The recent resignation of Jason Ablewhite has again exposed the weaknesses in the Conservative approach to local government. They clearly prefer one strong man (and it is usually a man) in charge, as with elected mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners. But when the supposedly strong man breaks for some reason, there is a major problem.
“Having one person at the helm leaves the ship rudderless when they are forced to resign”, says Rupert Moss-Eccardt, who was the Lib Dem candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner in 2016 and 2012. “The Police and Crime Panel will appoint an interim replacement. The appointee won’t have any electoral legitimacy yet will be making decisions that affect us all.”
The date of Mr Ablewhite’s resignation means that a by-election will not be held. If he had resigned just five days earlier then there would have been a by-election.
“I do wonder about the timing of the resignation,” says Rupert. “It seems that members of the Conservative party were told ahead of the announcement. If the announcement has been delayed to avoid a by-election that raises a serious question.”
Whatever happens, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are suffering yet another departure under a cloud from the Conservative-run Office of the PCC.
No details are known of the complaint that triggered the referral to the IOPC. Normally it must be a criminal allegation for it to go to the IOPC without first being considered by a committee of the Police and Crime Panel.
During Mr Ablewhite’s tenure he has been involved in a costly legal battle to wrest control of the Fire Brigade from councillors to himself alone. Last year the PCCs across the country produced a booklet showcasing the best schemes they had supported for crime reduction. Jason was not mentioned.