“Enough is enough”: Willy Bach on the record of his successor

Exclusive: Labour peer Willy Bach, former Police and Crime Commissioner, examines the record of his successor ahead of the elections this Thursday, 2 May.

Photo of Willy Bach. Credit: Roger Harris
Labour peer Willy Bach, former Police and Crime Commissioner.

When I stood down as Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) in May 2021, I resolved not to criticise my successor, whatever colour rosette they sported. Even in these divisive times, it’s not how I do politics. Call me old fashioned, but I have never seen the point in attacking someone simply because they belong to a different party. Ideas and values are more important to me than political labels. I’d much rather debate than denigrate. Nonetheless, my successor’s tenure at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) tested my resolve beyond breaking point.

Within days of his arrival, I heard reports of unreasonable behaviour in his dealings with staff, not just with the OPCC team, who were serving their community well, but also towards the Chief Constable and other senior police officers. Carping from the stands isn’t my style. Things can often be a little bumpy when there’s a leadership change. Teething troubles, perhaps? Give it time; things may work themselves out.

Damaging behaviour

Sadly, I was wrong. As the weeks turned to months, reports of conflict and relationship breakdown accelerated. A pattern of persistent and damaging behaviour emerged. The new Commissioner’s unusual style was harming our police force, which I admired, and the rich and diverse communities that call LLR ‘home’.

The OPCC’s experienced and well-regarded Chief Executive was forced to leave, along with the deputy, a fiercely independent individual with strong ties to the police family in the county. Other OPCC staff, including the Chief Finance Officer, quickly followed. The instability did not stop there. Although it may seem extraordinary, the new Commissioner changed his Chief Executive Officer eight times. Think about that for a moment – eight CEOs in three years. The Commissioner’s job is to provide effective scrutiny and good governance; this was close to chaos!

Taxpayers foot the bill

The cost to the taxpayer of this mismanagement has proved difficult to quantify. Questions submitted via Freedom of Information requests and during the regular meetings of the Leicestershire Police and Crime Panel were sidestepped or blocked. Nonetheless, examination of the OPCC accounts indicates that exceptional payments of between £300k and £430k were made to departing staff. Bizarrely, this includes compensation paid to independent members of the OPCC’s Ethics Committee, which the Commissioner had summarily disbanded.

Perhaps most concerning has been the involvement of a disgraced former Chief Constable. Widely seen as the Commissioner’s right-hand man, this individual appeared unannounced and unvetted in the OPCC on day one. Astonishingly, he was under investigation for gross misconduct following allegations of serious misdemeanours during a short-lived spell in the top job at Cleveland Police. He was, in due course, found guilty by a Police Tribunal.

Another one bites the dust

One can only imagine what the Leicestershire Police felt about being held accountable by an individual facing such serious charges. In a bizarre twist, despite repeated calls to dispense with his services, The Commissioner appointed the ex-Chief Constable as his CEO in December 2022. Now, the law states that senior staff appointments must be the subject of a confirmation hearing by the Panel, thereby ensuring openness and transparency. Incredibly, the Commissioner refused to follow this requirement. In February 2023, an embarrassed Conservative Chair of the Panel announced that the latest CEO had departed – she refused to take any questions on the matter. The Commissioner’s seventh CEO had lasted just 47 days.

The duties and responsibilities of an elected PCC are set out in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. The role of the PCC is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are responsible for the totality of policing. Against this backdrop of constant chaotic change, it’s hard to see exactly how he found the time to fulfil his public duty.

Controversy continues

Alas, a glance at press reports reveals that my successor still found the time to court controversy and provoke anger in LLR, most notably in the summer of 2022 when he intervened in the US abortion debate, describing the decision to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade ruling that guaranteed access to abortion as a ‘triumph for democracy’.

Police numbers down

In the final analysis, we should look back to his first budget in 2022 for a truly objective judgement of my successor’s performance. Despite public calls for more police on the streets of Leicestershire, he opted instead to cancel fully costed plans to recruit 100 new officers. Unsurprisingly, when his term ended, there were fewer police than in 2010.

In conclusion, it is for these reasons that, in my view, all reasonable people of all political persuasions should say, “Enough is enough”, and on Thursday, 2 May, they should vote for Rory Palmer, who offers experience, common sense and dare I say a good deal more rationality when it comes to managing the complex challenges of 21st Century policing.

From my private conversations, I am convinced that many influential Conservatives in Leicestershire are thinking this way already.

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