Commissioner slammed over appointment of 'buddy'

By Carl Jackson Thursday 06 December 2012 Updated: 06/12 16:24

THE NEW Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia has come under fire for announcing plans to appoint his former campaign manager as his deputy on a salary of £50,000.

Councillors on the newly-formed West Mercia Police and Crime Panel accused Bill Longmore of 'cronyism' and hiring his 'buddy' over the intended appointment of former policeman Barrie Sheldon. They said he had failed to go through a 'competitive and transparent process'.

Panel member Roger Hollingworth, leader of Bromsgrove District Council, was so incensed he called for Mr Longmore to stand down - just 11 days after he took up the role.

Speaking at the panel's first meeting on Wednesday (December 5) he said: "It's absolutely disgraceful. I don't like the process, he has appointed his buddy.

"If we did that in the council we'd get castigated. He should resign."

Other councillors echoed Coun Hollingworth's concerns, adding the decision could dent public confidence in the new role while fears were also raised about the lack of diversity and financial experience in the PCC office, which will handle a budget of around £200million. It was also claimed Mr Longmore - also a former policeman - had selected a 'duplicate' of himself.

The panel recommended the commissioner abandon his plan to appoint Mr Sheldon, and urged him to consider other candidates in a manner open to public scrutiny.

Mr Longmore, who will ultimately make the final decision, said he took offence to some of the allegations and assured the board he was confident Mr Sheldon was the right man for the job.

"I realised after many weeks [of the election campaign] Barrie had a good many qualities. More than I realised," he said.

"You will find out why I selected him."

Mr Longmore also dismissed the notion they were too similar to bring a wide range of skills to the PCC office.

"A mirror image is not suitable. No-one is like me in the way I think. The only similarities are the passion and commitment to do the job, and we intend to do a good job."

Mr Sheldon, who himself faced stern questioning from the panel, defended his possible appointment.

"If there was to be a selection process I am confident I would be the best candidate."

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