‘Jobs for the boys’ backlash over deputy police chief choice

Merseyside’s Police and Crime Commissioner has been accused of giving out “jobs for the boys” after nominating a former council leader to be her deputy without advertising the role.

PCC Jane Kennedy unveiled ex-Wirral leader Phil Davies as her choice for the deputy post last week, saying the coronavirus pandemic meant she needed to fill the vacant deputy post urgently.

But Mr Davies’ former colleagues on Wirral Council have criticised Ms Kennedy’s choice and questioned whether she needs a deputy at all.

Cllr Ian Lewis, leader of the borough’s Conservative group, said: “Jane Kennedy, who I respect, has had her term extended by a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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“The previous deputy commissioner quit a year ago. Most people haven’t noticed, I’m sure Merseyside would cope without one for another 12 months.”

The previous deputy, Cllr Emily Spurrell, resigned last year after Ms Kennedy left the Labour Party, and the commissioner decided not to replace her as she had only a year left in office.

However, she told the ECHO, when the 2020 elections were cancelled, that she would not be able to manage without a deputy for another year, especially if she contracted COVID-19 herself.

Jane Kennedy

She said: “I decided, as I am perfectly entitled to do and in compliance with Home Office guidelines, to fill the vacant role of Deputy Police Commissioner. The Deputy will share the burden of the role and cover for me in case I am affected.

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“The role of PCC is not only concerning the oversight of the police but also involves executive decision making that is essential for the full and efficient functioning of the police force."

Mr Davies stepped down as leader at last year’s elections, saying he was leaving politics to spend more time with his family.

But some have suggested the controversial figure feared deselection as Labour’s candidate in Birkenhead and Tranmere after clashing with members of the party’s left wing.

Cllr Pat Cleary, leader of the Green group, said Mr Davies “jumped before he was pushed”, adding that it was “shocking” Mr Davies had been put up for the deputy’s position less than a year after saying he was leaving politics.

Cllr Cleary told the ECHO: “This stinks, really, in terms of ‘jobs for the boys’, given the incredible pressure that public finances are under.”

If his appointment is confirmed by the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel on Thursday, Mr Davies will be paid £32,796 for working three days per week over the next year.

Cllr Cleary has also questioned Mr Davies’ suitability for the role, describing his record as council leader as “abysmal” and calling for more transparency about the process leading to his nomination.

Chris covers local government and politics for the ECHO, focusing on Knowsley and Halton.

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Previous deputy commissioners have been appointed after a longer process with multiple applicants and interviews.

But Ms Kennedy said the urgent nature of the coronavirus crisis meant the selection process had to be “truncated” and stressed Mr Davies’ competence and experience.

She said: “I need someone who will concentrate entirely on helping Merseyside and it’s police force through one of the greatest emergencies we have ever faced.

“I was aware that former Wirral Borough Council Leader Phil Davies was recently retired. I knew that he had a good understanding of the role of the PCC. He is experienced and very competent and will be able to step up to the emergency appointment immediately.

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“Merseyside’s Police and Crime Panel will consider and comment upon my appointment shortly.

“I am deeply grateful to Phil Davies for agreeing to come out of retirement for this next year to assist me. I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.”