Labour crime boss accused of ‘cronyism’

Mark Burns-Williamson
Mark Burns-Williamson

The Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire has been criticised for giving another Labour party member a top job.

Mark Burns-Williamson has come under fire for appointing former Newcastle Labour councillor, Henri Murison, as his research director earning more than £41,000 a year.

Earlier this year questions were raised when the commissioner recruited former campaign manager Isabel Owen as his deputy.

Coun Les Carter, a member of the police and crime panel and Leeds city councillor, has accused Mr Burns-Williamson of bringing politics into policing.

Coun Carter said: “I am shocked to find that the commissioner has appointed yet another member of his own party to a senior position in his office.

“People need to have confidence that the police are being scrutinised impartially by people who have a wide and extensive knowledge of policing issues.”

Mr Burns-Williamson said both posts were given to the best candidates.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the PCC said: “The Police and Crime Commissioner inherited the former police authority staff when he took office. Since that time two vacancies have been filled.

“The first, an existing vacancy for a Research Director, has been filled by Henri Murison, a former national disability charity employee and cabinet member for a local authority. He was recruited through an open and transparent job evaluation scheme and was the highest scoring candidate of all of those interviewed

“The second, a vacancy for a deputy legislated for by government as the only politically unrestricted role in the office of the PCC, has been filled by Isabel Owen. Isabel is an experienced advisor, advocate and programme leader with extensive experience of managing public engagement, strategic partnership working and stakeholder relations.”

Wakefield magistrate Roger Grasby, an independent panel member, said the commissioner had followed the rules.

He said: “Mr Burns-Williamson stood on a Labour party ticket and was elected on that basis. It would be odd if he appointed as his deputy someone from a different political party.

“Under the legislation, the commissioner can appoint his partner, his father or his next door neighbour - he isn’t bound by the usual exemptions to which other public appointments are subject.”

Chairman of the panel and leader of Wakefield Council, Coun Peter Box said the panel were satisfied with the appointments.