Where there’s a Will there’s a way

Over the past two years, I have had a considerable amount of dealings with Will Naylor in his role as Chief of Staff to the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) in North Yorkshire. He is a personable man, generally courteous and, mostly, helpful insofar as the limitations of his present role allow.

Will appears popular with both the PCC and the two of his staff with whom I have the most dealings, Digital Engagement Officer Simon Jones and Caseworker, Sheree Evans. It is also to Will’s credit that Simon and Sheree are a reflection of himself as polite, largely helpful public servants. There is also a good ‘feel’ as visitors walk into the their HQ in Harrogate, which is usually a sign of a happy, functioning team. (Since this article was first written Sheree has now left the PCC’s employment in a sudden, unexplained departure).

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‘House of Secrets’? Only a small sign on the front of the building reveals that it is the NYPCC headquarters in leafy Granby Road, Harrogate.

But, for all of that, it came as something of a shock when I saw that his name had been put forward as the preferred candidate for the newly created position of Deputy PCC. The concept of feather duster to peacock immediately sprung to mind.

Setting aside his present, or future, capabilities for the job, I couldn’t visualise the transition from a virtually anonymous, innocuous office manager role to the PCC’s Deputy. Type ‘Will Naylor‘ into Google and you learn nothing. No image, no background, no colour, no public persona. Nothing. It is as though he landed at PCC HQ from Mars.

Whereas, according to the perpetually unreliable PCC website, he arrived from the office of Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone, whose relatively short incumbency in Parliament has been dogged by controversy. It will come as no surprise that they have included expenses and staffing scandals [1].

Rather more surprising is that Will is described on the PCC’s website as Mrs Grant’s former chief of staff. The local Kent press described him as her parliamentary assistant. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority website clearly shows that there is no such recognised position as chief of staff in an MP’s office. So who is kidding whom?

Also, my understanding of the legislation (section 18 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011) is that a PCC cannot appoint a member of his/her own staff as a Deputy PCC, a point taken up by others, to some effect, later in the process.

There had been considerable controversy when a rather better known Labour policy wonk, and failed MP candidate, Isabel Owen, made the transition from working as a ‘consultant’ for the PCC, in neighbouring West Yorkshire, to Deputy PCC [2]. It didn’t harm Ms Owen’s cause that she is married to Peter Nicholson, the Regional Director of the Yorkshire and Humber Labour Party.

Interestingly, one of the key facilitators of Will Naylor’s candidacy, interim NYPCC chief executive, Fraser Sampson, was also closely associated with the Owen appointment in his role as WYOPCC’s substantive, and hugely rewarded, chief executive.

Some have argued strongly against the need for such a Deputy position in North Yorkshire, such as the Police Federation’s voice in the county, Mike Stubbs. He says the timing is ‘unfortunate‘ and there are ‘damaging perceptions of cronyism and jobs for the boys‘ around the appointments of Deputies.

I am not in that group. Having seen the level of her own personal commitment, and the number of hours Julia Mulligan puts into the job, I take the view that if she is able to weave such a role into her office costs budget there are significant operational benefits in having a reliable Deputy to take on some of the more time-consuming parts of the PCC’s remit, such as constituency surgeries.

Whether Will Naylor is the right man remains to be seen. A key reservation would be, in my own experience, is that, like Julia, awkward issues are invariably fudged away, or ducked altogether. A very vivid example of this is the nationally-known scandal over Operations Rome and Hyson. About which, much has been written elsewhere.

Between the two of them, I have never once heard, or read, any criticism whatsoever of the chief constable, or the shortcomings of his force, over whom they have holding to account responsibility. Either publicly, in meetings, or in correspondence.

chief-constable-dave-jones-and-commissioner-julia-mulligan
Chief Constable Dave Jones in a familar PR pose with PCC Julia Mulligan. Jones has escaped any criticism from Mrs Mulligan since his appointment in April 2013, but both face three emerging scandals concerning: the infamous  ‘Pink Gun’ tribunal case; a Court of Appeal judgment over a failed rape case that was scathing about both Jones’ and the force’s conduct; and a third matter, also concerning a failed rape case in which the victim has been treated poorly by both the force and PCC.

It is a statutory requirement that a confirmation hearing takes place, once a PCC decides on his/her preferred candidate for Deputy Commissioner. This is part of the remit of the Police and Crime Scrutiny Panel (PCP) and an agenda item was set aside for the purpose at their meeting on 6th October, 2016. The full agenda for that meeting, including some interesting background papers relating to the appointment process can be read here [3].

