THE controversial appointment of a Dromore ward Sinn Fein Councillor as an independent member of Banbridge’s Policing and Community Safety Partnership defies the intent of – but does not breach – the relevant Code of Practice.
That, in a nutshell, was the Departmental response to Banbridge Ulster Unionist Councillor Glenn Barr’s challenge to Paul Gribben’s recent appointment to the local PCSP, a body born of a merger between the pre-existing District Policing Partnership and Community Safety Partnership.
Mr. Gribben’s successful application – in which he openly declared his political affiliation and status – effectively doubles his party’s representation on Banbridge PCSP, on which he sits with party colleague and fellow local Councillor Brendan Curran, one of a number of ‘political’ appointees.
The appointment prompted criticism among those who argue that Mr. Gribben plainly cannot lay claim to any significant degree of independence.
Among those to protest, Mr. Barr last month wrote to the Department to air his concerns.
In its response, the Department said, “While political members are nominated by their Council, independent members apply for a PCSP in their own right and are selected through a separate process run by the Policing Board.
“They are appointed as representatives of the community rather than the Council. This was the case with the councillor you refer to in your correspondence. “You also refer to the Department’s Code of Practice for the appointment of independent members to PCSPs; specifically the requirement for the Board to consider the appropriateness of appointing a politician as an independent member, taking into account, among other things, the overall skill mix and representativeness of the PCSP.
“In making this appointment, the Policing Board has not breached this aspect of the Code. The Impartial Assessor, who oversaw the appointments process, has also confirmed that the process was carried out in line with the Code. “However, it is fair to say that the intent of the Code was that councillors should not normally be appointed as independent members. This is something we will look at in greater detail as part of a broader review of the Code.”