THE new commissioner of Humberside Police has sparked a row with his first major policy announcement by appointing a deputy who is refusing to give up his job as a councillor.
Matthew Grove has named fellow East Riding Conservative Paul Robinson as deputy commissioner, an appointment expected to be ratified at a hastily convened “confirmation hearing” of the 10-member police and crime panel next week. It would mean both the commissioner and deputy commissioner would also be serving members of East Riding Council, and topping up their commissioners’ pay with the basic councillor’s allowance of £10,711.
Coun Grove, who with his commissioner’s salary is earning £85,711, has vowed to resign his council seat in the Mid-Holderness ward at the “earliest appropriate opportunity”. But Coun Robinson, the member for Howdenshire, intends to see out his four-year term and, with his deputy commissioner’s salary, will earn a total of £55,711.
However, Coun Robinson’s decision to retain his council seat has been condemned by the leader of the Tory-led authority, Coun Stephen Parnaby.
Coun Parnaby told the Yorkshire Post: “Do I think the deputy should remain a sitting councillor? No, I don’t. I think there’s a conflict of interest there and if they are telling us the deputy commissioner role is almost full-time and an important one, because they would have to step in in case something happened to the commissioner, then I don’t think you can do the two.
“There’s that conflict of interest because the local authorities have a role of scrutinising the police commissioners through the review panels and we do have to work closely together on things like anti-social behaviour and problem families, and I wouldn’t want anybody grandstanding those views using the council for that purpose.”
There also seemed to be some confusion over Coun Robinson’s responsibilities, as he claimed he would be working a four-day week as deputy, while Coun Grove insisted it was a “full-time job”.
Coun Robinson said: “What I didn’t want to do was let down residents because I said I would represent the people of Howdenshire for a four-year period and I want to continue doing that, and I pretty much insisted I will do the role but I still want to be able to represent the residents of Howdenshire, and for that reason I am willing to do it for four days per week.”
But Coun Grove, who said he had taken legal advice over the appointment, said: “It’s not a four-day week, it’s a full-time job.
“What I’ve said is I’m happy for Paul to continue as a councillor because basically he’s a very good ward councillor and his parish councillors and residents do not want to lose him, and it’s those same skills and qualities held in high esteem that I recognise and I want to turn to the benefit of all the people of northern Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire.”
He added: “Conflict of interest always arises; they are a fact of life whatever you do. It would have come up whoever I appointed.
“It’s important we are very transparent and important Paul understands his different roles and doesn’t confuse them. If he has to deputise for me and attend to business on my behalf he will be there as my deputy and not as a councillor.”
David Whincup, chairman of the Haltemprice and Howden Conservative Association, said: “I think it’s a bit unwise that the post of deputy hasn’t been done formally through selection and it does leave the selection open to allegations of cronyism.
“As for Paul Robinson continuing as a councillor that’s a matter for himself, but I do think it’s difficult to try and carry on a post which is appointed independently of politics to then continue in a post that is obviously politically-motivated.”