The report that flowed from that hearing, also a statutory requirement, was published on 19th October, 2016 [4]. It revealed a surprising amount of rigour, for a committee noted in the past only for its torpor, and the findings were very much in line with my own views.

Will Naylor was recommended by the Panel only by a majority verdict – and provided certain conditions are met. That is unsurprising, given some of the questions that were asked of him by the Members and the obvious flakiness of some of the material presented, both by Julia Mulligan in her own report on the recruitment process, and Will himself in his personal statement, which was absent, for example, of any substantive details of qualifications, previous employment and relevant experience.

It can be seen from their report that the Panel challenged the preferred candidate in a number of key areas. Particularly his professional competence, personal independence and experience in a public-facing role. The outcome being that there are considered to be  ‘gaps’ in his competencies and doubts about his independence – and the Panel require a Personal Development Plan (PDP) in place if the PCC can demonstrate that the appointment is, indeed, lawful and she formally offers the position to Will Naylor, once he has resigned his post as Chief of Staff.

However, to my eye there were also some obvious shortcomings in the Panel’s report: The number of candidates who applied and were then, subsequently, interviewed is not disclosed. Or declared by the PCC in her report. That is now the subject of separate information requests to both the PCC’s office and the PCP, after repeated refusal by Simon Jones (presumably acting on istructions from above) to provide that information via Twitter. This in spite of the written claim made by Julia Mulligan to the Panel that the recruitment process was ‘open and transparent’.

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Twitter interchange with Simon Jones (no relation to chief constable) who is the PCC’s Digital Engagement Officer and runs their Twitter account which has, since November 2012, accumulated just 2,350 followers. Many of them outside of North Yorkshire’s pool of  602,000 constituents and 1,500 police officers and staff.

There is also mention in the PCC’s report of a well qualified pool of candidates applying for the post, who met all the selection criteria, and Will being the best of the bunch. That on it’s face appears counter-intuitive, given the potential shortcomings in his candicacy highlighted in the confirmation hearing. Put shortly, it doesn’t add up.

There is also no mention of his CV, or previous employment references being taken up, or whether they were satisfactory. Although this may well be covered under the ‘vetting’ procedure.

The freedom of information finalisation [5], which came 26 days after the questions were first asked, has now opened up other interesting lines of enquiry into this selection process [6]. What is now known is that there were, allegedly, 16 candidates who responded to a single, small press advert in The Guardian, costing just £900. The job was not advertised in the conventional outlets for recruitment advertisements of this nature, the Yorkshire Post, Northern Echo or York Evening Press, which would strike most commentators as odd, to say the least.

Of the 16 whom expressed interest, 4 were selected for interview by an unnamed ‘Selection Panel’. Curiously, two did not appear before the interviewing panel. This left Will Naylor and one other. The rest, as they say, is history. Of the interviewing panel three were past or present close working colleagues of Will’s: Julia Mulligan, the aforementioned Fraser Sampson and Simon Dennis. The latter had orchestrated the entire selection process at the invitation of NYPCC. Simon is also featured in another article on this website [7]

So, it seems, where there’s a Will there’s a way to make him your Deputy if, of course, your name is Julia Mulligan and you have the backing of Chair, Carl Les, and the Conservative hardcore on the Panel. Even if it means bending the law – and not quite being as frank as you ought to be about the recruitment process.

But, good luck to Will. He may yet turn out to be the people’s champion on policing matters in North Yorkshire, and be the first to stand up to some of the wilder excesses of the chief constable. In his personal statement to the PCP he cited, quite oddly, that he wanted to ensure that harassment allegations were investigated much better by the police. Perhaps he was mindful of this case [8] which has caused the PCC’s office and the force so much damage to their good standing?

Page last updated Saturday 5th November, 2016 at 1150hrs

Annotations

[1] Wikipedia: Helen Grant MP

[2] Yorkshire Post 11th April, 2013: ‘Police role given green light after crony row’

[3] North Yorks PCP 6th October, 2016: Meeting agenda including Deputy PCC papers

[4] North Yorks PCP 19th October, 2016: Report on Deputy PCC confirmation hearing

[5] What Do They Know 12th October, 2012: ‘Appointment of Deputy PCC’

[6] What Do They Know 2nd November, 2016: ‘Appointment of Deputy PCC’

[7] Neil Wilby 22nd May, 2016: ‘The Inn of Last Resort’

[8] Private Eye 31st August, 2016: ‘North York Boors’

Corrections: Please let us know if there is a mistake in this article — I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

Right of reply: If you are mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let me have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory it will be added to the article.

Copyright: Neil Wilby 2015-2016. Unauthorised use or reproduction of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from and links to the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Author: Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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