Monday, 29 November 2010

THIN BLUE LINE ON THE BBC POLITICS SHOW



Here is the BBC Politics Show, which aired on Sunday 21st November, discussing the cuts facing police forces in England and Wales. We were contacted by the BBC earlier in the week to ask if we would contribute to the program, which featured Chris Sims, the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Force, responding to questions about the cuts. To see what we had to say, click play above.


To see our article about the program click here or the link below:

http://thinbluelineuk.blogspot.com/2010/11/thin-blue-line-on-bbc-today.html

"If more money did not lead to more effective policing, it cannot be the case that less money will make it less so." Aidan Burley MP

The newly-elected Conservative MP for Cannock Chase in Staffordshire was speaking during a recent Commons debate about the impact of the public spending cuts in general, and the ability of the police to cut crime in particular.



For further reading, visit Patrick Burns (Politics Show) blog article below.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/patrickburns/2010/11/policing_after_the_cuts_what_p.html

Sunday, 21 November 2010

THIN BLUE LINE ON THE BBC TODAY



The BBC Politics Show, which aired today, discussed the cuts facing police forces in England and Wales. We were contacted by the BBC earlier in the week to ask if we would contribute to the program, which featured Chris Sims, the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Force, responding to questions about the cuts. To see what we had to say, click the link above to the BBC iplayer which will be live for around 7 days, or click here.

The BBC put together a lengthy piece on policing, so as you might expect, our contribution that appeared was somewhat shorter than was actually filmed.  

We were prepared to comment on any of the issues we have published on this site, however the BBC were attracted by our previous tagline "Too Many Chiefs" and indeed, this was used as part of their introduction to the feature.

Chris Sims answered questions about collaborative procurement of services, staffing levels and and force strutures. We were particularly pleased to hear him echo recent murmerings that Chief Officers are viewing positively the future possibilities of force mergers and regionalising forces. The sad fact though, is that despite the billions in potential savings from regional procurement, protecting frontline resources and increased efficiencies, the Government, as with previous administrations, have no apparent hunger for this option.

The reason is clear.

The Conservatives decided on the Locally Elected Commissioner strategy long before the election. In previous Government think tank reports, the regional policing concept was shelved on the basis that it would diminish the effects of localised policing. We disagree with this conclusion. When a member of the public calls the police, they don't look at a cap badge or insignia and refuse to be assisted because the officer isn't from their recognised force. Members of the public see a police officer, end of. The way BCU's are structured in forces, localised policing could remain unaffected by the overlaying of regional forces with all the associated benefits. Her Majesties Inspector of Constabulary have stated that upwards of £2.25billion in savings could be achieved by effective regionalisation.

However, the Government have set its heart on 43 Elected Commissioners being appointed to replace the existing police authorities, so regional police forces seem some way off. We're not entirely sure this has been well thought out. As our previous reports have shown, 10 regional forces as opposed to 43 at present, would bring major benefits:- 
  • The ACPO and SMT ranks could be reduced by as much as 75% (Basic salary costs are in the region of £230million)
  • 10 regional HR departments (or even 1 central unit) would shave thousands of duplicated police staff roles, save millions and prevent the necessity for front line cuts. (Police staff costs were in the region of £2.6billion in 2009/10). This could be repeated for IT and other departments.
  • 10 regional forces could save millions on an ongoing basis through centralised procurement of uniform, vehicles and other non staffing services. (Forces currently spend £2.7billion per year on non staffing costs).
  • 10 regional forces would enable the more appropriate allocation of the reserve funds in force bank accounts (see previous article) amounting to £1.2billion which is coincidentally the amount forces are being asked to shave off their budget.
  • 10 regional forces would require only 10 Locally Elected Police Commissioners instead of 43. Perhaps someone from the Government would explain why this rationale seems to have been overlooked or ignored? Or perhaps there are local authority jobs that are being protected rather than ensuring front line resources are ring fenced?  
The pressures Chief Constables are under to deliver the Government cuts, is we fear, creating a somewhat short sighted approach. Without a more long term perspective that would save many millions or billions more, Chief Officers are forced to be parochial and consider only their own forces and how they will meet the Government demands. This could indeed have disasterous consequences to essential services, unecessarily in our view.

Perhaps this is a consequence of the 5 year administration system that compels a Government to want to be seen to be achieving something within that period, rather than implementing a longer term strategy that would be more effective?

