Putting Politics Ahead of Policing - A Poor Start for the Police and Crime Panel
Today (Friday) I sat through the interview of Paul Robinson by the Police and Crime Panel for the role of the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside and all I can say as someone who has appointed a number of people to jobs with a significantly higher pay grade that I personally thought Paul "passed" the interview. I couldn't see that the panel punched any holes in his responses to their detailed questioning, no matter how hard they tried.
For those not aware, the panel can comment on the appointment of Paul Robinson, but they have no power to veto it. The panel is made up of councillors from the different unitary authorities. I understand that they voted 8:1 against the appointment.
To my mind the Chair of the Panel had effectively pre-determined his position with statements made ahead of the meeting to anyone who wanted to hear him. So, the panel was chaired by someone who seemed to be against the appointment from the start.
We all know that in the dirty world of politics, political reasoning sometimes comes a long way before doing what is right, and I fear that this is exactly what has happened here. Let me explain.
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Some time ago there was a furore over paying senior officers in the ERYC huge pension uplifts after they had decided to take early retirement. Stephen Parnaby was and still is the Leader of ERYC, and he pushed very hard for these payments, which many thought were obscene, to go through.
A small number of tories stood up against him, including Matthew Grove and Paul Robinson.
In today's meeting Councillor Rudd made a very interesting statement that politicians who don't tow the party line don't get to climb the greasy pole. Meaning that, for him for instance, if he didn't support the wishes of his political master (Parnaby) he might well be cast into the wilderness in terms of the lucrative offices he might like to hold in the future. Of course, Parnaby has also told the world that he objects to Paul's appointment. I took this statement from Cllr. Rudd as a way of explaining that the decision of the panel would be a purely political one with the pro Parnaby Conservatives combining with the other parties to oppose a Conservative who had previously disagreed with Councillor Parnaby .
It is also interesting that the decision was made behind closed doors against the wishes of the three Hull panel members. I couldn't discern a reason why this was done. And, as was explained by one of the officers in attendance, other panels have carried out this part of their determination with the public present. Given that the interview was held in public the only reason that I can see for closing the meeting was so that nobody could see their shoddy political deliberations taking place. To my mind, holding part of a meeting such as this in secret opens the door to people questioning the motives for what they have done.
We now move on to more important decisions where the PCP has the power to veto the appointment of the new Chief Constable and the setting of the budget. A pound to a pinch of salt that this panel will oppose whatever is presented to them as a matter of party politics, and if they do, shame on them.
As Paul and Matthew said, once the election was over, the rosettes were tossed in the bin. Unfortunately, the PCP seem to be wearing theirs on a matter where politics should come a long way second, not a long way first.
Paul's role is as a paid employee of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. The salary for the role he has been nominated for is set by them according to national guidelines for publc employees. The Chief Executive, who will become Paul's boss, was there to explain how the Deputy Commissioner, the Commissioner, the CEO and his other staff would work together. He made the point that although the lines of management and communication were somewhat crossed, they had worked through how in practice the job would pan out. The CEO has worked with Paul and Matthew quite a lot since the election and would have had a very good view as to whether he thought Paul was capable of doing the job he was being nominated for. However, and this is important, none of the Councillors on the panel asked him his view of Paul's capability. Surely an obvious question to someone who would become Paul's boss. Perhaps they knew the answer and didn't want to hear it!
As to the future, it was interesting to learn that if the CEO is concerned about Paul's performance in the job he is being asked to do, he comes under pretty much the same disciplinary process as any other employee. Thus, to the possible chagrin of the Panel members, it is not they who get to review Paul's performance in the coming years.