Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has failed to “justify” his need for a deputy, according to a group of councillors which scrutinises his work.
The county’s Police and Crime Panel (PCP) was meeting to quiz Clive Grunshaw’s choice for the new role. The Labour PCC for the county has announced Chris Webb as his preferred candidate for the three-day-a-week job.
The PCP has no power to veto the selection, but it was given the chance to assess Mr. Webb’s suitability for the position - and later ratified the appointment.
But before that confirmation hearing began, PCP chair, Alistair Bradley, said: “This panel urged the Commissioner to reconsider appointing a deputy and I do not believe he has come back with the justification [for doing so]. There was a difference of opinion which hasn’t been resolved.”
Mr. Grunshaw could not attend the meeting after temporarily stepping back from his role following a short stay in hospital.
The Director of the Office of the PCC, Angela Harrison, told panel members that the responsibilities of the Commissioner had changed since the post was created in 2012.
“The PCC is now obliged to run the victim services contract, he is to become the appeal body for complaints about police officers and there are also on-going discussions about further criminal justice devolution from government,” she said.
Mr. Grunshaw also recently considered a government proposal encouraging PCCs to take over responsibility for fire services, but declined.
“Should a deputy sit at this table in future, it will be your opportunity to question them about the value of the [new] role,” Ms. Harrison added.
That opportunity came sooner still when Chris Webb appeared before the PCP for members to assess his competence for the job.
Mr. Webb, who was the Labour Party candidate in the Blackpool North constituency at the 2017 General Election, said he came from a family of public service workers who had “instilled the need to give something back”.
He told the panel that his experience as a councillor in Manchester meant he was well-placed to understand the needs of minority and isolated communities and also to hold “high level” individuals to account.
But he added that public expectations of the police had not necessarily shifted in line with the changing nature of the job. “It’s about being realistic, in 2018, that the role of the police is different,” Mr. Webb said.
He told members that engaging with the public over that and their other concerns would be a key aspect of his role and pledged to be accessible to the PCP and Lancashire residents.
To laughter from the panel, Mr. Webb also made a virtue of youth, pointing out that he is “about 25 years younger than the Commissioner”.
In a statement after the meeting, Alistair Bradley said:
“We’re really disappointed that the Police and Crime Commissioner has decided to appoint a deputy because we felt that the resources would be better used in our communities for frontline policing.
“It was only a few years ago that Mr Grunshaw got rid of that post because of pressure on resources and it seems strange to re-establish it when he quite rightly points out on a regular basis that we need more funding for police officers.
“However, as the police and crime panel has a duty to ratify the appointment we have confirmed the acceptability of the candidate chosen through the full selection process even though we have raised the concerns above regarding the actual validity of the position.
“It seems contradictory that the Government asks for the panel’s view on the selection to be supplied but does not allow us the powers to prevent the position being created.”