Cast your minds back to last October/November. The political sphere was abuzz with the impending elections for Police and Crime Commissioners across the country. I, at the time, was warning anyone who would listen that the Conservative candidate in the Thames Valley — one Anthony Stansfeld, always the favourite to win the poll — was unfit for the job.
He was, I said, lacking in any ideas to improve the police, any ingenuity as to what the role was for, and a “cavalier attitude to transparency“. His only discernible policies were that the new commissioner would have a chauffeur, and that he would focus on “rural crime”. Predictably, come voting day a combination of atrocious turnout, atrophied safe Conservative areas, and some truly dreadful independent candidates, Mr Stansfeld won.
Now, I genuinely don’t like saying I told you so. Me being right about Mr Stansfeld gives me no pleasure, for the simple fact that it changes nothing. But it seems that I was right, and that my concerns were well founded. So bully for the voting residents of the Thames Valley.
Mr Stansfield has achieved his only concrete policy, and acquired a chauffeur (on an apparent salary of £19,700 of taxpayers’ money), as well as one of Thames Valley Police’s Audi A6 cars. This despite the millions of pounds of cuts to front-line policing that the police service is having to make.
But that’s not all. According to the Daily Mail (and believe me, I hate to link you there) Stansfield’s acquisition of said car came only after he tried to fiddle expenses rules so that the police force (i.e. all of us) paid for his journey to work. Mr Stansfeld couldn’t claim the 37 mile journey from his home to the HQ in Kidlington. So he moved his office to a small, part-time police station in Hungerford, meaning that travel to Kidlington was no longer travel to his main place of work (and thus could be claimed).
Money well spent, then.
For a bit of political balance, here’s what the chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance (the bleedin’ Taxpayers’ Alliance, for God’s sake — it’s practically a Tory campaign group) had this to say:
“Anthony Stansfeld’s pop-up office appears to be part of a cynical scam to milk the system for as much cash as possible.“
It’s hard to disagree really, particularly when it seems that the man is still a councillor (with an allowance) on West Berkshire Council.
I think that Anthony Stansfield is a disgrace. But the problem isn’t limited to one bad egg. The entire Police and Crime Commissioner system is flawed, and should be torn down at the earliest available opportunity. Salaries of £85,000 are being handed out to these people in order to politicise police budgets and take accountability. Whatever party banner that person stands under, this cannot be a good route to be taking.
Anthony Stansfeld is not the only problem with Police Commissioners. But he is an excellent example of why we should not have them.
UPDATE: The man himself has spoken up. Anthony Stansfeld has told the Witney Gazette:
“I am extremely good value for money. If I could hire myself I would charge a lot more.“
Modesty and humility is the order of the day then? The biggest emerging problem that I can see is that there is no actual way of holding Mr Stansfeld (or any PCC for that matter) to account. There is no oversight body, no review tribunal, no ethics board. Police and Crime Commissioners really do seem to be a law unto themselves.