Chief Officers with little or nothing to fear from the increased scrutiny of LEC's would no doubt welcome them. many though, will resist this course for fear it will throw the spotlight onto other mismanagement faux pas and activities we have highlighted from these pages. If Chris Sims is as pragmatic and visonary as his interview suggests, he is one such officer that should have little to fear from LEC's.

PARTS OF OUR FILMING, INTERVIEW AND RESEARCH THEY DIDN'T SHOW . . .

We commented:-
  • From 1997 through to 2010, ACPO and SMT ranks increased by 16%
  • Basic salaries alone for these ranks cost in excess of £230million
  • Perks for these officers, bonuses, luxury vehicles etc amount to millions more
  • Over the same period, the constable rank increased by only 11%
  • Hence our strapline "Too Many Chiefs" - Turkeys don't vote for Christmas, so don't expect too much movement instigated by Chief Officers whose future may be in doubt.
  • 43 police forces have £1.2billion in "rainy day" reserves - it's pouring down now chaps, use some of it please.
  • STOP the scandal of paying £2.2million (2009/10) in Chief Officer bonuses
  • STOP Chief and Senior Officers "Cooking the books" of crime statistics and detections. The game is up. We know the "Gaming" strategies that have been employed to reflect decreased crime and increased detections and that many have received thousands in bonus payments as a result. This practice serves no-one and only results in false efficiencies that impact on the budgets allocated. It is deceiving the tax paying public and infuriating the officers you force to implement such strategies. Bonuses paid on this basis are devisive and massively erode public and rank and file confidence. STOP IT NOW.
  • Of the 144,000 or so warranted officers, only 10% are publicly visible. Internal roles must be scrutinised to asses the true value they provide, and if what contribution they make to the fundamentals of policing and the Government objective of "Cutting Crime".
  • 80,000 police staff and 16,900 PCSO's cost around £2.6billion and 484million respectively. Cut these areas first before the essential rank and file officers.
Chief Officers will tell us that 80% of force budgets are eaten up with manpower, so this is where the cuts will be deepest. The top performing Chief Officers know who they are. If they were to present their case for regionalised/merged forces to the Government, the common sense of increased efficiencies and huge potential savings, would make such a proposal difficult to ignore. But hey, since when has bucket loads of common sense been allowed to get in the way of knee jerk decison making? There is a huge difference between "doing the thing right" and "doing the right thing". The choices and decisions being forced upon Chief Constables may result in them doing the thing right, but if political pressure and restraint means they are doing the "Wrong Thing" pretty well, it's a poor compensation for the unecessary loss of essential services. 

If the Government do not have the hunger for regional forces, it is up to the Chief Officers to create that hunger. Show some vision and courage chaps, protect the frontline above all else and watch the morale, efficiency and confidence return. 

Monday, 15 November 2010

TOP COP PAY & BONUS SCANDAL - CHIEFS STILL RECEIVE £2.2MILLION IN BONUSES

In December 2009, we wrote about how the Chief Police Officers were riding the gravy train of exhorbitant bonuses. This is despite many of them already receiving basic salaries that exceed that of the Prime Minister.

If the article in todays Daily Mail is correct, many of these officers are continuing to show a flagrant disregard for the present economic climate. This will widen still further the divide between the Chiefs and the rank and file and looks set to create a furious backlash from frontline officers, the media, Government ministers and the general public alike.

What is truly sickening, is that these same officers will happily screw the system for all its worth, and yet will not protect the 143,000 rank and file officers who protect the public in all hours and in all weather, day in day out. They proved their disregard and disloyalty toward their fellow officers when ACPO secretly delivered a document to the Home Office containing 39 recommendations to rip apart the pay and conditions of the federated ranks, without reference to the police federation or other members of the proper pay negotiating board.

In the last three years more than £2.2million has been paid in bonuses to chief constables, their deputies and assistants, new figures show.

Northumbria Police acting chief constable Sue Sim netted the biggest payout to any serving officer this year. More than £33,000 was paid out to the top officer, who faced criticism over the handling of the Raoul Moat investigation.

The latest figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show that some officers have even seen their bonuses increase during the recession.

At Merseyside Police, chief officers received £45,192 this year - up from £33,714 the previous year. The payments included £22,178 to Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe, who retired earlier this year.

