Police commissioner: Is the role really worth the money?
TAXPAYERS are forking out more than £1 million for the controversial office of Staffordshire's new Police and Crime Commissioner – the same amount as the authority it replaced.
Newly-elected Matthew Ellis pledged he would run his team for £200,000 less than the police authority.
But he has now decided to budget the same £1.1 million for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) in 2013/14.
He said the money would be spent on bringing in specialists to identify where Staffordshire Police can perform better and save cash in the future.
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Mr Ellis said he was creating three new posts in his office for 'experts in ICT, policy and performance'.
He told a meeting of the county's Police and Crime Panel: "My ambition was to reduce the cost of the police authority by £200,000. My intention prior to the election is different to what I have found now I'm in office. I would hope that in 12 months, I will be able to prove the ability of the OPCC to change behaviour and create collaboration to a far greater in value than £200,000.
"The OPCC will offer good value. We will do things as cheaply as we can but I would not like to lose the opportunity of having the right people around the table who can deliver the plans we have got."
Conservative county councillor Mr Ellis replaced a 17-member police authority, which was made up of co-opted councillors and community figures, in December.
He will pick up a £75,000 salary for the role and has responsibility for overseeing chief officers, deciding Staffordshire Police's priorities and setting its shrinking budget.
His deputy, fellow Conservative Sue Arnold, will earn £25,000 for working three days a week.
Staffordshire Police will have an overall budget of £185 million for 2013/14.
Mr Ellis has decided to freeze the force's council tax bill for the third successive year.
Members of the Police and Crime Panel, which was set up to scrutinise Mr Ellis's policies, said they supported his decision to spend more cash on his team.
Chairman Frank Chapman, a Conservative county councillor from Eccleshall, said: "I want to make sure that the panel closely scrutinises the expenditure of the PCC's office and make sure it doesn't exceed the cost of the former police authority.
"I'm quite content with Matthew Ellis's proposals at the moment as they don't exceed that cost and he has a much wider remit.
"The panel will keep a close eye on what they do."
Fellow panel member Janine Bridges also approved of Mr Ellis's proposals for his office.
The Labour Stoke-on-Trent city councillor said: "I can understand why he wants to recycle some of the money that would have been spent on the police authority rather than just cut the budget.
"He hasn't raised the precept and his proposals are going to be very substantial and sustainable in the long term. I think it's going to be money well spent."
But Mr Ellis's U-turn has raised concern with residents.
Jim Gibson, chairman of Chell Heath Residents' Association, said: "He has said one thing before the election and now it's something different.
"It begs the question – is he all talk or is he going to deliver on all these promises?"