Pledge loses its shine?

Following the introduction of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, 2011, police authorities, comprised very largely of elected councillors, were dissolved. Replaced by a new elected policing body, known as Police and Crime Commissioners.

It was a controversial move, rejected almost entirely by the electorate, and one that has been dogged by ineptitude and scandal ever since.

During the very first election campaign in 2012, a number of prospective PCCs made promises regarding re-distribution of what were considered excessive salaries.

One of those was Labour politician Mark Burns-Williamson, who was duly elected in West Yorkshire. He had previously served, without distinction, as chairman of the police authority for the previous nine years.

His pledge was confirmed via the local media, in these terms, during the week after his election victory:

“The salary level has been set by a pay review body, independently.

“I will set aside £5,000 for a separate account to support victims of crime”.

Not a particularly generous offer compared to, for example, Andy Burnham, who donates 15% of his £110,000 salary as Greater Manchester Mayor to the homeless. A gesture fulfilled every year since he was elected in 2017.

Nevertheless, if PCC Burns-Williamson had kept his promise, over the intervening 8 years, then a not insignificant sum of £40,000 would have been donated.

Via a freedom of information request, it has been established that the Burns-Wiliamson promise has not been kept. Far from it.

This is a list of all the donations he has made since 2012:

2012/13 National Police Memorial Fund £500 
2012/13 Care of Police Survivors £100 
2013/14 Bradford Safeguarding Board £1000 
2013/14 Shelter £50 
2013/14 War Memorial Trust £100

Total donations made: £1,750

Total set aside and donated to victims of crime, as pledged: Zero

Total unaccounted for: £38,250

A further information request has been made regard the status of the ‘separate account’, who administers it and its present balance.

The PCC’s press office has been contacted separately, requesting an explanation from Mark Burns-Williamson over the discrepancies. Burns-Williamson’s representative claims that he has made other donations via a private bank account but refuses to provide dates, amounts recipients.

When challenged further about the unsatisfactory response and failure to meet a high profile public pledge a curt response stated that no other information would be provided.

A complaint is being prepared with a view to submission to the Police and Crime Panel for West Yorkshire. A poorly run ‘scrutiny body’ hosted by Wakefield Metropolitan District Council, that is, itself, frequently caught out when failing to meet its statutory obligations on disclosure.

Page last updated at 0715hrs on Wednesday 2nd December, 2020.

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Photo credit: Stephen Bradbury

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