This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What makes a great PCCCV?

The 'Choose my PCC' website has offered the candidates their opportunity to display proudly their credentials and plans for policing and crime were they to be elected. Some have grasped the nettle and produced some quite detailed plans and with only a minimal nod to their past experience (see Mr Simmonds, Tory candidate for Northamptonshire or Ms Rogers, Labour candidate for Dorset). Others have placed more emphasis upon the direct experience that they bring (see Ms Rayment, Labour candidate for Hampshire or Mr Alston, Tory candidate for Essex).

Some, as I have indicated below, just seem to have missed the point entirely (yes I am talking about you again Mr Passmore, Tory candidate for Suffolk) for whom I recommend this website: how to write a successful CV.

And then I stumble across Mr Ashton (Tory candidate for Lancashire) who says on his own website "When I left I joined the family business and grew Ashton Garden Centre to one of the best in the Fylde.  After selling the business, to concentrate on my council service, I started part time work as an inspector for the Royal Horticultural Society"

And then there is this clipping I found in a local newspaper:

A GARDEN centre, which fell victim to the credit crunch, could become a site for new homes. The owner of Ashton Nurseries in Lytham, which closed earlier this year, has been granted permission to build a residential complex of between 10 and 13 homes, on the Mythop Road site. Tim Ashton, who owns the garden centre, blamed increased competition from other garden centres and the recession for closure of the nursery. Mr Ashton said: "The reason we had to close was probably a mixture of increased competition and the economy making it difficult to run the business."

So now I am confused. Perhaps Mr Ashton might like to clear matters up as these two statements do not seem compatible. But perhaps I am missing some of the subtlety?

An extraordinary allegation (UPDATED...)

I have mentioned this below but I have now had a chance to review the webcast recording of the event in Aylesbury where Anthony Stansfeld made an extraordinary allegation. You can watch what he says by going here and scrolling through to 1 hour 42 minutes in. You will hear my colleague Labour Cllr Michael Beall ask a question and then Cllr Stansfeld's response.

Amongst his remarks he says:
"and you've gone through my bank accounts and expense claims in huge detail and I know that.."
I am really not sure how Cllr Stansfeld thinks I have the power to trawl through his bank account in 'huge detail' (which I assume would also be an illegal act were I have to have done it). But I can confirm here that I have neither gone through his bank accounts nor his expenses at all.

Now I would like Cllr Stansfeld to retract that statement and offer me an apology. He has the opportunity to do that below and I will happily print his statement. We can all make mistakes in the heat of the moment, and I would be prepared to forgive this one.

However, if he fails to acknowledge my objection to his public allegation, then I may have to reconsider my first reaction in the post below.

UPDATE (1/11/12): Late yesterday afternoon, I sent the email below to the email address published on his website. I had no reply by this morning, so I have now also written to his West Berkshire Council email address, which he has used in the past in writing to me. I await his response.
Dear Mr Stansfeld
On Monday evening in Aylesbury, in your response to a question from Cllr Michael Beall about your declarations of interests on the TVPA and West Berkshire Council websites, you appeared to me to allege that I had been trawling through your expenses and bank accounts. Specifically, and I quote from the recorded webcast, I believe you said "and you've gone through my bank accounts and expense claims in huge detail and I know that.."
First let me state clearly that I have never sought to examine your expenses – although if I had wished to they are public records. But I have not.
Moreover, I have not gone through your bank accounts. Not only would have I have no idea as to how I would gain access to such information but also it would be an illegal act, I understand. By saying what you said, I believe you have publicly accused me of something illegal. 
I think it is highly likely that you made this statement in the heat of the moment, as it were, and I would like to offer you the opportunity to retract what you said and perhaps even apologise. I will be happy to accept both. 
I look forward to your response. Thank you.
Very best wishes
UPDATE 2: I have just now received this email from Cllr Stansfeld. I am happy to accept his retraction and apology. (11.10, 1/11/12)
Mr Harvey,
I did not mean you had literally gone through my bank accounts and if I gave that impression I apologise. I am aware that you have made contact with the Council through FOI regarding my business interests and have been interested in my Council expenses.
I hope this clarifies the matter.
Yours sincerely,
Anthony
Although I am still curious about the expenses thing. It is not so critical naturally, but genuinely I have not be inquiring into his expenses. Hmmm....?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Aylesbury PCC Hustings

This was an eye opening meeting.

Councillors (County, Districts and Parishes) mostly made up the audience but with the addition of some members of the 'ordinary' public. Being a Labour councillor in Buckinghamshire is a bit like being a teetotaller at the Munich beer festival: you feel just a tad out of place. I was certainly made to feel that way during parts of yesterday evening...

The published agenda said that each candidate would have 5 minutes to address us and then there would be 15 minutes for questioning from the floor. I was not alone, I think, in expecting a fairly short but frustrating meeting until it became clear that we would have each candidate at a time followed by questions just to each one. The meeting went from 4.30 to around 6.45pm.

The candidates came in alphabetical order which meant that Patience Tayo Awe was on first. (The whole meeting was webcast and will be stored in their library, I believe. Pretty soon, I would imagine you will be able to see her presentation and response to questions from the floor on the Buckinghamshire County Council website here - as well as all the others.) I had picked up on her interest in the riots of last year and so I asked her this question:
What views do you have about the riots which happened in London and parts of Thames Valley in the Summer of 2011? As PCC what action would you take to prevent such riots happening on our streets again?
(If you click the link above and play the tape from 12"37' onwards you will hear my question and her response) She particularly thanked me for question. She then launched into a list of allegations and dramatic conclusions about the causes of the riots that prompted the Chair of the proceedings to remove his glasses give her what can only be described as a double take. There were similar reactions on the floor.

