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WMN opinion: Police commissioner does not need a spin doctor

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 18, 2012

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It is a depressing fact of public life that when a new post is created you can be sure a new spin-doctor is not very far behind.

The Government decided – wrongly in many people's eyes – that what our police force needs right now is a Police and Crime Commissioner. So perhaps we should not be surprised that he or she will be getting their very own public relations officer just as soon as they take office.

And spin doctors do not come cheap. So having just about absorbed the idea that the police and crime commissioner no one really wants is going to cost Devon and Cornwall taxpayers £85,000 a year in salary, we now have to get used to the idea that, in addition, between £45,000 and £55,000 will have to be spent on a PR person to support them.

And this, don't forget, at a time when the number of police officers is being slashed to meet tough austerity measures and many rural communities can find themselves without sight or sound of a bobby on the beat or even a patrol car for days or even weeks at a time.

The police authority, which is advertising for what they call a "senior communications and public affairs manager" defend the post, saying there will be a lot of work to do when someone is elected as police and crime commissioner. "It is important they are able to get their message out," they say.

But even if that is accepted – and many people would question why the new commissioner can't handle "getting the message out himself" – why is the post being advertised even before the election has taken place?

Robert Oxley of the Taxpayer's Alliance thinks he knows why the job has been advertised now when the police commissioner won't be voted for until next month. "It smacks of a cynical attempt to establish this post before an elected candidate can prevent this unnecessary recruitment," he said.

The police authority denies that and claims the post will be offered on a short contract basis insisting it will be up to the winning candidate to decide what "support mechanisms" they need. We have a suggestion for the new commissioner, whoever that might be; when you get into office why not make your first announcement that you are planning to dispense immediately with the services of this spin-doctor because such appointments on such generous salaries cannot be justified when police officer numbers are being so squeezed.

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The statue of the naked, pregnant woman on Ilfracombe harbour front so courageously approved by local councillors has certainly put the North Devon resort on the map. So whatever you think of the aesthetics of the work, no one can deny it has impact and will bring new visitors to the town. Let's hope other traders and businesses in Ilfracombe follow the initiative displayed by the Eclectick bar, which is already mixing a new Verity cocktail. We'll drink to their opportunism.

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