Flagship plans to elect police commissioners across the country have suffered a fresh blow after a senior officer resigned over his “grave concerns” about the proposals.
Tony Melville, who is retiring early as chief constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary
Just two years after being appointed chief constable of Gloucestershire, Tony Melville said he would rather step down early than serve under the new regime.
He had recently warned that cuts to his small rural force’s budget had left it on a “metaphorical cliff edge”.
His departure is another setback for the Coalition’s plan to elect new Police and Crime Commissioners in 41 areas across England and Wales in November.
There are widespread concerns that the initiative is costly but unnecessary, while the electoral rules are likely to benefit established politicians and public figures over independents. The commissioners, who will be paid up to £100,000 even if they work part-time, will have the power to fire chief constables as well as setting budgets and priorities.
Mr Melville said in a statement published by Gloucestershire constabulary on Friday: “After a thirty-four year career in the Police service, 10 of which have been as a Chief Officer, I have decided the time is right to leave.
“I believe Policing does need to change and that is why we have transformed our approach in Gloucestershire. However I have grave concerns about some elements of the current police reform agenda especially the election of Police and Crime Commissioners in six months time.
“I have therefore decided that I will not continue as Chief Constable under those new arrangements. I am stepping aside in time for the Police Authority to appoint my successor and ensure continuity for the incoming Police and Crime Commissioner in November.”
Mr Melville, who moved from Devon and Cornwall Constabulary in January 2010, will leave the service in May.
In January he had warned that Gloucestershire was facing additional cuts after already being asked to make £24million annual savings from its £103m budget.
“In a small force, a series of local decisions have combined to take us to a metaphorical cliff edge much more quickly than others.”
The Police Federation, the organisation that represents rank-and-file officers, said it was “unsurprised” by Mr Neville’s departure. It is holding a march in London next week against 20 per cent budget cuts imposed by the Government and is also balloting on giving officers the right to strike, in protest at the proposed Winsor reforms that would give forces the power to make police officers redundant.
Paul McKeever, Chairman of the Police Federation, said: “The resignation of Chief Constable Tony Melville demonstrates the enormous difficulties and pressures being faced by police officers across the country during a time of radical untested change within the service and drastic cuts to the police budget.
“However, we are unsurprised at his announcement, as it reflects the mood within the service and the views being expressed privately to us by many senior officers who are deeply concerned about the future of British Policing. We share those very real concerns; enough is enough.’
Labour’s shadow policing minister, David Hanson, said: “Tony Melville’s decision to resign in protest of the Government’s decision to hold elections for the new Police and Crime Commissioners in November is deeply concerning.
“Chief Constable Melville has served in the police for 34 years and the Government should be alarmed that such an experienced and well regarded officer is unable to support their flagship policy.”
He said that the plan for American-style commissioners was “wasteful and flawed” and that holding the elections in November is “extremely unwise”, although Labour is still putting up candidates including the former Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Prescott.
A Home Office spokesman attempted to downplay the resignation, saying: “We are not going to speculate on the local reasons why a chief constable decides to retire.”
He added: “Parliament has decided that elections for the first police and crime commissioners will be held in November, giving the public a stronger voice in the fight against crime while protecting the operational independence of chief constables.
“All the major political parties agreed that police authorities needed democratic reform and we worked closely with ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers) to ensure that their concerns were addressed.”