Only one candidate for Suffolk Constabulary’s top job – again
- Credit: Archant
For the second time in three years, only one person applied for the £137,000 a year job as Chief Constable of Suffolk.
Despite widespread publicity, including two national adverts, the post attracted only one application – from the man already in the temporary chief constable seat.
The position, which includes a mileage allowance of £7,200, was made vacant by the departure of Douglas Paxton – himself the only applicant when the county last recruited a chief constable in 2013.
Temporary Chief Constable Gareth Wilson is now poised to take the £137,133-a-year post at a confirmation hearing of the county’s Police and Crime Panel on Wednesday.
Committee agendas reveal that his was the only application received by the closing date of December 4.
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The job was advertised on the websites of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, the College of Policing, the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and Suffolk Constabulary, as well as on the National Police Chief’s Council intranet.
Suffolk’s own PCC, Tim Passmore, believes changes are needed to “open the scope” of the recruitment system, after only one of the last eight chief constable vacancies across the country attracted more than a single application.
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Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, where Mr Wilson is expected to be confirmed as the new chief constable, Mr. Passmore said: “A very rigorous selection process must be gone through before someone is even eligible to apply. The number is, therefore, very low indeed.
“I think we have difficulty with the number of people applying. This is something I have raised with the Home Secretary (Theresa May), and she agrees it is not satisfactory.”
Mr Passmore and an appointments panel selected Mr Wilson as their choice for the next chief constable on December 18.
The panel included West Suffolk Hospital chief executive Dr Stephen Dunn, group managing director of malt and malted ingredients firm, Muntons, Alan Ridealgh, and Gill Lewis, an independent member.
The office of the PCC said a small pool of applicants for senior posts was not uncommon. Just one application was submitted for the chief constable job in Thames Valley, Wiltshire, Staffordshire and Cambridgeshire in 2015. Four were received in Northamptonshire, and two in Bedfordshire.
The panel made a unanimous recommendation for Mr Wilson following a process that included a 25 minute presentation on an unseen topic (for which he was allowed one hour to prepare), and a 50-minute interview.
Mr Passmore said: “We gave Gareth a rigorous interview. If he had not met the required standard, we would have been in a position not to appoint him, and would have had to re-advertise.
“We need a firm hand on the tiller and good people to take Suffolk forward.
“I think Gareth himself would rather other people had come forward but we have to deal with the system we’ve got.
“If you look at the talent pool, there are not too many people you can choose from.”
Mr Passmore highlighted the Direct Entry programme, designed to attract talent from outside the service to enter policing at superintendent rank, as an example of “widening the talent pool”.
He said lowering the strict requirements for chief constable roles was “not the right way to go”, but suggested the relatively short contract length (four to five years) may be a reason so few candidates came forward.
“The role of policing has changed over the last few years,” he added. “There is now much greater public interest and scrutiny. I think that is a good thing, and not something that has been an impediment for Gareth.”
Former chief constable, Mr Paxton left the constabulary on November 30, having decided to retire after being on sick leave since December 2014.
He too was appointed as the only applicant for the job left open in 2013, following the retirement of Simon Ash.
Mr Wilson became deputy chief constable in July 2014, but has been temporary chief constable since February last year.
He was assistant chief constable at Norfolk Constabulary from 2012, serving as the collaborative lead for protective services in Norfolk and Suffolk.
He spent the previous 23 years with Essex Police in both CID and uniformed roles.
The public confirmation hearing will be held at Endeavour House at 10.30pm on Wednesday.