Sunday, 7 November 2010
Could someone please enlighten us as to exactly what is going on in the financial management of the police forces in England and Wales?
An article in the Telegraph today reports that a study of the 43 constabularies in England and Wales has found that almost half have more than £20million put aside for “rainy days”.
The article states that these findings call into question recent warnings from chief constables that officers and staff will have to be lost because of budget cuts of up to a fifth.
We would go further than that . . .
We would call into question whether the Chief Officers and their financial advisors are fit and capable to occupy their roles, when NOT ONLY have the majority built up empirical profligate fiefdoms with exhorbitant salaries and fiddled bonus schemes that they have fought so hard to protect, but now it transpires that between the 43 forces there is sufficient bank reserves to employ 40,000+ constables at two year service level rates!
Excuse the language, but what the heck is going on ?????
For many months we have stated from these pages that there is a major "deceitful deflection strategy" being employed by some of our most Senior Police Officers. Crime statistics have been fiddled shamelessly, linked to remuneration packages of up to 15% of Chief Officer salaries. Therea May has scrapped the policing pledge (over half of forces have ignored her instruction), and other performance based targets in favour of the eminently sensible single priority of "Cutting Crime". However, the crime and detection statistical reporting process MUST be thoroughly cleansed of its current impurities and "Gaming" practices if any confidence is to be given to statistics produced by senior police officers. Failure to do this will cast doubt over any genuine success that may be achieved in this area.
The list of profligate spending and misallocation of funds on hair brained projects and events such as the ACPO conference is endless and runs into millions.
I know, let's send out the message that we may not be able to prevent frontline job losses as a result of the Government Cuts. That will deflect from what we've been up to! Better still, as ACPO, we can cut out the proper negotiating channels of the Police Negotiating Board and the rank and file representation of the Federation. We'll compile a report that shows how we can slash the frontline overtime and recommend the payscales are reviewed. Tell you what, we'll make sure those interfering Fed boys don't obstruct our plan by sending the proposal directly to the Home Office. By the time we're done, the Government will be so tied up with pay and conditions reviews, they will have forgotten about the millions we're being overpaid and how much we've screwed the system while our mates Tony and Gordon were in charge. They might even overlook our shiny new 4x4 company cars and all those other lovely perks.
A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “Like all public bodies, police forces are obliged to hold reserves against one-off events such as legal challenge. Policing by its nature is exposed to particular unpredictability and risk. It is critical to distinguish between genuine reserves and annual budgets. Most forces will expect to balance budgets at year end. Some forces may opt to build up funds to pay for planned and specific contingencies, in consultation with police authorities, and as such the level of reserves will vary between forces.”
Excuse me for sounding thick . . . . Why can't police forces take out liability insurance like any private sector company does? The premium costs would save millions, freeing up the bank reserves to be offset against cuts.
The Treasury announced last month that central government funding for the police service would decrease by £1.2billion by 2014-15, exactly what is in the police “bank”. Rank and file leaders said that forces must now use some of the reserves — set aside for unforeseen emergencies and insurance payouts — to ensure front line services are saved.
The Metropolitan Police, the country’s largest force, has £250million in reserves. I know it's simplistic, but that would fund or save 9000+ constable positions. The second wealthiest force is Northumbria, with £82million, potentially funding/saving almost 3000 constables. The West Midlands has reserves of £70million equating to 2,500 constables.
Durham Constabulary, where 1,160 civilian workers have been put on notice, has £13 million in reserves equating to 473 coppers.
North Wales Police, which may order 250 officers with 30 years experience to retire over the next four years after enforcing a little-known pensions regulation, has £23 million saved, 838 Constables jobs. Sussex Police, which has gone as far as barring officers from listening to music in their patrol cars to save £23,000 in royalty fees, has £50 million in the bank which would employ/retain 1,821 constables . . . ironic considering it only employs 1,652 constables at present strength!
Paul McKeever, the chairman of the Police Federation which represents rank-and-file officers said: “Reserves are there for rainy days and we have got not just a rainy day but a hurricane force storm going through the police service. Surely if you are going to use those reserves this is the time to use them.” Spot on Paul. If this were the private sector, and those in charge of the purse strings of UK Police PLC had £1.2billion sloshing in a bank account, you can bet that the funds would be used to protect the most valuable resources, in this case, the front line copper.
Meanwhile, senior officers have also warned that the effectiveness of policing across Britain could become a “postcode lottery” because the cuts will fall so unevenly.
