Two months ago in preparation for an appearance on the ‘Law in Action’ programme on Radio 4 my colleagues and I did a survey at our regular open air advice centre at the Farmer’s Market in Allerton Road.
Of 117 people we spoke to only 8 knew that there was a politician responsible for Policing on Merseyside. Only 3 could correctly name that person. This was hardly surprising considering that the turnout at the Police Commissioner elections was an earth shattering 12%
But it was actually surprising for two reasons:
Firstly, because Liverpool 18 has one of the highest voting turnouts on Merseyside. People here do generally care about elections and politics.
Secondly, it was just round the corner from the Elected Police Commissioner’s Office and many people had actually walked passed a sign saying not only that it was the Police Commissioner’s Office but also who the Police Commissioner was.
I don’t know who works for the Police Commissioner now. The only person I met about community matters was more than 12 months ago and was someone who until taking the job worked in Labour MP Luciana Berger’s office. I understand that there might be yet more Labour hacks in there as well. It is all a bit irrelevant as we haven’t seen sight nor sound of him since.
What I do know is that another Labour hack is about to be appointed to a well-paid none-job by Jane Kennedy. Step forward to receive £31,800 for a three day week Assistant Mayor of Liverpool, Ann O’Byrne. What qualifications does Ms O’Byrne have for the job? No-one knows! Which unlucky people did she beat for the job? Absolutely no-one. This is a job that has not been advertised and is entirely an appointment made at the whim of the Commissioner, although subject to a confirmation meeting largely composed of Labour councillors.
If you want more surprises then recall that at a meeting with her Police Board before Christmas Ms Kennedy made clear that she did not feel that she needed a deputy. We also note with interest an e-mail from her Chief Executive, on 28th April, in which she says, “The Commissioner would like to be on the front foot and issue it before it becomes public knowledge, which suggests issuing it before the Panel publishes the papers for the confirmation hearing”. Tough luck there Chief Executive!!
For the record we could just get two probationary police officers for the cost to the public purse of this none job. If we abolished the whole of the Police Commissioners job and offices we could have 15 full time, fully trained police officers on the beat on Merseyside. If given the choice between jobs for the girls or police officers I know what local people would choose.
We can only speculate about why there is a change of heart on this matter between November and now. Rumour has it that it is some sort of deal to create a position for someone to move onto Liverpool’s Cabinet. But the reason why does not matter. This is an absolutely disgraceful use of public money at a time when, quite rightly, councillor’s allowances are being cut back in Liverpool because of the overall financial problem that the council is in.
In the long term these ridiculous Commissioners need to be abolished. Unknown, unheard of with no real role. Political oversight of the Police in so far that such oversight is required, should be done by those on councils responsible for youth affairs, or traffic management or community safety.
The Police can only work effectively in partnership with the range of public and voluntary service providers who can provide long-term solutions to problems the Police can only contain. It’s the youth service that will solve the problems of underage drinking – the police can only deal with the immediate menace on the streets.
This is not to belittle the police in any way. Police officers of both sexes often place themselves in dangerous positions so that the rest of us can live safe lives in safe communities. It does, however, recognise that the Police are just part of the range of providers of services that can not only ‘solve’ crime and anti-social behaviour activity but perhaps prevent them by appropriate initiatives. This fact is clearly recognised by the Police themselves. We work very closely in our Ward with Inspector Andy Wignall and his team on a full range of local problems and opportunities.
This latest shifty move is just one way that Labour in this area treat public money. They treat it as their own for their own ideas, schemes and people. Be certain that this is a point that we will be making in the coming weeks and years to the people of the Liverpool City Region area.