Police commissioner’s staff numbers show large rise

Police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds
Police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds
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The number of staff employed by Northamptonshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has almost trebled and wage spend nearly doubled in the 18 months since he started his job, latest figures have shown.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed PCC Adam Simmonds employed 12 staff at a cost of £729,100 when he began his new role in November 2012.

By March 31 this year, the number of staff had risen to 34 and the associated costs had increased to a total of £1.4 million. Analysis of all the staff structures used by PCCs at all the other poice forces in England revealed Mr Simmonds had the largest number of employees under his direct control.

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) in Northamptonshire has 10 more staff members than West Midlands police force which covers an area almost five times as large.

Councillor John McGhee, who is the leader of the Labour Group on Northamptonshire County Council and a Corby councillor, said he thought the PCC was not achieving value for money.

Councillor McGhee said: “We have been opposed to the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) from the outset, but feel that if they showed value for money, then they would have been difficult to argue against.

“We were told that creating PCCs would give power to local people to help them influence decisions over local policing priorities – when in reality all the scheme has provided in Northamptonshire is an opportunity for Adam Simmonds to spend £1.4m (double the cost of the former Police Authority) to keep his cronies in jobs. It simply cannot be right that several members of staff in the PCC’s office earn three times more than the average salary of a person in Northamptonshire.

“What a kick in the teeth for the hardworking people across this county who are struggling to make ends meet!”

Conservative MP for Northampton North Michael Ellis, who is a member of the Home Affairs Select committee who recently published a report on the role of PCCs, said: “A number of the employees included in the calculations are police employees in the communications team and under joint ownership with the chief constable so it gives a misleading picture.

“What matters is the outcomes of the office and, like everybody else who is elected, members of the public will be able to vote based on what he has achived and his record at the end of his term.

“There is bound to be teething problems and criticism of a brand new role which is under such heavy public scrutiny. I think he is doing a good job and will be judged by his outcomes. People in a political office have a history of appointing people they feel they can work with. Adam Simmonds said he advertised and appointed staff in the normal way.

“The old police authorities were largely annonymous whereas the police and crime commissioners are very much in the public eye and have an awful lot of media scrutiny. I think that is a good thing.”

Councillor Julie Brookfield, a Corby councillor who is Labour’s representative on the police and crime panel, said: “We are repeatedly told that Northamptonshire Police has to make £26m of savings over the next four years. We could make significant savings overnight by giving Adam Simmonds his P45 and disbanding the PCC’s office.

“Our alternative would be a move to give local Police and Crime Panels ‘teeth’ – we want them to be given proper decision-making powers.

“There is no need for an elected official, when we have a committee made up of local councillors.”

Defending the staffing levels, a spokesman for the Office of the Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commission (OPCC) said comparisons with the previous police authority was meaningless. Any comparisons with other commission offices across the country is equally less meaningful as we operate in completely different ways,” he said.

“We set out from day one to maintain police numbers, to do some very innovative things and to change things for the better.

“All this needs investment.”

The expansion of the county’s Office of Police and Crime Commissioner comes at a time when the county force is having to make multi-million pound savings. Mr Simmonds has received considerable criticism for expanding his office while at the same time introducing cost savings.

The spokesman added: “The world is changing and we either sit back and try to do the same with less, or see what we can do better by using technology and different ways of working.”

The new body-worn cameras were an example of this, he said, and other police forces were now looking to replicate many of the initiatives launched in the county.

“To do all these things needs investment and that is why we have people employed in the office with different specialisms. Under the old regime no-one was doing this. If you want to change and improve, you need fresh ideas and a new approach.”