Boundaries ‘blurred’ over Avon and Somerset deputy PCC appointment

boundaries blurred over avon and somerset deputy pcc appointment - Boundaries 'blurred' over Avon and Somerset deputy PCC appointmentImage copyright Avon and Somerset PCC
Image caption Members of the police and crime scrutiny panel have criticised Chief Constable Andy Marsh’s actions

Boundaries were “blurred” over the appointment of a deputy police and crime commissioner (PCC) after a police chief endorsed the candidate.

Avon and Somerset PCC Sue Mountstevens appointed John Smith, who previously worked in her department.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh wrote a letter backing Mr Smith as the deputy, which has been criticised as the PCC should hold the force to account.

Mr Marsh and Ms Mountstevens deny any wrongdoing.

Some members of the police and crime scrutiny panel said his actions “blurred boundaries”.

In the letter of endorsement on 19 March, Mr Marsh wrote: “This is not the time to stand still and wait for storm to pass but a time to take swift action and make decisions that the public would just expect their leaders to just get on and make.”

He said his letter was “not politically motivated… but about protection of good governance and need to make fast and effective decisions.”

But deputy chairman of the scrutiny panel, Andrew Sharman, said: “I have high expectations of those entrusted to hold the chief constable to account.

“What has gone down is far from that. People will see this appointment as cronyism.”

Image caption Sue Mountstevens has served two terms as the police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset

Ms Mountstevens was due to stand down this month before elections were postponed due to Covid-19.

She said she appointed Mr Smith after new lockdown police powers had increased her workload.

She has also been criticised by members of the panel for not following a “democratic process”, but legally she did not have to consult anyone and had the power to appoint who she wished.

Some members of the scrutiny panel wanted a more open procedure, with one member, councillor Janet Keen saying this was “an insult to the democratic process”.

Members were concerned Mr Smith had previously worked in her office and that he is planning to stand for PCC himself in the future, and being deputy will give him an advantage.

Ms Mountstevens, who has been in the post for eight years, said: “It is the sheer emergency we are in and the amount of work in terms of governance of the police.

“The majority of the panel has supported the appointment and every request they asked of me, I followed.”

Mr Smith will be paid £39,000 a year for a part-time role as deputy.

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