Policing and politics…

How will the twelve Independent PCCs (typical campaign slogan: ‘keep politics out of policing’) respond to:

this (Birmingham Mail, published today)…

Birmingham Post re Labour PCC plans

and this

Birmingham Post re Labour PCC plans 2

alongside this (my blog, published two weeks ago)…

Bernard blog - seven summer lessons

 

We’ll know later this week, once the Shadow Home Secretary has addressed the Labour Party Conference on Wednesday…

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Some more questions about the newly-appointed South Yorkshire Acting PCC

Yesterday, I blogged some initial questions about the newly-appointed South Yorkshire Acting PCC. Today, this blog with a few more questions.

But first, an acknowledgement: in the greater scheme of things, it matters much more that, on Thursday October 30th, the South Yorkshire electorate are able to elect a new PCC that can bring worried communities together. This PCC will need to help give the people of South Yorkshire confidence that the police and (to the extent also within their remit) other agencies are appropriately discharging their responsibilities – not least on the investigation and prevention of child sexual exploitation.

Some of these new questions are somewhat technical, and others are more fundamental. Whilst they remain unanswered, they cast doubt on the ability of the Office of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) to undertake its duties in accordance with statute. My latest questions:

  • Was there a Confirmation Hearing for the Chief Finance Officer on appointment? Where are the minutes publicly available?
  • Did the PCC take a formal decision to appoint his Chief Finance Officer? Where is the decision publicly published?
  • What advice did the Police and Crime Panel receive on the appointment of the Chief Finance Officer as Acting PCC? How much did this advice cost? Who was it from? What did it say?
  • What consideration did the Panel give of any potential for conflict of interest in the Acting PCC continuing to hold the position of Chief Finance Officer? Did the recognition of the Chief Executive that she was conflicted from taking the Acting PCC role play any part in this consideration?
  • Will the Acting PCC draw salaries and/or benefits from both his new Acting PCC role as well as his existing Chief Finance Role?
  • What further advice (if any) did the Police and Crime Panel seek and receive before offering the Acting PCC role to the Chief Finance Officer?

UPDATE [Saturday 20th September, 10.10am]:

The South Yorkshire OPCC have answered some (but far from all) of these and earlier questions in a statement on their website.

Two more questions (many thanks to @markdpryan for the suggestions):

  • Does the Acting PCC meet all the requirements not to be disqualified as outlined in Section 64-69 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act?
  • Has the Acting PCC taken the PCC’s “Oath of Impartiality”?

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Some questions about the newly-appointed South Yorkshire Acting PCC

The South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel has this morning chosen Steve Pick as its Acting PCC. The Police Reform and Social Responsiblity Act 2011 specifies that:

“The police and crime panel may appoint a person as acting commissioner only if the person is a member of the police and crime commissioner’s staff at the time of the appointment”.

But is Steve Pick a current “member of the police and crime commissioner’s staff”?

The PCC website shows the following organogram (note the post in blue to the right – “Chief Finance and Commissioning Officer” – vacant”):

SYPCC Chief Finance Officer - vacant

 

The papers for the Panel meeting state:

Steve Pick, Section 151 Officer / Treasurer (Chief Finance Officer under the 2011 Act) on a temporary contract, awaiting the imminent appointment of a permanent Chief Finance and Commissioning Officer. Mr Pick has been the Section 151 Officer to the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, since November 2012 (through the South Yorkshire Joint Secretariat arrangements prior to his current temporary contract).

Note that Steve Pick has been on a “temporary contract” since November 2012. I can find no reference within the PCC’s declared decisions of this temporary contract, nor any payments recorded within the OPCC finance declarations.

It may be that Steve Pick IS an employee of the OPCC (albeit on a lengthy “temporary contract”) – but then why does the organogram show the post as “vacant”, rather than “temporary appointment” or similar?

Odd.