Paul Scoins, the political reporter from BBC Three Counties Radio tweeted back and forth with me:


As Paul indicated, I too would not wish to repeat her statements here, but I suspect that these will be of interest to a number of people in London and perhaps more widely. Assuming the webcast is fully archived, you will be able to listen to and watch what she said before too long...

The meeting moved on in alphabetical order. Next up was Barry Cooper the UKIP candidate. He was closely questioned on whether, if elected, he would give up his role in the family business (which seems to involve about six members of his family, if I heard correctly). He said that he would dedicate himself 100% to the job of PCC. I asked him this question:
If elected, will you wish to use the car and chauffeur that two candidates have sought to arrange for the PCC in advance? If so, would you wish to extend this facility to all officers and staff with a TVP wide brief based in the Kidlington HQ?
He said that he would to the first question as it represented vfm for the taxpayer as he would be able to work in the back of the car. He wasn't sure about the second question but would look into it.

Don't worry, I am not going to go through the whole meeting here, but I had to mention this question. After Barry had finished, the Chair of meeting then repeated his request that questions from the floor be polite and (looking in my direction) said there should be no "innuendo or slurrs". As you might expect, I took slight exception to this and later sought to read out an extract of the email I had received from the Police Authority Chief Executive on the subject (see below) where he said very clearly:
Two candidates (including Anthony Stansfeld) did express a desire for some form of transport facility to enable them to effectively cover the Thames Valley force area.
I pointed our therefore, there were only facts behind my question, no "innuendo or slurrs".

Anyway... time proceeded and soon it was Anthony Stansfeld's turn. A Labour colleague, Cllr Michael Beall from Aylesbury, asked him about the inconsistent information he has shared about his commercial interests. Cllr Stansfeld attempted to bat this away saying that he had recorded two companies he was a non-executive Chairman of even though he did not have to... He then turned his attention to me and accused me of making inquiries about all of his expense claims as well, and this was all getting rather excessive and tedious now. The audience rippled with murmuring approving sounds. One person (a councillor?) even turned around and gave me a sneering look and a 'thumbs down'.

Enough said. I will just say that I have not been inquiring into Cllr Stansfeld's expenses (but I won't be contacting my lawyers about this accusation). But, assuming that Cllr Stansfeld was correct (and not just engaging in flim flam) I wonder who has been? Ho hum.

I would record that Tim did a fine job and answered the questions put to him well.

Finally, a friend sitting next to me, who is not deeply embedded in this business but had come along out of curiosity and wishing to be an informed voter turned to me at the end and said something like:
The Conservative candidate thinks he has it in the bag, doesn't he?
I could only smile ruefully and agree with her. But I wonder...

UPDATE: The case of the missing sentence

Just got around to reading the CV from Cllr Stansfeld that was included in the pack. I note that his CV on the web which includes the sentence "He is currently Chairman of a small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry" was curiously absent from the CV circulated last night. Other than that (but I have not checked it word for word) the two CVs seems the same.


Why is that?

One usually constructs a CV to make oneself sound good. Does this sentence not sound so good any more, Cllr Stansfeld?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Froth & candyfloss

Several posts below have highlighted the froth and candyfloss that appears to be hallmark of the manifesto promises of most of the Tory PCC candidates (with a few notable exceptions). So I thought I would spend sometime this afternoon trawling through all 41 Tory candidates and extract the words that relate to their manifesto promises. (This is not the same as what was done by Jon Collins of the Police Foundation the other day who I think took all their words.)

So the wordle below is a subset of the words used and I have sought to be reasonable with this, but this is my edit. Some of their promises are far from clear and/or embedded with lots of (to use a technical term) guff. I have also extracted the words police, policing, crime and criminal as I thought this would highlight the content of the promises made better.

Anyway, here is the wordle, which you can also find here:


And here are a few choice statements I have lifted. The Tory candidates in various places promise to:
  • Agree priorities and targets with the Chief Constable 
  • Appoint a new Chief Constable
  • Be prepared to use all means, including innovative solutions, to reduce crime and create efficiencies.
  • Break the cycle of re-offending through a better criminal justice system
  • Crack down on Anti-Social Behaviour
  • Demand joined-up thinking 
  • Getting a better deal for tax payers
  • Protect vulnerable people 
  • Reinforce good citizenship at an early stage
  • Etc
...all such warm and cuddly words...

Only one person mentions privatisation, and even then only in quotation marks...

Suffolk: the policy free zone

I am in the middle of doing some research into what Tory candidates have been putting on the government's 'choose my PCC' website. And I came across this one from their candidate for Suffolk. Please read this link and tell me:

a) do you now have any idea in what direction this man will take Suffolk policing or crime related areas if he is elected?
b) the link between hop production and local crime & disorder
c) the relevance of his hobbies which include "tutored tasting sessions of Real Ale and Single Malt Scotch Whisky and growing English scented roses" (remember there is a strict word limit on these statements)

That said, the idea of 'tutored' drinking sessions does sound rather good. Suffolk has some delicious beers and alcoholic beverages as the police of Ipswich well know... at 3am when the nightclubs close....

But how is all this an election statement? Really?!?!

