The politician in charge of Staffordshire’s police and fire services today defended the £3.7 million cost to taxpayers of running his office over the last two years.
Police, fire and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis is responsible for holding both emergency services to account, setting budgets and acting as the ‘voice of the people’ for matters concerning crime and firefighting.
Figures obtained by StokeonTrentLive show staffing counts for the majority of the office’s costs. In total, 22 full-time jobs and two part-time jobs accounted for £1,415,000 of spending in the 2018/19 financial year. It marked a £101,000 increase on staffing costs from the previous financial year.
‘Other employee costs’ totalled £17,000 for 2018/19, a £2,000 increase on the previous 12 months.
All in, the office cost £98,000 more to run in 2018/19 than the previous year.
Last year, Mr Ellis became only the second police and crime commissioner to take over governance for fire and rescue.
Defending his record, he said: “The office I established hasn’t been afraid to deal with tough issues. We tackled head on the issue of police demand involving mental health back in 2013 and were pivotal in getting it firmly on the national agenda for the long term. Theresa May strongly supported our efforts as Home Secretary at the time.
“We took a similar approach to the issue of domestic abuse, playing a key part in developing new approaches and commissioning new types of support services.
“We’ve worked relentlessly on improving the relationship between police and young people, launching the first cadets service outside the Met to improve understanding. We also launched SPACE for young people and formed a youth commission to provide a voice in criminal justice.”
Staffordshire Police is one of just four forces nationally, out of 43, which has seen an overall reduction in crime in the latest national crime figures. Police and fire are also deemed good across the board by HMICFRS.
The figures for running his office also show:
- Support services were the second highest cost. However, this decreased by £10,000 in a year to £374,000. The services include audit fees, misconduct panels, police surveys, legal costs and other external fees;
- Memberships and subscription fees increased from £50,000 to £114,000 and costs relating to ethics, audit and transparency increased to £37,000 from £31,000. The fees include membership of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), CoPaCC (an independent organisation monitoring policing governance) and the Association of Policing & Crime Chief Executives (APACE);
The office generated £181,000 in banking interest and general income each year.
A 2015 Freedom of Information request compared the cost of running the old Staffordshire police authority from 2010 to 2012 and found it to cost £1,430,727.
In contrast, the running of the newly formed commissioner’s office icost £1,776,302 between 2012 and 2014. Our information shows costs have spiralled by 117 percent.
The race for a new commissioner has begun in Staffordshire, with an election to be held in May. Labour’s Tony Kearon and Conservative Ben Adams, both sitting councillors in the county, have already confirmed they are standing.
Both candidates have seen the results of our Freedom of Information request and were asked to comment on whether they planned to run the office differently if they were elected.
Mr Kearon said: “Thanks to StokeonTrentLive for publishing these figures – every politician, agency or organisation that spends public money needs to be accountable to the public, and residents are right to want to make sure that every available penny is spent on front line services and the staff that deliver them. But making sure that the money already available is being spent wisely is only part of the picture.
“Staffordshire residents pay a huge amount of tax to Westminster, but nowhere near enough of that tax is coming back to fund our essential services. So we need to make sure that public money is spent efficiently, but we also need to make sure that Staffordshire gets a fair share of the money it already pays out to the Government.”
Mr Adams said: “In Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, the police, fire and crime commissioner (PFCC) is responsible for ensuring a £250 million front-line budget is spent wisely and is directed by local police and fire plans, which follow extensive public consultation.
“The PFCC also directly commissions services that prevent crime and support victims. These include vital specialist services dealing with addiction, mental health and domestic abuse, as well as provision for young people through the ‘Space’ holiday activities and cadets programmes.
“Significant savings have already been made as police and fire come together to share buildings and back-office functions, and the PFCC has been heavily involved with delivering these too.
“To meet statutory duties, commission nationally recognised services and continually identify savings requires an experienced professional team so the staff levels and costs associated with the office of the PFCC seem appropriate.
“I have yet to see the detail, but my approach in business and public service has always been to manage budgets rigorously so, if elected in May, I will review these office costs to check that every pound is being well spent and every commissioned service is helping to keep Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent safe.”