The decision by West Yorkshire’s “crime tsar” to appoint a £50,000-a-year deputy was a “waste of taxpayers’ money”, the chair of a local watchdog told MPs.
Alison Lowe, chair of West Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, said local Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson had not proven the need for a highly-paid deputy before appointing a local Labour Party member to the post.
Mr Burns-Williamson, a Labour politician, faced accusations of cronyism last April when he appointed Isabel Owen, the wife of the Labour Party’s regional director for Yorkshire, as his deputy. Opposition councillors described the appointment as “deeply flawed”.
Coun Lowe, a Labour member of Leeds City Council whose panel was set up to oversee the work of the PCC, told MPs on the Commons home affairs committee that she took issue with the “concept” of appointing a deputy in the current spending squeeze.
“It was not the person of Isabel Owen that I had any exception to,” she said. “It was the concept of recruiting a deputy. I thought it was a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
Coun Lowe said she remains “unhappy” about the decision almost a year on but has been forced to accept it, as her panel does not have the power to veto the PCC’s appointments.
PCCs were introduced by the coalition in 2012 in a bid to make police forces more accountable to the local electorate.
The commissioners are voted in every four years and oversee the work of the local police force, with the power to set budgets, hire and fire chief constables and set local policing priorities.
In a statement, Mr Burns-Williamson said he “always made clear” he planned to appoint a deputy, and that overall his office’s budget is smaller than the old West Yorkshire Police Authority which it replaced.
“The three largest force areas in Yorkshire have all appointed Deputy PCCs,” he said. “I always made clear my intention to appoint a deputy due to the scale of policing in West Yorkshire.”