UPDATE

And to be fair, the Northamptonshire Tory candidate is much more detailed - although he needs to make sure his spell checker is set to the UK not the USA in the future...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

More apolitical claptrap

Having fun with this - here is another analysis of a Tory set of manifesto 'promises' from the site of Julie Iles (Surrey PCC candidate for the Conservative Party):

Julie will bring a fresh approach as a Commissoner who is available to the people in Surrey so that they really can have their say in local policing priorities. (fresh approach - you mean better that the previous commissoner - sic)

Someone who will make communities safer by cutting crime. (seems that they have all been told to say this somewhere)

Her priorities are:

Making Surrey an even safer place to live - We have a relatively low crime rate here when compared to other areas. Let's keep it that way, any crime is too much crime. (noble aim, but not really anything new)

Getting a better deal for the tax payer - With business experience from a career outside of politics Julie has the skills to ensure delivery of an effective police force making best use of our resources and funding. (except that is not really her role - when will these PCC candidates understand it will not be their job to manage!)

Catching more criminals / improving detection rates - It cannot be right that with a low crime rate Surrey police are in the bottom two of all forces when measured on our rate of solving crime. (Um yes it can be as there is less crime to solve... maybe?) Julie will support our police force in improving the fight against crime so that we catch more criminals here (as opposed to the other PCC candidates who will not be supporting the police to do likewise)

Ensuring the justice system delivers for victims - Our police must be visible to the public, available when they are needed and provide an excellent service for the victims of crime. (Huh? This is just more stating the bloomin' obvious. Motherhood and apple pie statements)

Cracking down on anti social and alcohol fuelled behaviour - Fourteen percent of local people have personally experienced or witnessed drink related anti-social behaviour in the last twelve months. I will work with all local agencies to tackle antisocial behaviour and cut crime. (and the other candidates will not? Come on Julie, these are not priorities! This is your job description!)

I cannot claim to have reviewed all the Tory campaign priorities but I think I am detecting a trend here: Be bland and anodyne, say lots of worthy and warm sounding things that all the candidates would probably say, hope that people will vote for you because you are wearing a blue rosette and don't mention the 'O' word (outsourcing) or indeed anything controversial like cuts or council tax precepts.

This is frankly sham democracy. For all those people who did not want politics in policing, they only have to look at the Tory manifestos: no politics there! Except, I predict, they will not govern in this way. We all know they will be political if they get elected. How will they be political? They will ensure that cuts are implemented without any resistance. They will look forward to outsourcing increasing numbers of police functions. They will squeeze the third sector while pretending they support the 'Big Society'. But they are not telling you any of this.

This is a dishonest campaigning by the Tories. But then did we expect anything else?

Bleeting into oblivion (UPDATED)

My wife sometimes shakes her head in despair at me and tells me I have been bleeting (her word) far too much. When I explain that blogging and tweeting is just something that I have to do... she looks even more worried.

Anyway, in an idle moment today, I have been flitting around looking at other blogs that are focused on the PCC elections and came across this piece on Bernard Rix's site which analyses PCC rankings for both twitter and facebook:
NOTES: Tim Ashton’s follower numbers were 229 last week. I have drawn his attention to the growth in numbers, and am awaiting his comment on any background to this.
Mr Ashton's twitter following has now grown to 5744, putting him second only to John Prescott in the twitter ranking list. This Tory candidate for Lancashire was ranked at 72 last week.

This is curious. This is not a dissimilar pattern to our friend in Lincolnshire, who has stepped down (see below) but who also experienced a dramatic rise in twitter followers a few weeks ago.

So I am looking forward to any information forthcoming from him or Bernard Rix. Could we back in the territory of buying twitter followers (is there a Grant someone on Ebay?)

But meanwhile, let's spend a moment reviewing Mr Ashton's 'Ten Point Plan'

1. Replace all the targets that have been imposed on the police with one target: to cut crime! (so all that stupid stuff about public order, reassurance, anti social behaviour etc. can stop under Mr Ashton's leadership. And I assume the Home Office will comply by removing all checks on Lancashire Police performance the HMIC won't need to stop by either...)
2. Protect frontline policing and retain the number of Police & Community Support Officers (PCSOs). (So may we assume that he doesn't plan on retaining the numbers of police officers? What is he protecting frontline policing from? The back office, the Home Secretary or himself?)
3. Get more police on our streets by cutting the red tape that keeps them behind a desk. (Give me a break! This is such a tired old line. If the Lancs public fall for this one they will deserve to have Mr Ashton as their PCC. How is he, as PCC, going to do this exactly given that arguably the major cause of 'red tape' is applying due process to case preparation required by the CPS. How many Government task forces have tried to tackle this one? Go Mrs May, I dare you to initiate another one!)
4. Put more resources into tackling drug dealers and organised crime across Lancashire. (So where will you take these resources from?)
5. Root out waste in the Police Force to make sure more of your money is spent on policing in your area. (Collision with National Crime Agency here we come....!)
6. Zero tolerance of all crime and make sure more offenders are brought to justice. (Yeah, right, I have heard that the Lancashire police are bit soft on criminals and are letting lots of them off with a few choice words like Dixon of Dock Green)
7. Toughen up community sentences so there is no more ‘softly softly’ when it comes to punishment. (Um... is that in the set of powers a PCC has?)
8. Encourage greater use of the latest technology by the police to cut crime and catch more criminals. (So that's just 'encourage' then, not fund?) 
9. Focus road safety activity on the areas where there are the most accidents. (Again, is that in the brief of the PCC? I thought road safety was a County Council responsibility...?)
10.Involve the public in setting priorities for policing in their communities including rural areas. (Isn't that what PCCs are meant to be all about? I am surprised there isn't an eleventh point about his promise to set a financially viable precept.)

