Ken Maddock today signalled that he will be stepping down as Leader of Somerset County Council. He will be concentrating on trying to become the first elected Commissioner of Police at Avon & Somerset Constabulary. I have to confess that when I first heard about the concept of elected Police Commissioners, I hadn’t realised that the posts would be bid for by political parties. They do enough damage at our local councils without politicising the Police Service too. It’s time that out local public institutions were run by people elected to do their best for their constituents, not to deliver an ideological package of politically-motivated policies.
Let’s look at Ken’s record. In 2011, he proposed cutting all funding to highways maintenance for three years, despite knowing that for every £1 this would save, it would cause a maintenance backlog of £7 after 3 years. His Cabinet Member for Highways resigned in protest at the time, saying that the policy would kill people. Central Government took such fright at this prospect that it opted to force local Councils to spend a dedicated pot of money on highways maintenance. Maddock went on to cut all funding to the arts in Somerset. “Well, that’s not a core part of Council functions,” some will say. No, but economic development is, and in cutting arts funding Maddock directly lost massive match funding from other sources, estimated as £15 for each £1 of Council funding. This has led to the direct loss of many hundreds of thousands of pounds to the County. Maddock also wasted £70,000 in his illegal attempt to close Somerset libraries. It’s not a great record, is it?
He promises, as Police Commissioner, to “listen to people and consult with them”. If his handling of the sale of public land in the Quantocks is anything to go by, this will turn out to be an entirely hollow promise. Here he has ignored 50,000 signatures on a petition and not even bothered to respond to objectors after promising to do so. Some listening skills, Ken!
And why stand down now? The elections are not until November and he hasn’t even secured his party’s nomination yet. It would be normal for candidates to remain in their posts until a few months before the elections. His announcement of intent to seek the Police nomination looks more like a fig leaf to cover the fact that he’s been forced out.
It’s hard to see how an extremist like Maddock is likely to bring improvements to our Police service and I’ll be urging people not to vote for him. Who knows? Maybe the Conservatives will see what a liability he is and fail to select him as their candidate……