Cheshire’s Labour police and crime commissioner David Keane has hired a new chief of staff despite the appointment not being backed by the police and crime panel.
Peter Astley MBE, with a salary band of £75,841-£79,890, was recruited after chief executive Mark Sellwood took voluntary redundancy from his £95,082 per year role.
Mr Keane conceded police and crime panel members who attended the confirmation hearing unanimously made the decision not to recommend Mr Astley’s appointment but it was against the ‘findings of a robust recruitment exercise’.
The same panel chaired by Cheshire East Tory member Cllr Howard Murray was lukewarm over Mr Keane’s previous decision to hire a long-standing Labour colleague Sareda Dirir as his £50,000-a-year deputy.
In response to criticism, the commissioner said at the time that there was ‘a politically charged atmosphere’ on the panel and insisted she is ‘not my mate’ but simply ‘the best candidate for the job’.
On announcing the appointment of his chief of staff, Commissioner Keane, who earns £75,000, said: “Peter performed exceptionally well throughout the recruitment process and was consistently the highest scoring candidate. I am aware that following their hearing the members of police and crime panel in attendance made the decision not to recommend appointment; however, on this occasion the panel’s recommendation is against the outcome and findings of a robust recruitment exercise.
“The stakeholder interview panel, which was attended by the Chief Constable (and chair of the Criminal Justice Board), the chief fire officer, the chair of the fire authority, a local authority deputy leader as well as the vice chair of the police and crime panel, provided very positive feedback. This also translated to interview where Mr Astley performed exceptionally well and was the highest scoring candidate.
“Peter will be a great asset to the OPCC team and will make a real difference in helping me to support and maximise the potential for policing in Cheshire to deliver key outcomes in our communities.”
The commissioner is supported by a team of 11 staff which also includes a part-time chief finance officer who earned £40,021 in 2015-16. Other roles are: head of governance, head of policy and partnerships, commissioning officer - safety, commissioning officer - victims, communications officer, performance analyst, governance officer, senior administration officer and administration officer.
A statement from his office said Mr Astley’s appointment came after a ‘rigorous recruitment process’ which included a paper application, shortlisting, medical, personality questionnaires and police vetting. In addition, Mr Astley was subject to the stakeholder interview panel. This was followed by a full competency based interview. Following the recruitment process Mr Astley attended a confirmation hearing with the police and crime panel.
Panel chairman Cllr Murray told The Chronicle he was not allowed to speak to the press.
But in a letter to Commissioner Keane, he wrote: “It is with regret that the Cheshire police and crime panel cannot on this occasion support your candidate for the position of chief of staff of the office of police and crime commissioner for Cheshire. This was the unanimous decision of the panel following the confirmation hearing held on the evening of Wednesday 12 July in Winsford.”