UPDATE [Thursday 18th September, 2.10pm]: My thanks to @TheRealSYP for drawing my attention to this information. According to an earlier Freedom of Information request reply from South Yorkshire OPCC, Steve Pick is:

employed by South Yorkshire Joint Secretariat (SYJS), which is a department of Barnsley Council.

I’m increasingly concerned that Steve Pick may prove not to be eligible for selection as Acting PCC. Indeed, as the FoI response states that many (all?) of the staff in the OPCC are employed by SYJS, could it be that there is NOBODY eligible to be selected as Acting PCC?

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South Yorkshire PCC by-election: first thoughts

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright, has, half an hour ago this morning, announced his resignation. This follows several weeks of pressure on him to resign.

What happens next? The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 provides the relevant legislation. There needs to be a by-election within 35 days of the Police Area Returning Officer being notified of a vacancy – so, assuming a) the Returning Officer is notified of a vacancy today; b) the election takes place on the latest possible Thursday, then…

The South Yorkshire PCC by-election is likely to be held on Thursday 16th October. 

[UPDATE: Thursday 16th September, 1pm]: though note Section 73 of the Police Reform Act 2011 may extend that, by allowing 35 BUSINESS days – i.e. the by-election, on this amended calculation, to be held before Tuesday 4th November.

South Yorkshire was, at the time of the first PCC elections in November 2012, one of the safest Labour PCC seats.

I’ve just heard local MP John Mann on BBC Radio Sheffield stating that he’s already emailed former Home Secretary David Blunkett (also a South Yorkshire MP) to suggest he put himself forward as a candidate at this by-election. Things have moved on quite considerably since my blog two weeks ago (i.e. well before Shaun Wright’s resignation) about possible candidates.

I’ll add to this blog (and probably create further blogs) on this topic in due course…

UPDATE [Tuesday 16th September, 11.10am]: Worth noting that, if David Blunkett ran as a South Yorkshire PCC candidate, he’d need to resign as an MP.

UPDATE [Tuesday 16th September, 11.50am]: The Police and Crime Panel will need to appoint an Acting PCC – the relevant legislation specifies that (in the absence of a Deputy PCC – Tracey Cheetham, the former Deputy PCC resigned two weeks ago):

The police and crime panel may appoint a person as acting commissioner only if the person is a member of the police and crime commissioner’s staff at the time of the appointment.

The current OPCC Chief Executive is Michelle Buttery (though remarkably this appears not to be mentioned on the South Yorkshire OPCC website). She will be exercising delegated authority for the time being. The Police and Crime Panel may in due course confirm her as Acting PCC until a new PCC is elected.

UPDATE [Tuesday 16th September, 11.50am]: David Blunkett has told BBC Radio Sheffield that he will not put his name forward for the South Yorkshire PCC election.

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PCCs and innovation: a work in progress

A couple of months ago, CoPaCC published a thematic examining “PCCs and Innovation”. This was the third thematic in a series examining how well PCCs are performing in their six key areas of responsibility – namely innovation, transparency, governance, partnership, commissioning and public engagement. As is CoPaCC’s custom, this thematic has now been accompanied by CoPaCC’s announcement of a number of “PCCs and Innovation” Awards.

As CoPaCC’s chief executive, I led the analysis determining which OPCCs (Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner) would receive these awards. This decision was guided by comments from amongst the 16 organisations and individuals who also contributed to the CoPaCC “PCCs and Innovation” Thematic. This blog is intended to provide a little more information on the process we followed, and the conclusions we drew.

Every one of the 41 OPCCs, plus their London equivalent MOPAC (the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime) were originally invited, approximately six weeks before publication, to contribute to the Thematic. Eleven OPCCs responded, with one apologising for not having time to provide a submission and the remaining ten making a submission.. It’s of note that seventeen OPCCs responded to a similar invitation to contribute to an earlier CoPaCC “PCCs and Public Engagement” Thematic. There are a number of possible reasons for this lower response rate. Based on conversations with PCCs and OPCC staff, we believe that this lower response is at least partly down to PCCs (and their offices) being less instinctively comfortable with “innovation” than they are with “public engagement”.

