17:20 Friday 30th November 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: The man who is set to become Cambridgeshire’s first ever Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner has been defending the pay he is to receive. Newly-elected Sir Graham Bright has chosen his Conservative colleague Brian Ashton, a former Mayor of Ely, as his number two. That’s on a salary of £28,000 a year for two days work a week. In his first interview since accepting the role, he spoke to me earlier. We talked about the time he quit his council post over charges of corruption that he was finally cleared of. But first, the role itself. (TAPE)
BRIAN ASHTON: I think this is a question of a sort of sense of public service and duty. Yes, the post receives a remuneration. That’s certainly true. But I think bringing to bear one’s experience can be helpful. And I’m sure that’s what we’ll both do.
CHRIS MANN: Some people are questioning the remuneration, because £28,000 a year for two days work seems a lot of money.
BRIAN ASHTON: Well I think it’s obviously open to everybody to question the level of remuneration. It’s been set nominally as a sort of Deputy’s rate for half a week’s work. And the basis is two to three days that’s been set as the standard. Frankly, I would be surprised if it will take less than that in the early times, in the early years. I’d be surprised if it didn’t take longer. Perhaps towards the end it might take less, because obviously the incidence of change is going to be so much more in this earlier period than it will be in the later ones, when everything’s bedding in.
CHRIS MANN: So what are you going to be doing for this £28,000?
BRIAN ASHTON: Well, there are going to be two major areas that I’m going to be involved in. The first one is assisting with resolving all of the budget issues, because as you’ll appreciate the police especially are faced with some considerable restrictions in budget over the next four years. About £12 million or so has to be discovered from within the budget. And we’ve got to do that in every way that we possibly can that doesn’t affect front line policing. And I think that’s going to be quite a difficult yet very interesting task to come to grips with.
CHRIS MANN: Do you think it’s proper that you are unelected, that you’ve got this important role but no-one’s had a say in it, other than the Commissioner himself of course?
BRIAN ASHTON: Well I really, if you like, I have to act as his Deputy if necessary. But the reality is that the policy, the responsibility, the public duty, is primarily his. And that’s clearly laid down in the Act. I’m not empowered to do finally the things that he can do. I can assist him in working towards those things. I can work on them. I can speak on his behalf. But I can’t make the ultimate decisions about many of those things that are written into the Act that he has the authority to do.
CHRIS MANN: But wouldn’t it have been a better system if we’d known about you before the election, so we could have voted on both of you?
BRIAN ASHTON: I wouldn’t challenge that as a view at all, in all honesty.
CHRIS MANN: OK. And the other thing that some people are saying is well, Ed Murphy of Labour was runner-up. Why is he not Deputy? Why is he not number two?
BRIAN ASHTON: Again, I think that people are perfectly entitled to ask that question. I think in part it’s because that it is an office that is best supported by people who feel that they can really work closely together, that know quite a good deal about each other, and how their minds work, and how thay think. And I believe that that’s the case between Sir Graham and myself. And therefore it’s likely to be a productive partnership, and not a partnership with tension in it.
CHRIS MANN: You and Sir Graham of course have been friends for a long time, both Members of the Conservative Party for a long time. Am I right?
BRIAN ASHTON: Absolutely right. I first met Graham as a young man forty odd years ago, in the Young Conservatives.
CHRIS MANN: So some people might suggest here that this is old boy’s network. This is jobs for the boys.
BRIAN ASHTON: Oh we’re not personal friends in that way. We’ve not been accustomed to sharing family meals, or sharing family holidays, or anything of that type. We have simply known each other as colleagues, and respected each other’s work during that time.
CHRIS MANN: And of course you’ve had to deal with a difficult period when you were under suspicion of corruption and actually stood down as Leader of the local council. Of course we all know you were cleared. But are you satisfied that there’s no stain on your character at all from that?
BRIAN ASHTON: Well absolutely. I think it was upon .. if there was any stain frankly it would have been upon those who made accusations of behaviour, one, that I would never have dreamt of, two, that would never have been in my interests, and three, that I most certainly never did.
CHRIS MANN: And what do you think of Cambridgeshire Police Force?
BRIAN ASHTON: I think that Cambridgeshire Police Force are making remarkable strides in the way in which they have developed more localised policing that’s occurring at the moment, and the manner in which they’re collaborating with other forces on the highly specialist areas of policing work. And I think they are to be much commended for having started out on those paths.