The bumper bonuses at a time when forces are facing hugh cutbacks has provoked fury amongst rank and file officers. Police chiefs have also been blasted by their own association for accepting performance-related pay.

Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation for England and Wales, said: 'We have been opposed to bonuses from the start. Bonuses for chief constables are unpopular with our members but they they are also unpopular with the public. These bonuses are being paid at a time when forces are facing cuts of 20 per cent and some frontline officers are effectively facing redundancy.'

In Northumbria, the figures, which relate to payments made in the financial year of 2009-2010 for the previous year's work, show that more than £500,000 was paid out to top officers this year on top of their wages. That compares to £700,000 in 2008.

At North Wales Police, chief officers' bonuses have almost doubled from £24,045 three years ago to £42,342 last year. That include £17,515 paid to former Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom.

At Cleveland, chief officers received £49,000, including £20,000 paid to Chief Constable Sean Price, who earns a salary of £130,000.

Durham Police Chief Constable Jon Stoddart received £18,765.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson has reportedly turned down more than £100,000 in bonuses since 2005. We can't help but wonder if he was actually offered twenty five grand a year? If so, is it documented or is this a calculation based on his basic salary?

However, five chief officers at Northumberland Police have reportedly shared £115,000 between them. More than 500 senior officers receive payments for targets worth a reported £1.5m per year.

Amid growing anger over bonus payments in the public sector, the most recent FOI figures disclose that performance bonuses for superintendents, who earn around £70,000 a year, are worth an annual £2.5 million and have risen by 70 per cent since 2007 in some forces.

Although many chief constables, their deputies and assistants are now refusing to accept their bonuses, half are still receiving an average £11,000 based on their performance, the figures show.

Five chief officers at Northumbria Police shared performance-related bonuses last year of £115,500.

In neighbouring Durham, one chief picked up an £18,700 bonus in 2009-10; in South Wales another received £14,300, and in South Yorkshire four senior officers shared £69,000.

Despite Sir Paul Stephenson telling The Daily Telegraph in May that all types of police bonus should be scrapped to prove that officers were motivated solely by their duty to serve the public, according to the 2009-10 figures, the Met remains one of the worst offenders for paying bonuses at a senior level.

Superintendents and chief superintendents who earn a performance-related bonus receive, on average, £3,000 a year on top of their salary of £62,000 to £78,000. In the Met, Britain’s largest force, 136 of the highly ranked officers shared £567,000 in bonuses – a 70 per cent rise since 2007-8.

"All that's necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke (British Statesman and Philosopher 1729-1797)


Are they already being paid too much?

We have previously reported that there are TOO MANY POLICE CHIEFS as it is. Their basic salary levels are questionable, and the continuance of these scandalous bonus payments is an outrage and an insult, both to serving rank and file officers and to the tax paying public.

This is serious.

It is these very same Chief Officers who must assume responsibility for the mis management of resources that has resulted in a mere 10% of warranted officers providing a visible policing presence.

Whilst this top heavy, self serving boys club oligarchy of ACPO officers are allowed to continue this practice, it is killing the morale of officers who really make a difference, those who actually police our streets and protect us.  

It is abundantly clear that the ACPO ranks have practised a clever "deflection strategy" over recent months. In fear that their perks and scurrilous acts would be discovered, knowing that it was likely that a new Government would be elected earlier in the year, they set out to deflect attention away from themselves, onto the rank and file with numerous "deflections". 

We can only hope that this whole fiasco is exposed and sorted before the elected commissioners arrive.
 
 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

POLICE FORCES HAVE ENOUGH CASH IN RESERVE TO EMPLOY 40,000+ CONSTABLES!


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. 

FORCE MERGERS

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. 

POLICE MAGAZINE FEATURES THE THIN BLUE LINE


Following our recent articles summarising the responses from the police pay and conditions review, we were delighted to be asked to contribute to the November issue of the Police Federation magazine "Police".

The independent review of pay and conditions of service for police officers and staff began on 1 October 2010 with the opportunity for officers and staff to voice their views and concerns up until 29th October 2010. The deadline has now passed and we have collected all the comments which will be available on these pages shortly. A massive 7,102 comments were received in response to the seven questions asked on the Home Office site http://review.police.uk/index.php

To read our article in the Police magazine click here.

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