So it seems as if here is another Tory PCC candidate who is committed to Shakespeare: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. This seems to be general approach being taken by Conservative candidates in this election. But if you know better and can point me towards a Tory candidate who is comprehensively

a) making promises that he/she can actually keep
b) matching the manifesto to the job description (in the law)
c) avoiding platitudes and statements of the bloomin' obvious

... then please do!

UPDATE

Just been on the Fake Follower Check site. First I checked my own account:



So that is a 'woo hoo!'

And then I checked @Tim4LancsPCC out of idle curiosity. Here is the result:



Not so woo hoo then...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Anthony Stansfeld: a compilation of his greatest hits

As the Government website containing all the candidate statements went live today, I thought I would put together a compilation of all my blog posts about Cllr Stansfeld's 'CV' into one place. I have put it right at the bottom of the blog as it is quite long.

If you want to access it, here is the link.

You can follow my research and thinking in one easy to read place and perhaps deduce, like me, that the facts just do not add up...

See all collected posts about this matter in one place by clicking this link

Choose my PCC: and they're off!

The ChoosemyPCC site is now live and the six candidates have their details up for the voters of Thames Valley to browse. Here are all the links:

Patience Tayo Awe
Barry Cooper
Geoff Howard
John Orrell Howson
Anthony Stansfeld
Tim Starkey

You will want to read for yourselves and (no surprises) I am backing Tim of course. But do read all the others. I would comment:

Patience says "Without proper checks and balances our policing could leave a legacy of resentment and frustration. We experienced it last year, lost lives and properties." She appears to be saying that by not having PCCs during the riots this led to policing leaving a legacy of resentment except a) London already had a defacto PCC last year b) is she seriously suggesting that police officers left a legacy of resentment? Police officers, please note.

Barry says that his aim is to "provide a democratic voice for the law-abiding majority, giving them a say in how they are policed and what priorities the force adopts in pursuit of the goal of cutting crime and increasing the safety of our communities" but then does not say what his priorities are. What are people voting for Barry, apart from UKIP flimflam?

Geoff is a "former Captain of Slough Rugby Club and now a Vice-Chairman". He will be the "voice of the people" and "accountable to the public at all times". Expect a free phone 365/24/7 number soon...

John will be all things to all people. He favours "bobbies on the beat", listening to "young people" and ensuring "value for money". Although he does not say it, he is probably also in favour of kittens, toasted tea cakes and bracing walks in the fresh air.

Anthony says that if "you want more information about Anthony’s pledges please visit www.anthonystansfeld.org.uk" I did. There isn't. Another statement that does not add up....

Tim says "no to privatisation of key police functions – outsourcing street patrols to firms like G4S is not the answer!" of which there is no mention by any of the others. Interesting...

But it is your vote.... please cast it wisely!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finally! Some 'pledges' from Anthony Stansfeld

On Cllr Stansfeld's website, a modicum of a manifesto has been published. At last. This is what he says:
If elected as the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony pledges:
  • To maintain the balance between urban and rural policing.
  • To ensure that the Police budget is targeted effectively.
  • To protect vulnerable people.
  • To ensure the Police act firmly and fairly, using good judgement to deal with the public politely, gaining their respect and acting with integrity.
That is it by the way apart from some blurb about him (again) at the top of the page which I can't be bothered to reproduce.

So. What do you think then? Are you persuaded? Let's unpick these pledges one by one.

First though: pledge - really? You mean like this pledge?


Aside from showing a degree of naivety in using this phrase (perhaps he really isn't a politician after all - maybe that is the hidden message...), he cannot actually make at least two of these pledges as they are not in his power:

To protect vulnerable people. How will the PCC do that exactly? Does the police service not do this already? Can he define 'vulnerable'? What does he mean by 'protect'? From whom? The PCC? Will he protect police service staff who are vulnerable to privatisation?

To ensure the Police act firmly and fairly, using good judgement to deal with the public politely, gaining their respect and acting with integrity. Again how exactly? Is he saying that they don't act with good judgement at the moment? And how is he going to 'ensure' they act with integrity? Really, how is he going to 'ensure' this?

To ensure that the Police budget is targeted effectively. Well, we all want that do we not? But then he kind of shoots himself in the foot by the previous pledge: To maintain the balance between urban and rural policing. So he is maintaining something he wants to target effectively. How does that work exactly? Sounds to me that he wants his cake and eat it.

So we have been waiting some time for even the hint of a manifesto from Cllr Stansfeld. And we get these four pledges all at the same time. I think I will go back to waiting for a bus...

Oops! I almost forgot his first pledge: To reduce crime and drive up detection rates.

Wow! Can someone get me a feather to knock me down with: the laser focused preciseness of this pledge is frankly overwhelming. So that is FIVE pledges.... I am comforted now... he really does know what he will be doing...

Reading PCC Hustings

Well. I thought hustings were all about debate. This event in the old Reading Town Hall last night was an exercise in orchestrated tedium. In two hours, we had only two questions taken from the floor.

Two questions...!

The rest of the time, the six candidates were posed (sometimes quite convoluted) pre-submitted questions.

Pre-submitted? I asked one of the organisers how was it possible to have pre-submitted a question (or several in my case...)? His reply was something like "well I emailed lots of people beforehand". This was an open public meeting by the way. It was not just be invitation.

