This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The appearance of support...

A while ago (as mentioned below) I noted that Cllr Anthony Stansfeld has yet to resign from the Police Authority. Now I understand that he is not required to by law but for me it would be a fair and indeed courteous thing to do - to create a level playing field between him and other (non PA member) candidates.

And so I asked the police authority (after they had confirmed he had not resigned from the body) a series of follow up questions:

In the six weeks or so since Cllr Stansfeld was publicly declared as the Conservative Party candidate for the Police and Crime Commissioner (Reading Chronicle 15 July) for example) has he
a) Received an allowance for that period?
b) Claimed any expenses during this period?
c) Had access to information that would not be available to an ordinary member of the public? 
d) Had access to police officers and staff (especially Chief and senior officers) that would not be available to an ordinary member of the public? 
e) Had any meetings where the Chief Constable was present (excluding full Police Authority meetings)?

And furthermore, are there any national (APA / Home Office??) guidelines on whether police authority members, once declared as candidates, should resign from the that Police Authority?

I received this reply this morning:

Whilst Mr Stansfeld is a member of the Police Authority, and for the purposes of fulfilling the role and responsibilities of a member, he is entitled to be treated in the same way as any other Police Authority member in relation to allowances, expenses, receipt of papers for meetings and access to police officers and staff including the Chief Constable and other senior officers. This may involve the provision of information which is not publicly available.

The Home Office has confirmed that nominations for candidates to stand for election will open on 8 October 2012 and close on 19 October 2012.  Resignation as a member of a Police Authority is necessary before signing the official declaration of candidacy form;  there is no requirement to resign before then.

And it would appear that even though Cllr Stansfeld has been declared as the Tory PCC candidate and has begun his campaigning, he remains in a position of having privileged access to people and papers that other declared candidates do not. These are facts.

Contrast this to the response I received from the Police Authority on 27 June when I suggested that they might like to organise some 'shell' hustings to support the democratic process and the transition from them to the new governance structure. I was careful in saying that these hustings should invite all candidates and therefore be entirely neutral. Their reply included (and I quote):

"However, there has also been clear guidance from the Home Office that authorities should ensure that they remain neutral in the elections process and don't inadvertently appear to give support to individual candidates or parties"

Let me repeat part of this in big bold letters:

"and don't inadvertently appear to give support to individual candidates"

It seems to me that having a situation where a declared candidate remains a member of the authority does appear to give support to an individual candidate. Or am I being picky here? But (as others have pointed out in response to an earlier version of this post) the PA has no real power to remove him... unless the guidance on being neutral cited by them gives them that power?

And so my question to the TVPA is how do you square deciding against setting up all candidate hustings because it might be seen to be favouring a candidate while noting that there is nothing that be done before the legal deadline bit kicks in - or is there?

And my question for Cllr Anthony Stansfeld (one day he may answer my questions...) is do you not think it is about time you focused all your energies upon campaigning and less upon having privileged access to police business by dint of your membership of the PA?


  1. I must agree with your points totally. I think this is about fairness and integrity, about the spirit of the law banning PA members from standing as PCCs - surely to avoid this kind of complication - rather than the letter of it.
    Your fellow Labour candidate Shaun Wright continues to sit on the PA in South Yorkshire. As deputy chair, he is certainly able to access senior police officers and confidential information that other candidates, including myself, cannot. Not only that, but he is able to influence and participate in decisions that will affect the situation that the elected PCC will inherit, such as budget commitments and so on. That can't be right.
    I have called for him to do the honourable thing and step down. South Yorkshire Police Authority is well run and has many competent members. It would not crumble without one person.
    His response to my polite letter? He has simply ignored me. (But then he also ignored me when I took on senior judges recently to argue, successfully, for his right to stand as PCC whilst a local magistrate.) That is not the action of an open and consultative would-be PCC and shows no respect to those of us who are at least as well qualified to do the PCC job as he is. He has even blocked me on Twitter, which is hardly statesmanlike. It is also totally unwarranted and I see it as a rather immature angle on what social media engagement is all about for public figures.
    Perhaps Mr Wright has no logical response to my call, other than wanting to continue to enjoy the allowances and advantages to the full for as long as he can.
    I suppose you can't entirely blame people for taking advantage of poorly written rules. The legislation should have stated that people had to step down at the point of declaring as candidates but I suspect that was a sacrifice the major political parties were not willing to make due to widespread self-interest.
    So Jon, I sympathise with your own frustrations and I respect your willingness to condemn this kind of thing when you know some of your Labour colleagues will disagree with you.

  2. Thanks for your comment Gillian.

    I have just been saying to Jon Collins (Deputy Director at the Police Foundation) on twitter, I know that my views may be upset candidates of my own party as well as other parties. For me this is about doing the right thing not about party politics.

    But I appreciate that others may have different views of what is the right thing in this instance.... More comments welcome!