As was made clear to PCCs and OPCCs, CoPaCC has selected its “PCCs and Innovation” Award-winners from amongst the submissions that were made to us. We know full well that there are many other examples of PCCs and Innovation, some of them recognised in the Home Office’s own Innovation Fund Awards, and in the Ministry of Justice’s Victim Services Awards. These Home Office and Ministry of Justice awards required PCCs and OPCCs to submit a “bid”: the CoPaCC “PCCs and Innovation” Awards also required PCCs to submit their entry.

In assessing the ten entries, we were looking for evidence within the PCC submissions of the good practice set out in the Thematic – for example: evidence of “Targeting, testing, tracking” espoused in the CoPaCC Thematic by Peter Neyroud of the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology; evidence that the innovation was delivering (even if at a very early stage) desired outcomes; and/or evidence of “real innovation” rather than either a continuation of what had already been happening or something that all PCCs were pursuing.

I’ll say more about our analysis once the Awards have been announced tomorrow (Friday) morning – so, as with PCCs and innovation, this blog is a “work in progress”…

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Has HMIC lost sight of its own ‘core business’?

This article was first published in Police Professional, 11th September 2014

Has HMIC lost sight of its own “Core Business”?

Last week, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary published “Core Business”, an inspection into crime prevention, police attendance and the use of police time. It’s a substantial document of over 150 pages, with some important insights into areas such as preventive policing, regional and local variations in policing processes, and partnership working.

But there is much in the document and accompanying press release to suggest that HMIC is at risk of losing sight of its own “core business”. The Inspectorate’s report seeks to instruct – outside its remit – rather than simply inform. Nowhere does it consider the impact on force “core business” of the considerable demands HMIC itself places on forces. And, perhaps most remarkably at a time of tight policing budgets, the report is almost completely devoid of any financial or cost benefit analysis.

The day before HMIC published “Core Business”, the Home Secretary delivered a speech entitled “Lessons of police reform” at a Reform think tank event, which provides some useful political and legislative context. In it, she drew attention to the 2002 Police Reform Act, which had previously required a Home Secretary, at the beginning of each financial year, to prepare a “National Policing Plan”. The Act specified that a National Policing Plan must set out “the strategic policing priorities generally for the … police areas in England and Wales for the period of three years beginning with that year”. “That was, of course, complete nonsense”, Theresa May said. She went on: “it couldn’t be further removed from the approach we have taken to police reform in the Home Office since May 2010”. She characterised policing as previously run by an “unaccountable, centralised, corporatist system of governance, known as the tripartite”, made up of the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Association of Police Authorities (APA).

The APA is now gone and ACPO is going. The Home Office’s focus is now on three areas: its relationship with the National Crime Agency; making sure that national systems such as the Police National Computer work effectively; and, in Theresa May’s words, “developing genuine knowledge and harnessing existing expertise on matters of crime and policing”. Police forces have been made accountable to their local communities, the Home Secretary said, “through beat meetings, crime maps and elected police and crime commissioners”. It’s clear that the Home Secretary expects PCCs to work with chief constables in providing the direction for forces, and that indeed is the current legislative position.

So, what is HMIC’s place in this revised landscape? Reflecting its statutory position, its own website states that HMIC “independently assesses police forces and policing across activity from neighbourhood teams to serious crime and the fight against terrorism – in the public interest”. It states “HM Inspectors have powers to seek information from police forces”, and notes that “HMIC reports to Parliament on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces in England and Wales”.

This latest “Core Business” inspection has lost sight of much of this.