So a frustrated me left at the end of the meeting, as were others that I spoke with. Fortunately one of the local reporters noticed me waving a piece of paper around and inquired what question I would have asked. I gave my list which included:
  • The Summer saw the Olympic G4S fiasco where soldiers & police officers had to give up their well-earned holidays in order to fill gaps left by the private company hired to provide security staff. This is but one example of how private contractors fail and then expect the public services to pick up the pieces. Will the panel make a cast iron promise this evening that public facing Thames Valley policing services will not be outsourced or privatised or contracted to companies such as G4S while they are PCC?
  • To my mind, police resources should be shared out across Thames Valley according to where harm and risk of harm is greatest. On what basis will members of the panel decide and budget for how scarce policing resources are shared around Thames Valley if they were to become PCC? 
  • Thames Valley has approximately 2.2 million people and about 1 million households. As the job of the PCC is to represent the concerns and interests of all those people and communities, what practical things will the members of the panel do if they were elected to fulfil this part of the job description?
  • As a measure of your commitment to public accountability, transparency and integrity, within the next week, will you publish on your campaign websites all the campaign donations you have received from individuals and organisations, your membership of any associations, clubs or societies, and your sources of income in ways not dissimilar to the mayoral contest in London (which was also a PCC election as such)
(And some secret questions which I won't reveal here...! I should acknowledge Rachel Rogers, Labour PCC candidate for Dorset for prompting the last question who has led the way on this, I believe.)

But instead what did we get last night - a hot, packed room listening politely to series of mostly grandstanding statements from the panellists. I was even moved to tweet:
On the basis of this panel, apart from @TimLabour, as PCCs they will bore Thames Valley into low crime lethargy #reading #PCCs #hustings
Perhaps it was the nature of the event that produced such performances though.

But to recap, who do we have up for Thames Valley PCC?
  • Patience Tayo Awe (independent): out of her depth but very animated when talking about the riots of last year. Why is that? Keeps talking about project management. Is becoming a PCC a project to her in which case where is the risk register?
  • Barry Cooper (UKIP): has a twinkle in his eye and I think does not take himself too seriously. Maintains he is independent really. I remain unsure what UKIP believes in apart from leaving Europe and being 'Old Tory, dontcha know'
  • Geoff Howard (independent): Ex Labour, Ex Conservative, Ex UKIP I am led to understand. So he is certainly independent. I wonder where he is now politically except being in a party of one. Has a lugubrious and uninspiring delivery style 
  • John Orrell Howson (Liberal Democrat): the epitome of earnest LibDemmery, avuncular almost to the point of being patronising but not quite. But in the end this is not where his interests are. He should stick to education policy & ghosts of pledges.  
  • Anthony Stansfeld (Conservative): honestly believes that his experience of commanding a group of soldiers in Borneo in the late sixties qualifies him to become PCC in 2012. Also believes that chauffeurs should be called drivers. Maybe chews cactus in his spare time?
  • Tim Starkey (Labour): is light on his feet and able to respond coherently to a wide range of topics. He is able to get people laughing. His confidence is building and he is allowing his passion to make his answers both erudite and earnest.
I hope the next hustings is better...

A week is a long time in politics

A few days I ago I posted a blog about an emerging story concerning Mervyn Barrett OBE and his campaign to become the PCC for Lincolnshire. He was running as an independent. I wrote this previous post on basis of a story in the Telegraph by Andrew Gilligan. Like Mr Gilligan, I may not have had all the facts.

It now seems that an entirely different set of circumstances were in play. It would appear (or should I say 'alleged' - I will need to choose my words carefully) that Mr Barrett's 'campaign manager' was not all that he claimed to be. You can read Mr Barrett's full statement here on Russell Webster's blog:
Official statement of Mervyn Barrett OBE on his withdrawal from Police & Crime Commissioner election in Lincolnshire
Russell is collating follow up stories and Sam Chapman has commented. I am not about to add any further comment about the circumstances.

But I will say one small thing: as I tweeted the other day, we all have the potential to be conned (as it has been alleged he has been etc). And I am sad for Mr Barrett. It is one matter losing lots of money, another realising that you have been taken but it is a whole other ball game for this to have happened so publicly. I hope he bounces back from all this.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Prison works

There has been much in the news of late about the need to help prisoners prepare for life beyond the prison walls so that they do not fall back into a life of crime. As I indicate below, this is far easier said than done.

One practical thing that prisons do is to offer employment & skills training to prisoners. This has to be a good thing. (Although I am not proposing anything like the Russian labour camps where the members of Pussy Riot have now been sent, I would add!)

One of the constraints on HM Prisons is that they should not engage prisoners in work that would directly compete against local businesses. It would clearly be unethical and stupidly uneconomic to put local people on the dole just so that prisoners can do their jobs at a vastly lower rate of pay. It is my understanding that this rule often makes locating work for prisoners hard to do.

In my business, I have to be continually thinking about how to make contact with potential clients. One piece of advice I received a few years ago was to identify the organisations / businesses who might either precede or follow on from the work that I do for my clients and find ways to partner with them. I won't bore you with the full story but this got me into a conversation with a Prison Governor about 10 months ago about how he might pair up with banks to find businesses who were about to go bust.

The idea is simple: there are many businesses struggling to make ends meet, are about to default on business loans and probably go bankrupt. At this point everyone loses including all the workers who are made redundant. Why not, just before they go bust, see if it is possible for that business to relocate inside a local jail such that prisoners form part of the workforce. The operating costs would be lower and might just nudge the business back into profit. Now I know this will mean some people still losing their jobs but at least not everyone will lose their jobs - a few people will be kept on to run the business inside the prison. Moreover, it means that the prisoners are engaged in a real business making real money - and learning new skills - perhaps even getting a taste for being a (legal) entrepreneur.

