Cheshire Police Commissioner John Dwyer and deputy David McNeilage (1)

Cheshire’s police and crime panel has asked for clarification of the deputy commissioner’s role after no-one stood in for the commissioner at an official meeting to answer questions about policing, writes Belinda Ryan.

Police and Crime Commissioner John Dwyer was unable to attend a meeting of the police and crime panel because he was ill on Friday.

It meant there was no one to answer questions from the cross-party panel – whose job is to scrutinise the work of the police commissioner’s office.

Some members wanted to know why deputy commissioner David McNeilage did not attend – and one said she had never met him.

Co-optee Yasmin Somani said she would be interested to hear the panel’s thoughts on “why the deputy isn’t here today to answer questions on behalf of the commissioner, given that that role has been held up as an important role in that office”.

“It would have been a good opportunity for the deputy to make himself known and have his voice heard,” she said.

“We’re yet to hear anything from him, I am anyway. I’ve had no engagement from him whatsoever.”

Cheshire East Council (CEC) officer Martin Smith added: “We only found out a couple of days ago that, unfortunately, the commissioner couldn’t come because of illness.

“When I spoke to his office, I was advised that unfortunately, because of the short notice, the deputy commissioner wasn’t able to attend.”

Cllr Laura Jeuda (CEC, Lab) suggested the deputy should pencil the meeting dates in his diary so he could deputise if necessary.

“Would it not be a good idea for the deputy commissioner to be on call, or it would even be good to meet him at one of these meetings,” she said.

“So if he could pencil the dates in his diary, just in case anything like this happens again, we would be able to ask those questions of him.”

Co-optee Sally Hardwick said: “I do think we need some clarification on the role of the deputy to the crime commissioner.

“I really do think he’s being paid well, and I do think we need some clarification as to when he steps in to undertake the role because he’s been in post for almost a year now and, really, this should have been sorted with his terms of reference.”

Today, Mr Dwyer hit back and criticised the comments and social media remarks.

In a letter to panel chair Evan Morris, Mr Dwyer said he had asked to attend the meeting remotely as he had Covid, but his office was told this was not possible because of technology set up at Winsford.

Mr Dwyer said: “I understand my office was again contacted via the panel secretariat on Thursday afternoon, less than 24 hours prior to the panel meeting, to enquire whether my deputy could attend in my absence. My office correctly advised this would not be possible due to my deputy having a pre-existing commitment.

“Nevertheless, it would appear that a number of panel members offered comment at the panel meeting, suggesting my deputy should have been in attendance and there has been no engagement with the panel since his appointment. The panel subsequently sought to question the role of my deputy, which is unfortunate.

“The decision by some panel members to question the role of my deputy and suggest there has been no engagement is extremely disappointing and, with respect, unacceptable.”

He said his office had sent an email to the panel officer in February, explaining that should any panel member wish to meet with the deputy, they should contact him directly via email to arrange a meeting.

“My deputy remains committed to meeting with panel members should they wish to do so, but it is apparent that no request has been made by any panel member,” Mr Dwyer said.

“The panel’s main function is to review or scrutinise decisions made, or other action taken, by me in my role as police and crime commissioner and in connection with the discharge of my functions.

“Although permitted within legislation, I do not believe it would be appropriate for the panel to scrutinise my deputy in my absence for this reason.

“Whilst I remain fully committed to attending panel meetings, I would request that where exceptional circumstances prevent my attendance in the future – such as Covid-19 or other illness – the panel implements its own rules of procedure and an alternative date for my attendance is arranged.

“That said, should I be unable to attend any future panel meeting, I will ensure my deputy is available to attend in my absence should this be the wish of the panel.”

Mr Dwyer’s full letter can be read here https://www.cheshire-pcc.gov.uk/SysSiteAssets/media/downloads/what-the-commissioner-does/scrutiny/police-and-crime-panel/2022-23/20220627-letter-to-mr-morris.pdf

Mr Dwyer was questioned at a meeting of the police and crime panel last year after giving his deputy a 33% pay rise.

Mr McNeilage ‘s salary rose from £38,250 when he was appointed in June 2021 to £51,000 in November.

Mr Dwyer later told a meeting of Middlewich Town Council he had made a mistake when initially calculating the salary for the role.

He said he calculated in May, when he took up office, that the job he wanted the deputy to do would be equivalent to half of his own salary.

3 Comments

  1. The Observer says:

    Can anybody tell me what a difference it has made having these two posts, do they make 150k (wages) difference to the community. Without them another 5 or 6 specials could be employed.

  2. Chris Moorhouse says:

    Having now seen the PCC’s comments it is hoped that Panel Members would comment further via this medium so the public are aware of their thoughts. Thank you.

  3. Chris Moorhouse says:

    Can the PCC please given an explanation why his Deputy was not able to attend. It does seem a poor management style that the Deputy has it appears, not attended a meeting. Answers please.

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