Firstly, the Inspectorate’s report seeks to direct – outside its remit – rather than simply inform. This is most vividly illustrated in its inclusion of forty “recommendations”. These are accompanied by very tight timescales for forces to implement associated actions. The Inspectorate seeks to direct forces, neither acknowledging nor recognising that it is for Police and Crime Commissioners, consulting with their respective Chief Constables, to decide the strategic approach that each force should adopt.

The HMIC recommendations are themselves unaccompanied by any consideration of the financial or operational impact on forces of their implementation. Of even greater concern – very few of the recommendations themselves are associated with detailed, evidence-based financial and cost-benefit analysis in their support.

And finally, nowhere does HMIC consider the impact on force “core business” of HMIC’s own inspection regime. These HMIC demands place a very significant burden on forces. Whilst HMIC are within their statutory remit to make these demands, should their inspection report at least acknowledge that these place a substantial obligation on “police use of time”? From figures provided to me, it appears very broadly that forces across England and Wales need to set aside resources equivalent to at least 450 full time police officers to meet these HMIC demands. Should HMIC not have at least acknowledged and examined this in its Inspection? I would be very interested to see detailed figures for this HMIC burden on forces – as, I suspect, would many others.

CoPaCC, the organisation for which I am chief executive, has a very clear philosophy: we work hard to identify and communicate good practice through independent, objective and evidence-based analysis. Though CoPaCC is a relatively new and still-developing organisation, I personally have worked as an independent policing strategist for well over twenty years. I therefore know that HMIC has a long history of producing some excellent independent, objective and evidence-based reports. Unfortunately, this latest HMIC report does not generate confidence that it meets this necessarily high standard.

HMIC’s statutory independence means that it answers not to the Home Secretary, nor to PCCs or Chief Constables, but to Parliament. I hope that HMIC will find time to respond to the concerns that I have set out in this short article. If it does not, I hope that Parliament will in due course ask similar questions of HMIC.

Bernard Rix is the Chief Executive of CoPaCC, the independent body monitoring policing governance across England and Wales

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Updated figures for HMIC’s burden on forces: 1900 fewer “front line officers”

I published a blog yesterday, claiming that “HMIC’s burden on forces: 450 fewer ‘front line officers’“. In the blog, I recognised that I was using partial data, and that to arrive at a figure closer to the real loss, the cost of running HMIC needed to be added to the costs HMIC imposed on forces.

Jeff Harris, Surrey Deputy PCC, has now provided some additional information. For the “top slice” from Surrey set aside for HMIC additional running costs, he has tweeted:

Jeff Harris re precept

Note: this is not Surrey’s part of the FULL cost of running HMIC, it’s just the ADDITIONAL amount top-sliced this year. So even this updated calculation won’t represent HMIC’s full cost on policing. [though see UPDATE below]

Surrey is one of 43 forces in England and Wales, and accounts for approximately 1.5% of the country (i.e. 1970 Surrey Police officers out of 129,584 nationally). So a contribution of £1.1 million from Surrey would pro-rata to a national contribution of £72.4 million.

Add that to the £22.5 million calculation from my earlier blog produces an “HMIC burden” on forces of at least £94.9 million. Using a “back-of-envelope” cost of £50,000 per police officer per year (their salary plus relevant on-costs), that suggests that HMIC’s inspections are the equivalent of 1900 police officers per year rather than my earlier figure of 450 police officers per year.

Put another way, on these figures HMIC’s inspection regime currently prevents 1900 officers from performing “front line duties”. On average, around 44 police officers per force. The impact on a large force like the Metropolitan Police is even greater: around 38o Metropolitan Police officers lost to London front line duties through the “HMIC burden”.

As always, comments welcomed – particularly if you can help improve on the accuracy of this data.

UPDATE [Friday 5th September 2014, 3.30pm]: Jeff Harris has tweeted as follows – note this would suggest that the “HMIC burden” actually lies somewhere between 450 and 1900 police officers per year. It will have to remain, for the moment, as a broad range – until, perhaps, HMIC can provide us with the actual figures?

Jeff Harris re precept 2

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