That was the idea and the conversation we had a few months ago. And then last week, I received an email from my Prison Governor friend who told me he has now been seconded to look at this idea and linked ones as part of a wider strategy to innovate in the HM Prisons. We talked yesterday about the extra and linked options. I suggested that perhaps some of the pay that prisoners might be 'earning' could be banked (there are limits on how much cash they can earn whilst in gaol) and then paid out on their release to help them settle back in society.

We also talked about how the FSB, IOD or BCC might be willing to partner with HM Prisons to develop these ideas. The TUC and affiliated trade unions might also be interested in lending a hand as well.

There is more but I won't reveal it all here... but watch this space.

And of course, he is in an ideal position to make contact with the organisations listed above because he is in the public sector. If I were a banker I would be more than willing to engage in a debate about these matters and look for ways to make the idea happen. And I would do this because I would be helping the public services help some prisoners stop re-offending. But if I was a banker and I was approached by G4S or Serco (for example), I might be little less inclined to help them make bigger profits, unless I could take my cut of course....

This is why we should not commodify everything!

Long live innovation and bold thinking in the public services! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Payment by Results won't work

David Cameron, like many politicians, has this notable ability to talk coherently but say absolutely nothing. It is an art form and one has to admire its exceptional practitioners whilst at the same time being exasperated that nothing really changes. And so it was with his speech on crime and punishment yesterday. Lots of warm words but I am unclear as to what is really going to change and what differences will be made.

The Government are investing heavily in 'Payment by Results' which is a kind of service equivalent of PFI, (and we know how well that is working...) PbR maintains that private & third sector bodies can be significantly incentivised to innovate and reduce re-offending by the prospect of making a profit from the results. The profit is paid out of saved costs of locking up the offenders again. Since it costs £40k a year to lock someone up, there are some megabucks to save and spend on PbR, it is thought.

Aside from the ethics of profits being extracted by large companies whilst public services (you know the kind that help house and secure our communities) are being decimated, there is one BIG problem with PbR: it won't work. Sure, it will be made to look as if it works and measures will be negotiated that will allow profits to be extracted, but in the end it is unlikely to make a real difference.

My twitter pal, Russell Webster (who I believe is an agnostic about PbR) writes eloquently about the subject on his blog and I commend it to you for a balanced appraisal of this new 'fad'. I am less balanced as you can see!

Here are my main reasons for why it will not work:
  • Outcomes are extraordinarily hard to agree upon let alone measure. PbR requires an outcome focus (good) but then mechanises it (bad - because that fails to really get a grip of the complexity involved). 
  • The companies involved will spend months (if not years) haggling over the outcome (results) measures so that they privatise the profits, socialise the losses (where have we seen that before?) and generally engineer the arrangements to reduce their risk. (For example, they will actively look for ways to separate out the really hard cases)
  • Reducing re-offending at a societal level is not the same as doing it an individual level and factoring it up... and both are bloomin' hard to achieve! 
Individuals require a complex set of ducks from a whole range of agencies to be lined up whilst the offenders themselves needs skilful support so that they make the best use of these ducks. Often these offenders have serious long term problems (such as illiteracy and a history of mental health difficulties), previously chaotic lives and a large dose of institutionalisation - all of which mitigate against a life free of crime.

Reducing re-offending is a complex social outcome which is not just the sum of lots of individuals choosing to stop offending. Not only do organisations (which are really not good at partnership working) have to make partnership working really work but there are implications here for the rest of society too. Stigma is often what crushes any attempt to help offenders back onto the straight and narrow. Under PbR, who will be responsible for tackling this significant factor?

I could go on. But I predict now four things:
  • We will see similar fiascos to the A4E case (here is but one news story from Channel 4)
  • PbR will not yield dramatic innovation in the support given to offenders except maybe for a few whizzy GPS based tags. 
  • It will be hailed as a success by the Government in the run up to the next general election
  • PCCs will be clamouring to get their hands on the PbR budgets in time for May 2016

Six Pre Election Questions

The Guardian have published six more sets of questions with which to interrogate the PCC candidates in your area - especially their websites. You can read the article here.

In the spirit of Sergio Leone, this article completes a trilogy of articles the Guardian Public Leaders Network have published since the first in January this year:

Ten questions for potential police and crime commissioners
and
Police and crime commissioners: 13 more questions

Monday, October 22, 2012

Deciding how the budget will be spent

I just discovered a pile of junk mail below my letterbox, with big & small brochures on a furniture sale, subscription TV, cavity wall insulation, a clothing sale and a small unassuming pink leaflet entitled...


...Police and Crime Commissioner Elections. (It almost went in the recycling.)

But one bit caught my eye... it says that the PCC role includes:
- deciding how the budget will be spent
Hmm. That is very interesting as I am not sure it is a view shared by Chief Constables. How far might such a power go?

