Police commissioner defends appointment - open letter

Monday 14 January 2013 Updated: 14/01 15:36

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POLICE and crime commissioner Bill Longmore has defended the controversial appointment of his deputy after facing fresh calls for his resignation.

We reported last week how the Labour Group at County Hall are set to table a motion of no confidence against Mr Longmore and his deputy Barrie Sheldon at this Thursday's county council meeting.

Below is an open letter from Mr Longmore to the council's chief exectuive Trish Haines defending the appointment.

Dear Ms Haines

I am writing to you because I have heard through the media that a motion of no confidence in me and my Deputy is to be tabled at your Council’s meeting on January 17, 2013

I understand this to relate to my actions in appointing a deputy commissioner. This has already been the subject of some press attention and a number of inaccuracies have been cited, which I have done my best to correct.

If the motion is to be discussed, may I ask that this letter, which aims to at least ensure the facts are properly stated, be placed before the Council.

Under the legislation introducing Commissioners, specific provision was made for PCCs to appoint their Deputies by personal selection, rather like the way the Prime Minister selects a cabinet or for that matter how some local authorities allocate portfolios to councillor colleagues.

Of the Commissioners who have so far made Deputy or Assistant appointments the overwhelming majority have done so as I have done, by personal selection.

The process I followed was both lawful and proper, albeit the Police and Crime Panel would have preferred that I had held an open process.

West Mercia is a large area and the work of the Commissioner extensive. I consider I need a deputy to help me carry out my tasks which are even more extensive than those performed by the former 17 member Police Authority.

The body charged with scrutinising my actions, the Police and Crime Panel, which has been critical also of my choice of Deputy, actually supported the view that a Deputy was necessary.

I totally refute the allegation which some have made that my choice of Mr Sheldon was because of long held friendship and not based on merit.

As a University lecturer in Policing Studies Mr Sheldon has a wealth of knowledge and skills of great use in this role.

It was because of those skills I asked him to assist in my election campaign. I had no association with Mr Sheldon before that time save that some 28 years ago he was a junior officer in the same Police Force, I hardly knew him then and had no contact with him whatsoever since that time until I sought his assistance with my election.

To say that I have simply appointed a friend or someone without merit is simply misleading and wrong

The salary chosen for Mr Sheldon’s post reflects the very taxing and full time role it entails but as far as can be established is, pro-rata, one of the lowest paid Deputies or Assistants yet appointed.

It is some 65 per cent of my salary, which is a lower percentage than the norm usually applied to deputy positions in the public sector. Further information relating to my appointment of Mr Sheldon is available on my website: - www.westmercia-pcc.gov.uk

I am proud to have been elected for West Mercia. After two months of detailed scrutiny I have been reassured that it is an outstanding force led by outstanding officers.

The former Police Authority did an excellent job and I intend to build on that fabulous inheritance.

The financial outlook is challenging but I know how much strong frontline policing means to the public and my plans, worked up in consultation with the chief constable, aim to deliver just that.

I intend to work constructively with the Police and Crime Panel and with all the Local Authorities in West Mercia and I am anxious to move the agenda on to what really matters, providing the best policing for the people of West Mercia.

In view of the public nature of the debate on January 17, I have copied this letter to the media.

Bill Longmore

Police and Crime Commissioner West Mercia

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