City Hall’s top policing official has provoked fury after she advertised a £75,000 post for a personal assistant.
The salary offer is more than twice the basic pay for a police constable in the capital – and comes with the Metropolitan Police facing budget cuts as the coronavirus crisis bites.
Diana Luchford became chief executive of the Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime (MOPAC) earlier this year, and oversees the Met’s budget.
The Greater London Authority has a £493 million funding black hole over this financial year and the next – and Sadiq Khan has warned police officer numbers will probably fall.
Ms Luchford told the London Assembly’s police and crime committee she came into post “against a backdrop” of budget strain and is “directing resources to the Mayor’s priorities”.
But the new chief executive is offering one lucky candidate between £67,000 and £75,000 to help her day-to-day as a personal assistant.
Challenged on her plans by the committee she refused to withdraw the posting.
The average personal assistant in Britain earns just £25,758, according to data from salary comparison company Payscale.
But MOPAC’s chief executive claimed the role would not be an extra cost for her organisation, because she is leaving other “longstanding vacancies” unfilled and diverting the cash to fund her assistant.
The role is “not a traditional secretary job” and will pay for itself in the benefit to MOPAC “over time”, Ms Luchford claimed.
“On my arrival in this job I immediately identified that the lack of dedicated senior support to me personally was going to be an impediment in terms of me delivering the change that I think is needed,” she said.
“I need somebody dedicated to fully underpin my leadership to maintain strategic oversight, help me join the dots across the organisation and enable me to do the things that the chief executive should do.”
London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, backed Ms Luchford’s decision, emphasising that the new role will be “cost neutral”.
“If this was an additional burden on MOPAC I would be really concerned – but it isn’t,” she said.
“I am content and happy to back Diane as chief executive if she is telling me that what she needs to do her job professionally and in the best way possible is a private secretary role.”
London’s police constables – bobbies on the beat – are paid £34,639 in basic pay on average, according to a Freedom of Information request from September last year.
Sergeants (£43,216), Inspectors (£55,132), Chief Inspectors (£58,958), and Superintendents (£73,528) all earn less than Ms Luchfurd’s personal assistant could be paid.
Only Chief Superintendents, on an average £86,344, and Commanders on £107,531, earn more than the top advertised salary for the role.
And Simon Ovens, the Met Police Superintendents’ Association chairman responsible for senior officers on the force, later revealed that even commanders are not allowed personal assistants – despite overseeing thousands of officers.
“When you’re a borough commander for three boroughs with 2,000 officers, which is bigger than the vast majority of police forces across the whole of the country […] you don’t have any admin support, anyone to look after your diary, and answer the phone,” he said
As a result, commanders are forced to take police off the street to help them out, he claimed.
“We’ve appealed a number of times to have the model changed and it’s felt that borough commanders do not need PA or secretarial support,” he added.
“Luckily it wouldn’t cost £67,000 to have someone in there.”
Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon – who challenged Ms Luchford at the meeting – condemned her decision.
“At this time, when we are facing so many cuts across every bit of the GLA and across the Met, to justify having this executive PA is just not acceptable,” Ms Pidgeon said.
“It shows you don’t really understand the mood of what is going on.”