Panel suggests PCC stands down while campaigning for Mid-Beds MP spot

MP for Mid Beds, Nadine Dorries and PCC Festus Akinbusoye
PCC Festus Akinbusoye stood as the Conservative candidate in the Mid Bedfordshire by-election to replace former MP, Nadine Dorries. Image: Nadine Dorries/Twitter

The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel has recommended that the police and crime commissioner (PCC) stands down while he campaigns to be Mid-Bedfordshire’s next MP.

Last week, the PCC Festus Akinbusoye, was selected to stand as the Conservative candidate following Nadine Dorries’s decision to resign “with immediate effect” earlier this month.

Read: Nadine Dorries announces PCC Festus Akinbusoye is to stand as Tory candidate in Mid Beds by-election

The Police and Crime Panel’s role is to challenge, scrutinise and support the PCC.

In an open letter to the PCC, the panel said it was “concerned” about the potential damage being a candidate may cause to his reputation.

The panel said the decision to stand and canvas was the PCC’s decision to make, but in its role as a “critical friend” it suggested various actions.

In the letter, the panel reminded the PCC of the “utmost importance” of maintaining a clear separation between actions as PCC and as a candidate.

It said it was “concerned” that time spent canvassing would impact upon time spent acting as a commissioner.

Therefore, the panel recommended that the PCC stands down for a period of time so that he may canvas with “no hindrance” to his role.

It suggested that his work as a commissioner should be carried out by his deputy.

If the PCC does not decide to stand down while he is canvassing, the panel suggested that a “formal decision” be logged delegating specified elements of his workload to his deputy.

And the panel reminded the PCC there is precedent for a “Minister of Parliament” being convicted for offences related to their election expenses – so it has sought “complete reassurance” that money spent whilst canvassing cannot be linked “in any way” to with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC).

This includes ‘time’ that should have been spent performing commissioner or deputy-commissioner duties, expenses of any sort (office, mileage, meals, IT) or any other funds that “should rightly only be spent on performing the duties of commissioner or deputy-commissioner”.

The panel also “strongly recommended” that the PCC does not make any election comments on social media using any of his accounts which he uses or has used as PCC, or which identify him as the county’s PCC.

In response, via his own open letter, the PCC thanked the panel for its role as a critical friend and said he is “acutely aware” of the need to maintain a clear separation between being the PCC and political campaigning.

He wrote: “I have taken the decision not to step away from my role as PCC.

“The panel will be aware of many candidates who campaign for various political roles and are not asked to step away from their day jobs and I am no different.

“I would hope that Cllr Mackey has not been asked by the panel to step down from his crucial role as chairman of CBC or as a local councillor whilst he acts as a candidate in this by-election, which, I will point out has not been called yet.”

And he said that he will not be submitting any expenses during this time, and that he takes his responsibilities regarding the public purse “very seriously”.

The letter said the chief executive of the OPCC has been “very clear” that her office must not be used in any way for anything connected to the campaign, including staff time, equipment, IT, using my PCC office or any other part of the police estate to meet with people or facilitate media interviews etc, about the parliamentary campaign.

He said that OPCC social media accounts will not be used for political purposes – but that he has his own personal accounts which he has used since before he was elected.

He said he will continue to use these to promote the OPCC, the police, and to talk about his election campaign.

“My personal social media pages are run and managed by me, not a member of staff in OPCC,” he wrote. I am thus free to use it for any lawful purpose as I choose, including political campaigning.”

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

Keep Local news Alive in Bedfordshire