A Police Commissioner has come under fierce criticism for appointing a woman who was involved in his Labour election campaign as his £53,000 a year deputy – after he only approached Labour party colleagues to fill the post.
Mark Burns-Williamson, the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, has appointed Isabel Owen, a former Labour parliamentary candidate, despite her having no experience of holding a police constable to account. Ms Owen is married to Paul Nicholson, regional director of Labour in Yorkshire who oversaw last year’s process where Mr Burns-Williamson was appointed the unopposed Labour candidate.
Les Carter, former deputy chairman of the old police authority, told The Times: She’s simply there to make sure that he gets re-elected. She admitted that she hadn’t got any real knowledge on policing. The recruitment process for the Deputy Commissioner position has also been deeply flawed. Restricting applications to members of one political party and appointing someone who apparently managed the commissioner’s election campaign does nothing at all to dispel concerns over increased party political control over the police.”
Members of the police and crime panel, who scrutinises the performance of the Commissioner questioned Ms Owen’s credentials last night.
The appointment of deputies has attracted criticism in the past as it is the only appointment that is politically unrestricted.
Ms Owen has previously worked for Labour as head of internal liaison, a campaigns manager and head of the office for Glen Ford, a Labour Party Member of the European Parliament.
Defending the appointment, Mr Burns-Williamson said Ms Ford was the strongest of four candidates for the position and had a sound understanding of police governance. He said: “Isabel Owen was appointed on merit and any accusations to the contrary are unwarranted and without any basis.”
He also said that he was entitled to advertise the role among Labour colleagues and said it would have been “inappropriate” for the PCC to appoint a deputy who doesn’t share his beliefs and values.
The Home Office has confirmed that all other posts should be politically restricted and appointed on merit. Mr Burns-Williamson has also appointed former Labour councillor Henri Murison to the role of research director on an annual salary ofup to £41,697. He said the role as advertised on the force’s recruitment website and was open to anyone, regardless of political affiliation.