WHY? Why is it that no one has looked at this globally? Let's face it, whether the funds come from the Home Office or Council Tax receipts, THIS IS THE TAX PAYERS money we are talking about. Surely there plenty of bean counters within the financial side of the service who could ensure the reserves were allocated as a priority to protect our front line policing? The general public do not want or expect to see diminished police resources, especially where it matters most, in the front line response of policing, those coppers who actually turn out to protect life and property and prevent and detect crime, as opposed to the more dispensable plethora of box ticking auditors.
As well as the wide variations in the amount of reserves held, forces which receive most of their money from the central government, rather than local funding such as council tax, will also suffer disproportionately. They include the constabularies of Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and West Midlands – all of which receive four-fifths of their money direct from the Home Office.
Responding to the concerns, Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, warned of the danger of a “north/south divide” opening up in policing. Isn't it time someone applied some common sense to the allocation of funds? If a force has surplus to its requirements, then those funds should be reallocated to the forces that need them most.
The argument may be simplistic, but perhaps there is a very real danger that it has been allowed to become far too complicated than it need be. Proper due diligence of the financial needs of each force would provide a global solution here. How ridiculous can it be that a force like Sussex has enough reserves to double its strength without blinking whilst other forces are apparently under threat?
This needs looking at urgently.
As we have reported previously, millions if not billions of savings could be made if those in positions of influence have the nerve to take action.
We have commented in detail in our previous reports that the time has come to seriously consider merging police forces. We have suggested that there could be as few as 10 to correspond with the regional areas. Finally, ACPO are being forced to accept this possibility, with Sir Hugh Order conceding that the "overwhelming majority" of chiefs want to talk about merging 43 forces into more regional units.
These chiefs now accept that mergers will save money. The historic problem is that mergers were politically unacceptable to government, allegedly hard to sell to communities and don't sit easily with the plan for locally-elected commissioners.
When a member of the public calls for a police officer, does he/she look at the officers cap badge or insignia and say "Sorry you can't deal with my problem, you're not from my force area" Of course not, all they care about is that a police officer has turned up to help them. It is no more complicated than that, and any other objection to force mergers is pure obfuscation.
Until now, we would hardly expect Chief Officers to support a strategy that might reduce their number by 75% - after all, "Turkeys don't vote for Christmas". Times have changed though, and mergers must now be given serious consideration going forward.
EFFECTIVE USE OF RESOURCES
* 144,000 police officers
* 80,000 staff - cost £2.7 billion
* 17,000 PCSO's - 484 million
* 17% Increase in ACPO ranks 1997 to 2010***
* 16% Increase in SMT ranks 1997 to 2010***
* 11% Increase in PC rank 1997 to 2010***
* Only 11% of warranted officers available for "Visible Policing"
* ACPO and SMT ranks basic salary £230million
*** These figures prompt the question: "In view of there being a 17% increase in ACPO and 16% increase in SMT ranks and only an 11% increase in PC ranks, is there not an argument that there are in fact TOO MANY CHIEFS and an ineffective use of the resources of indians?"
Force by force, there is a top heavy ACPO/SMT and Police Staffing level.
Force by force, there is a disproportionate number of specialist or non visible roles.
The policing cuts debate fundamentally comes down to a balancing act between visible and invisible work. Half a century ago, more than a third of a constabulary's manpower was spent on those foot patrols - nabbing burglars with their swag bags.
Today there are forces that dedicate just 11% of constables to patrols because they have expanded forensic units, intelligence teams and largely invisible public protection work like child abuse, domestic violence and sexual offences.
Given the political and community pressure to protect the "front line", most chief constables are planning to cut specialist units, even though they argue they prove their worth. And many chiefs think the pressure to focus on local "visible" crime will grow if the government's pledge to create elected Police and Crime Commissioners goes through.
But surely that's the point of policing? Dealing with what matters to local people?
The time has come to strip away those roles whose value is doubtful, and there are plenty of them.
The time has come for the rainy day reserves to be used to protect the front line. It's not just raining chaps, it's chucking it down.
The time has come for some tough decisions, the right decisions about how the tax payers money is spent. Locally elected police commissioners may not be popular among ACPO ranks and perhaps we should ask ourselves why.
Could it be that a fiscally wise commissioner might actually apply some common sense to the way our money is spent? Whilst this may expose the weaknesses and activities of our Senior Police Officers and their advisors, perhaps the public would welcome the return of the common sense, back to basics, no frills coppering. Perhaps then, we might actually see the good guys start winning and more of the bad guys being caught and dealt with.
We can but live in hope.
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