Phil Davies faced grilling by Merseyside Police and Crime Panel as preferred candidate for Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner post
By John Brace (Editor)
Leonora Brace (Co-Editor)
Just over a week ago, new regulations (as a result of the coronavirus pandemic) called the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority and Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 allowed local government public meetings in England and Wales to take place not in person in the same room but as remote or virtual meetings.
Last Thursday morning (9th April 2020) Knowsley Council (who are the Host Authority for the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel) held such a public meeting virtually which was a confirmation hearing of the preferred candidate Phil Davies for the post of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside. You can watch video of that public part of that public meeting below (which lasted for around an hour and twenty minutes). As far as I know it was the only public meeting of local government held this way, even though the regulations referred to earlier also apply to Wirral Council, Liverpool City Council, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority etc.
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Any article I wrote would, as the meeting was an hour and twenty minutes leave something out. However the existing Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy (whose term of office has been extended by a year due to the May 2020 elections being cancelled) recommended Phil Davies to the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel for the part-time post of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.
Therefore the questions from the councillors and independent member (there are legally supposed to be two independent members so I’m not sure why there is only one) on the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel were to Phil Davies about his suitability for the role.
As regular readers of this blog will know, Phil Davies had been a councillor at Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council from May 1991 to May 2019.
The previous Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Cllr Emily Spurrell had resigned (effective from the 18th March 2019) giving the reason at the time that the existing Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy had left the Labour Party. Cllr Emily Spurrell is now the Labour candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside (the election has been delayed from May 2020 to May 2021).
The reason this matters is that a motion passed recently at the Labour North West Regional Board prior to the confirmation hearing (circulated to all Wirral Labour Party members) stated that “This Board further believes that should any member of the Labour Party accept appointment as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner in Merseyside, it would bring the Labour Party into disrepute.” and it is assumed by the author of this piece that Phil Davies is still a member of the Labour Party.
However – moving on from the party politics and back to the public meeting itself. Phil Davies answered questions from those on the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel about his time as a councillor between 1991 and 2019 as well as his Council appointed roles on outside bodies such as the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Wirral Mulicultural Organisation.
Phil Davies was also asked to apologise for Wirral Council’s response to the New Ferry gas explosion that happened in 2017 (which he refused to apologise for).
He was also questioned about his former roles whether individually or through collective Cabinet responsibility (mainly in the last decade at Wirral Council) in relation to safeguarding of children, corporate governance failings, retired Wirral Council employee benefits and other policy or operational matters.
In answer to a question about political oversight and a perceived deficit of corporate governance at Wirral Council asked by Cllr Jennings about the 2011-2012 period, Phil Davies answered, “I think we saw, we saw signs that you know things were going wrong. Errm, but I really, I think it took errm, it took some pretty kind of hard-hitting external reports to say this is the extent of the challenge that you’ve got ahead and I took the view is my view was very clear you know. We shouldn’t be in denial, don’t try to defend the indefensible. Errm take the advice, take the errm the sort of lessons that would be, that we need to learn from external experts like the LGA and move on from there. Don’t try to cover things up or sweep things under the carpet. So you know at the time I was very open, as yes we’ve got all of these challenges and failings. The priority now is to move forward and address them, so that was my philosophy and approach errm you know when we had that challenge.”
The part-time Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner post was not advertised and it appeared that Phil Davies was on a longlist and shortlist of one on the recommendation of Jane Kennedy (although somewhat cryptically one councillor referred to three other approved candidates).
After the meeting, Knowsley Council will publish on their website the report and letter of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel about the preferred candidate for Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner within 5 working days of the meeting (at the time of writing this hasn’t happened yet). It will then be down to the existing Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy as to whether she appoints Phil Davies as Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner.
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