This single point in the leaflet gives the impression of the PCC as having an executive rather than a governance role. I am not even sure if this statement is compatible with the legislation (all comments welcome on this point)

Who wrote this leaflet? 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Anthony Stansfeld: the facts do not add up (UPDATED)

See all collected posts about this matter in one place by clicking this link

Anthony Stansfeld has been announced at the Conservative Party Candidate in the election of the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner. Some of the facts about him do not add up:
  • His CV on the West Berkshire Conservative Association website describes him as currently being “Chairman of a small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry”. Note that word “currently”.
  • Thames Valley Police Authority sent me a copy of his recently revised (August this year) register of interests where he states he has in interest in an organisation called ELS (and no others).
  • At a hustings meeting in Reading two weeks ago he said that he “was” a non-executive chairman of ELS and he “had” a very small non-executive chairmanship of a research company (though he did not name it). Note the past tense in both of his statements. 
  • His statement of his interests on the West Berkshire Council website says he is a Chairman of a company called FIDAS. This register too has been fairly recently updated in line with new Government guidelines.
  • Linked-In shows him as being Chairman of a company called Prescience AG. The website of this company states that the MD of the company is one Frank Iding. Mr Iding cites his being MD of this company for at least two years on an official US government form
  • In emails that Anthony Stansfeld sent to me on the 2nd and 3rd August this year, he stated that ELS “was closed down some years ago” and Prescience was “a company that never traded, so was disposed of”. 
These facts are not consistent with each other, in my view. On several occasions, I have asked Cllr Stansfeld to clear these matters up and show how they might be made consistent. He has not done so. With this blog post I am asking him again.

Before too long, the voting public of Thames Valley will have a chance to elect their first Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC). The person filling these shoes will need to operate by the highest standards of public office which include the principles of integrity, openness and honesty. The PCC will a critical role in the governance of local justice services.

The facts above speak for themselves.

Is Cllr Stansfeld the right person for the job of PCC? Personally, I think not. What does the wider public think? Will any of this matter to people when they come to vote on 15th November?

I hope it does. I really hope it does. 

UPDATE: 

Just noticed some discussion about this and related blogs on some forums based down Newbury way. One person said "Just perusing some links up on 'the other forum' they are obviously from the 'Labour' perspective, but this Councillor does seem a little 'economical with the truth' somehow." (link) and another wrote "Probably doesn't amount to a hill of beans (one for the oldies there) but interesting reading all the same. Especially the getting around the members interests disclosure."

Hill of beans? True, I have uncovered facts about Anthony Stansfeld's 'CV' that don't add up... I have not found any evidence of him (say) corrupting an official or being involved in the manufacture of badger culling equipment. But, the question the voters have to ask themselves when they come to cast their vote..

Would you employ someone who has been shown to have inconsistent statements on their job application?

My answer is, of course, no. And the reason it is a 'no' is all to with trust & confidence. If a person cannot get facts about themselves on their 'CV' lined up, then you have to wonder is that down to poor self organisation, a general cavalier approach to the truth, or do they have something bigger to hide or something else? I really don't know. All I know is there is doubt.

I am reminded of... (again for the oldies...)


For those who don't know, this is the former president of the USA, one Richard Nixon. This is a copy of an election poster that might be said to have derailed his campaign in 1960 such that JFK won. But he was later to become president succeeding Lyndon B Johnson. The rest is history.

I am not saying that Cllr Stansfield is like Richard Nixon, naturally. I am saying, that on the basis of the facts I have uncovered, I would not appoint him to any job, let alone the PCC.

Lincolnshire Policing, privatisation & US neocon funding

If anyone doubted that there is much at stake in the forthcoming PCC elections, let there be no doubt now...

The secret US lobbyists behind Police and Crime Commissioner election is a story which has just broken in Telegraph.

This story describes how a
"high-profile candidate campaigning to become one of the Government’s new elected Police and Crime Commissioners is being secretly backed by American neo-conservative lobbyists and companies pushing for police privatisation."
This of course is happening in Lincolnshire, the current home of police privatisation. It is a model that I would expect these funders will hope to spread far and wide across the rest of the police services in the UK

Regular readers will know that I am still in the middle of asking for a copy of the risk register for the work that Lincolnshire Police and G4S are doing together. The matter is still with the Information Commissioner for adjudication.

I am still waiting for the result of this next stage. (See link below) I should hear soon as 20 days must have elapsed by now...?

But to everyone who is concerned about creeping privatisation of the police service (and indeed creeping privatisation everywhere...) please, please make sure you use your vote wisely on 15 November!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Keep our NHS (and police) public!

The people of England and Wales never got a chance to vote for or against the radical shake-up of our NHS. It was not mentioned in either the Tory or LibDem manifestos. It was not even in the Coalition Agreement.

But on 27 March this year, the Health & Social Care Act became law.

I and thousands of others are campaigning against the provisions of this new structure, not least because it opens up all of the NHS to commercial competition. If too many privateers and weak willed apologists are elected to become PCCs on 15 November, we will see the same thing happen to our police services.

Do you want that?

So if you want to ensure that the Police remain public and free at the point of need, please make sure you vote Labour on 15/11/12. Likewise if you just want to register your vote against NHS privatisation, the 15 November is an ideal opportunity to this as well!

Please vote for a public police and health services! And join the campaign against privatisation in the NHS by going here, as well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tory campaign: warm fuzzy words and military leadership

I really wasn't going to write another blog post today but then I came across this... This is Jamie Athill's 'Norfolk Police & Crime News' which is linked to his campaign website.

Regular readers will recall my analysis of Mr Athill's campaign video: see below. I summed up my take on this video as 'platitudinous'. Now of course, I am really not in the business of promoting Tory PCC candidates' websites but I landed on this one in the hope that I might find some actual policies and priorities. Something more than was contained in the video...

Guess what... my breath has never been more taken. There is nothing of substance, at all! Read the piece yourself. What will the voting public of Norfolk get from this 'newsletter'?

