The Association of Police Authorities has elected a Tory Chair for the first time in its history.  At the APA’s Annual General Meeting this morning Rob Garnham, a Conservative County Councillor from Gloucestershire and Chair of Gloucestershire Police Authority, beat Labour’s Mark Burns-Williamson, Chair of West Yorkshire Police Authority, by 37 votes to 29.

He will be the first non-Labour Chair of the APA succeeding Bob Jones who stood down after four years in office, who had in turn succeeded Baroness Ruth Henig.

The margin was less than expected – the number of Labour-led Police Authorities has been shrinking as Labour’s presence in local government has declined.

There had been a last-minute flurry when it was being suggested that Paul Murphy, Labour Chair of Greater Manchester Police Authority, might stand a better chance, but in the event the Labour Group stuck with its original nomination.

Rob Garnham’s hustings speech revealed him though to be an opponent of Conservative policy on elected police commissioners (which will have endeared him to most of those present) and he told the meeting how he had challenged Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, on this at a private meeting earlier in the month.

Rob Garnham will be joined by two Deputy Chairs, Mark Burns-Williamson and Ann Barnes (the “Independent” Chair of Kent Police Authority, whose hobby I am told is amateur dramatics and about whom one delegate remarked caustically, “She gives good platitude”).

In addition, the APA has recently appointed a new Executive Director, Mark Castle – an Army Brigadier whose most recent assignment was to try and create a properly accountable and non-corrupt police force in Iraq.  These are clearly skills that the appointments panel thought would come in handy dealing with the Association of Chief Police Officers, recently reinvigorated by its new President, Sir Hugh Orde.

The leitmotif throughout was that for police authorities at least “There is trouble ahead ….”

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