WEST Mercia’s police and crime commissioner has defended his proposal to appoint a £50,000-a-year deputy as “absolutely necessary” after coming under fire from politicians.

Bill Longmore wants to appoint his campaign assistant Barrie Sheldon to the unelected deputy police and crime commissioner role.

Conservative Wyre Forest district councillor John Campion, who represents the district on the police and crime panel, told Mr Longmore at a meeting of the scrutiny body yesterday there would be “accusations of cronyism”.

Mr Longmore, on £75,000-a-year, said there was “no way” he could do justice to the more than one million people in “a huge area” on his own.

“I have no doubt a deputy is needed,” he said. “The Government has set significant objectives that PCCs need to achieve in a very short space of time. These include producing the policing plan and working with the chief constable to set the precept.

“I would reassure residents of West Mercia that I would not make this appointment if I did not feel it was absolutely necessary to ensure I do the best job possible during my time in office.”

Following the meeting, Mr Campion told The Shuttle: “All through the election process he never mentioned a deputy.

“His first major decision us to choose to appoint one of his friends as a £50,000-a-year deputy and he needs to justify that.”

Mr Campion added he felt Mr Longmore’s answers to questions on “a range of subjects” at yesterday’s meetings were “very poor”.

Mid-Worcestershire Conservative MP Peter Luff said: “I am sorry but he has squandered his credibility by appointing a deputy who is a friend.

“I do not believe having a deputy is necessary to the job. If he wants to make a case he is free to do so but he needs to look for the best candidate.”

Mr Luff, who employs his wife as his secretary, said: “She is not my deputy, I need a secretary. Mr Longmore has created a job that is not needed and given it to a friend.”

Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier said: “If he can justify this is going to benefit and help West Mercia residents it is fair enough but if he finds it difficult to justify, he needs to think again.”

Mr Longmore, who makes the final decision, said he would consider recommendations from the police crime panel.