Deputy crime commissioner appointed, against advice of police panel

THE Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner has appointed a deputy to her role, against the advice of councillors tasked with scrutinising her work.

Lisa Townsend, who was elected in May, has taken on 26-year-old Ellie Vesey-Thompson, despite a recommendation not to employ her in a job that is new to the county.

Ellie Vesey-Thompson, Surrey’s first Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner

Mrs Townsend had asked the Surrey Police and Crime Panel to confirm her intention to appoint a deputy, at a salary of £53,550.

A majority on the panel – which consists of representatives from every borough and district in the county, a county councillor and two independent members – recommended that the appointment did not go ahead.

Miss Vesey-Thompson had been extensively questioned by panel members at a confirmation hearing about what suitable experience she had for the job of deputy police and crime commissioner.

Mrs Townsend had told the panel that her deputy would spend 75 per cent of her time on engaging with young people, including tackling anti-social behaviour.

Miss Vesey-Thompson said she had been elected to the UK Youth Parliament as “a very young teenager” and had also worked for the National Citizen Service, a voluntary personal and social development programme for 15 and 16-year-olds.

She said she had spent a considerable amount of time advising at a family law clinic while at university, where she gained a degree in politics and a graduate diploma in law.

As deputy PCC, she intended to consult widely across the county on how to tackle offending and drug-taking by young people, including speaking to every headteacher in the county.

It emerged during the meeting that she had campaigned for Conservative Mrs Townsend in the run-up to the May election, when the incumbent commissioner, Independent David Munro, was defeated.

Mrs Townsend said she envisaged Miss Vesey-Thompson could be her successor in the PCC role. However, Miss Vesey-Thompson said she intended to eventually return to law school and join the criminal bar.

On receiving the panel’s decision, Mrs Townsend commented: “I note with genuine disappointment the recommendation of the panel. Whilst I do not agree with this conclusion, I have carefully considered the points raised by members.”

She added that she had sent a written response to the panel, reaffirming her confidence in Miss Vesey-Thompson undertaking the deputy’s role.

“I have a very broad agenda and Ellie has already been heavily involved across the county,” she said.

“We have a lot of important work ahead. I stood on a commitment to make Surrey safer and put local people’s views at the heart of my policing priorities. I was given a clear mandate to do that by the residents of Surrey. I am delighted to bring Ellie on board to help deliver those promises.”

The police and panel’s decision was made in private and has not yet been released to the press and public.

It is understood that members opposing the appointment said a deputy PCC was not required and that proposed youth engagement work could be done by a staff member, at a smaller salary.

Members also had reservations about Miss Vesey-Thompson’s experience and her ability to take over the PCC role should anything happen to the commissioner.

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