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NEPOTISM: Deputy police and crime commissioner appointed

NEPOTISM: Deputy police and crime commissioner appointed

Brian Jones, chair of the police and crime panel at Durham County Council, PCC Joy Allen, and newly appointed deputy PCC Nigel Bryson

The appointment of a deputy police and crime commissioner without a recruitment process has sparked accusations of “nepotism” and “jobs for the boys”.

Nigel Bryson has been appointed as deputy police and crime commissioner (DPCC) after working closely with elected PCC Joy Allen.

But two councillors have criticised the lack of a recruitment process in the political appointment, and questioned the credibility of a new deputy without it.

Former health and safety consultant Mr Bryson described himself as a strategist and facilitator who delivered the goods, analysed problems, found solutions, and brought people with opposing views together.

He said he had transformed industrial relations which were “open warfare” and won over people who called him a “waste of space”.

He was an occupational health and safety specialist for 37 years and was awarded an OBE for services to the field in 2002.

He said today: “I am delighted to be offered this opportunity to support the commissioner Joy Allen in carrying out her functions and making a positive difference for the residents of County Durham and Darlington.

“I look forward to working with partners and members of the community to help Joy deliver her priorities.”

Ms Allen said they worked “hand in glove” on her PCC election campaign, having previously stood as prospective county councillors for Bishop Auckland in 2013.

They worked on successful projects including Bishop Auckland and Coundon in Bloom and the Town Team regeneration project.

She said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be here today to introduce my preferred candidate, Nigel Bryson.

“I’ve known Nigel for over 10 years having first met him at our local Labour Party branch.

“Our strengths complement each other’s skill sets and our personalities, although very different, are very compatible.

“He accompanied me on many occasions as I campaigned across County Durham and Darlington.

“We also worked together on the police and crime survey, where his proficient use of Excel enabled him to analyse hundreds of the public’s responses, which informed the development of my police and crime plan.

“Nigel was also present at the count where he provided professional, political and moral support which was greatly appreciated at the time.

“These factors together with Nigel’s professional background and achievements will enable him to hit the ground running as my deputy.”

She said the two-day-a-week post, with a £10,322 annual special responsibility allowance from the public purse, would “test the water” to see what value a DPCC would bring.

She added today she selected him as he had motivation, negotiation, communication, analysis and listening skills with an open-minded approach and a background in business performance and improving management systems.

She said: “I look forward to working with Nigel whose appointment will enhance resilience and capacity to help deliver my police and crime plan, making communities safer, stronger and more resilient to crime and anti-social behaviour.”

Councillor Liz Brown, Lib Dem member for Neville’s Cross, said at the meeting: “This smacks very much to me of jobs for the boys.”

Councillor Robert Potts, Conservative member for Evenwood, said: “I can see how this can appear to members of the public with regards to not running any type of recruitment process whatsoever.”

Ms Allen said it was previously suggested “we could just appoint, we don’t need to go through the process”, likening it to the Prime Minister appointing his cabinet.

She added: “I’ve got somebody who works really really closely with me, who I know, who knows the plan, who knows everything about me as a candidate and running it.

“I could go through the process but it would just be possibly going through the motions when I’ve got somebody who’s more or less the candidate of choice.

“There would be nobody that I know within our party that has the same skills and understanding of a police and crime plan and a commissioner’s role.

“If something happened to me tomorrow, Nigel could pick up straight away the next day because he’s been there with me all along.”

Cllr Potts asked Mr Bryson: “Do you think it’s right or morally correct for any person to be given a job without going through any recruitment process which will appear to be nothing more than nepotism to some of the people that you will be representing?”

Mr Bryson said: “I’m content with the process as it is.

“My working life, my political life, has been about seeking solutions to problems.

“And I’ve worked over the years with many people who hold different opinions, who hold different views on all sorts of things.

“But we worked from the common ground on which we stood.

“It doesn’t matter to me what party somebody’s in or what views they hold in terms of politics.

“I am quite happy, quite willing to work with various people because I don’t think it matters really what people’s opinions are.

“What matters is what they’re prepared to do on common aims, and that’s always been my watchword.”

Asked about how it might affect credibility and confidence, he said: “I don’t think that comes into question unless I was actually incompetent in the role.

“I would expect that if I’m incompetent in the role then I’d get slung out.

“The fact that I haven’t gone through a recruitment process doesn’t automatically mean that people will have no confidence.”

Governance solicitor Kamila Coulson-Patel said a formal process was not required by legislation.

But she said the panel had to be satisfied the candidate met requirements for professional competence and personal independence.

After the public meeting, the panel recommended the appointment.

Chairing the meeting, Cllr Brian Jones pointed to Government guidelines stating the deputy must be from the same political party as the PCC.

He later said: “We’re delighted to welcome Nigel as the new deputy PCC for County Durham and Darlington and look forward to working with him for the benefit of our residents and communities.”

 

Words: Gareth Lightfoot, Local Democracy Reporter


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