambridge was underrepresented. Instead the panel has become even more closely controlled by representatives from Peterborough. I wonder if there will be any conflict of interest for Christine Graham given her consultancy work and her position on the panel.

  7. Sal-in-Cambridge

    Whether the deputy’s role is to compliment, complement, or deputise for the chief, I am amazed that he is being appointed before there’s even a job spec or the pair of them have assessed what they’re going to be doing and in what order. Salary based on being appointed, is it, then, rather than on what the job involves?

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    Mr Bright’s proposal to appoint his longstanding friend Brian as his deputy on £28,000 per year for just 2-3 days a week has been featured in the Daily Mail, along with other Police and Crime Commissioners up to similar, and worse, antics.

    Mr Bright’s friend Brian stands to trouser £112,000.00 (potentially plus expenses) over the course of a four year appointment. It is not yet clear if he will be paid via the payroll and have tax, national insurance and other deductions made at source via PAYE.

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    Brian Ashton has been interviewed by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Chris Mann:

    Brian Ashton was asked about his salary:

    Chris Mann: “Some people are questioning the remuneration because £28,000 per year for two days work seams a lot of money”

    Brian Ashton: “Well …. ” [long pause, big sigh]

    Brian Ashton: “I think it is obviously open to everybody to question the level of remuneration it’s been set nominally as a sort of deputy’s rate for half a week’s work. The basis is 2-3 days that’s been set as the standard. Frankly I would be surprised if it would take less that that in the early times, in the early years, I’d be surprised if it didn’t take longer; perhaps towards the end it might take less because obviously the incidence of change will be so much more in this early period that it will be in the later ones when everything is bedding in. ”

    The most striking thing there is that Mr Ashton is already considering that he might work even less than 2-3 days a week for his £28,000 of taxpayer’s money each year. I think his reasoning is astounding, who in the private sector gets to work reduced hours for a couple of years because they’d put in a bit more hours than they contractually needed to in previous years, in a salaried role?

    I think both Graham Bright and Brian Ashton are being very arrogant in their assumption that they know what the future holds. Who knows what the state of the country, public finances and policing might be towards the end of their terms of office. We just do not know what we might face, it could be a very challenging environment with discontent, disorder and low levels of funding available for the police.

    Mr Ashton was asked if he thought it would have been good if Graham Bright had said in advance of the election he intended to appoint him as a deputy, and if he felt it right that he is not elected; he replied:

    Chris Mann: “Do you think it is proper that you are unelected; that you’ve got this important role but no one has had a say in it other than the Commissioner himself of course? ”

    Brian Ashton: “Well I’m really like you see I have to act as his deputy if necessary but the reality is the policy, the responsibility, the public duty is primarily his and that’s clearly laid down in the act. I’m not empowered to do, finally, the things he can do. I can assist him towards working towards those things, I can work towards them, I can speak on his behalf, but I can’t make the ultimate decisions about those many things that are written into the act that he has the authority to do. ”


    Chris Mann: “But wouldn’t it have been a better system if we had known about you before the election so we could have voted on both of you?”

    Brian Ashton: “Arrgg … I’ve … I’ve .. I’ve … I .. I wouldn’t challenge that as a view at all in all honesty”.

    Brian admitted he was a friend of Graham’s but tried to deny he was a “personal friend” of Graham’s saying:

    Chris Mann: “You and Sir Graham of course have been friends for a long time, both members of the Conservative party, for a long time am I right?”

    Brian Ashton: “Absolutely right! I first met Graham as a young man forty odd years ago in the Young Conservatives.”

    Chris Mann: “So some people might suggest here that this is Old Boys’ network, this is jobs for the boys”

    Brian Ashton: “Oh we’re not personal friends in that way. We have not been accustomed to sharing family meals or sharing family holidays or anything of that type we have simply known each other as colleagues and respected each other’s work during that time. ”

    See also: notification of the proposed appointment by the Commissioner to the Police and Crime Panel – includes a “personal statement” from Brian Ashton.

    1. Paul Lythgoe

      Having looked at the published job description it is hard to see how he can justify doing less in one year than another. Sir Graham highlights Brian Ashtons ability as a communicator do they intend to engage less with the public in years 3 and 4 than in the first 2 years? Doesn’t sound if this is that well thought out. One perhaps should question why Sir Graham thought it preferable to appoint someone with no apparent experiencing of policing to complement him rather than select either one of what would appear to be 2 eminently qualified women in Ruth Rogers, or Shona Johnstone. One is a Labour politician, but the other is not.

      On a more trivial note Brian Ashton like Sir Graham do like their medals and honours – Brian Ashton says in his submission.
      “I was especially delighted when the British Red Cross in Cambridgeshire made me an Honorary Vice-President at the end of my first Mayoral Year for raising funds for the Ely Red Cross Centre, although I would proudly acknowledge that I believe that was more in recognition of my wife’s dedicated lifetimes voluntary work on behalf of the British Red Cross.” And, of course, Sir Graham led the campaign to give ex-MP’s a nice medal

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