NORTHUMBRIA’S police commissioner has been criticised for having “the most expensive deputy in the country”.
When Vera Baird appointed Mark Dennett to the deputy commissioner role she did so knowing he brought with him a wealth of experience thanks to his time as a chief superintendent.
But now a Government minister and a North East Conservative MP have questioned the exact worth of Mr Dennett’s role, bringing with it a £68,000 wage.
As a former police officer Mr Dennett will also have a substantial pension fund to fall back on as well, his critics have claimed.
The pay questions emerged in the House of Commons when policing minister Damian Green was challenged on spending levels. He was explaining to the Commons the most expensive deputy’s pay when he was interrupted by Labour MPs criticising the cost.
“I am interested that Labour members are shocked by that figure, because that was an appointment of the Labour PCC for Northumbria, Mrs Vera Baird, QC,” Mr Green told the then silenced Labour benches.
Mrs Baird has insisted her deputy is worth the money and points to a Tory commissioner who appointed four deputies, the total for which would surpass her colleagues.
But Hexham Conservative Guy Opperman said it was a bad sign.
The MP said: “Northumbria police has been very successful at reducing crime and reducing their costs. They have done a fantastic job over the last few years under Chief Constable Sue Sims leadership of doing more for less.
“Ms Baird campaigned tirelessly over police cuts in the elections but it seems she can’t wait to blow taxpayers money. I would have though someone so concerned about cuts to policing budget would do all they could to keep costs down. I have great respect for Mr Dennett, who I worked with before his retirement but his salary is simply too high in these times. Ms Baird clearly has questions to answer.”
Those claims were last night dismissed by Ms Baird, who pointed to the vast experience Mr Dennett brought to the role.
“I am disappointed that the Hexham MP has sought to politicise the appointment of former Chief Superintendent Mark Dennett to the role of Deputy Commissioner,” she said.
“Mr Dennett was recommended for appointment by the Police and Crime Panel which includes political allies of Mr Opperman from Northumberland County Council, and the panel is independent of the Commissioner.
“Mark has a wealth of knowledge and will help me deliver my pledges in one of the geographically largest forces in the country.
“Mark is free of any party politics and we are both determined to reduce costs, unlike, for instance, the Tory PCC for Northamptonshire who has appointed four deputies at a cost of more than quarter of a million pounds. The office of police and crime commissioner for Northumbria will cost less than the previous police authority and will be closer to the public.”