  • Lots of stuff about Jamie
  • An explanation of what the role of the PCC is
  • More stuff about Jamie
  • Brief statements on how he will a) improve policing by improving accountability by being elected b) underpin operational independence and so boost morale, and c) support organisations which support victims and which reduce reoffending
  • Even more stuff about Jamie including a photo of him in an army beret
  • More stuff about what the PCC can do
  • Key dates and (quite a useful bit) about supplementary voting

What are his priorities?!!? Is he so convinced he is going to win that he hasn't even bothered to produce a manifesto? His one page statement on Sam Chapman's Top of the Cops site is equally vacuous.

What is going on? On the one hand we have the 'lets target all the young baddies' approach encapsulated by the media campaign and posters such as this one. And on the other and we have these 'newsletters' from candidates such as Mr Athill.

Does the conservative party think the voting public of England and Wales are so stupid that all they need to be given is a warm feeling about their Tory candidate and they will roll out and vote on November 15? Because, that is how it appears right now. They are running a cynical and patrician campaign.

But perhaps this shows what they really think of the police and the connected criminal justice system. They can't even be bothered to think enough to put up serious policies and priorities because they are not that bothered about community safety. 

Secret diary of a PCC (day five)

Had a rather squiffy issue to deal with today, but needs must and all that. I took this job on to lead the whole darn show not keep delegating things to the minions. Frankly the acting Chief is really not up to the job. He thinks that because he has spent a few months at Bramshill, can walk in without a pass into the Home Office and managed the odd traffic incident that he is equipped to run a multimillion pound business. Well he is not and I am astounded that he got away with things for so long. The man cannot even add up.

I have looked through the budgets for the last couple of years and the projections for the next few. It seems as if the police authority (who have now mostly transferred to the Police & Crime Panel) and the acting Chief (heck knows what the real Chief did all day long before swanning off to Spain) have created budgets which imply an above inflation rise in council tax precept!

Surely they knew that I would win the thing and that I would refuse to raise the precept. Why on earth did they not build that into their calculations? It is simply shockingly poor arithmetic.

Anyway, I got Winger on the case and he said he would be back in this afternoon with a revised budget involving NO precept rises this year or next. It shouldn’t take him long: he tells me he is a part qualified accountant and that is good enough for me. I mean a budget is basically one big spreadsheet isn’t it?

But then the rather squiffy issue emerges. (Yes the fact that the acting Chief can’t add up isn’t my biggest problem!) Winger now keeps pestering me to say what my priorities are. I tell him, everything is a priority! He says, no, not everything can be a priority… So I tell him my number one and only priority is to cut crime. What could be simpler? Just build a budget around that.

Sometimes, I worry about Winger, because he looks at you as if you are a little bit mad combined with the kind of look you give a puppy when it has messed on top of Aga again. I must talk with him about it (and the puppy).

Anyway he has left in a huff muttering something about "why don’t we make everyone privileged as that would be easier”. I have no idea what he is talking about but I will be damned if I want everyone to be privileged – I mean what would be the point of being privileged in the first place if everyone was so. I am sure I also heard him say something like “brain the size of a Mars chocolate planet” with a deep heavy sigh too.

I am going to need to tug on Winger’s reins a bit I think…

So budget still not sorted. Ah well, I have a few days yet before we have to submit something to the Home Office. I need to get the driver to take me over to the County Council to see the leader. The young woman is out of intensive care, thank God. But he and I need to prepare our ground for when the court case starts. It seems he might have been staying in the house at the same time, celebrating some anniversary. And the champagne and snakebite breakfast may not have helped things.

Tally ho!

Not on my patch!

Mike Pannett (born in York, joined the Metropolitan Police in 1988 and then transferred to North Yorkshire police in 1997, and from retirement, has written much about his experiences in a similar genre to James Herriot and Gervase Phinn) might be forgiven for wondering whether he has a case of copyright theft:


And

(You can buy Mike's book by clicking on the linked pic above)

But aside from copyright... the poster image (which you can see in full here) is breathtaking in its design. I really thought we were not going to get any appeals to raw populism at the start of this process. However the Government campaign to raise awareness of the PCC elections is, in my view, appealing to people's fear of crime. And now we have this. If this is going to be the shape of Tory posters up and down the country, oh dear... oh dear, oh dear.  I hardly know where to begin. What do the elements add up to?

The clenched left fist (with a glinting ring)... "I am tough, don't mess with me" or "Just let me get my hands on them...!" or "At night, I am Green Lantern" ???

The clutched police helmet (with crest blurred)... "I will hold the police to account by gripping their heads" or "I will cradle the police as they go about their difficult work" or "I was once a copper and they let me keep this helmet" ???

The striped tie (with the mysterious motif)... "I will dress smartly if I am elected" or "Some people will recognise this tie, they will know who they are" or "I am a member of a secret society" ???

Not on my patch (with added exclamation mark!)... "This will be my manor, so you had better watch out!" or "I will own Northumbria if you elect me" or "Hitherto, the police have been rather lax about letting criminals run riot here, I will stop that the moment I am elected!" ???

The dour expression (with a hint of a smile or grimace)... "Someone from Conservative HQ put me up to this, but it is really a bit of laugh as we know Vera Baird is going to win" or "I am firm, forceful and mean business - well most of the time" or "I really need to eat more all-bran.." ???

Yobs, Thieves & Vandals (with added ...)... "I want you to believe that I will personally make anti social behaviour a top priority even when other things like violence against the person need to take up more police time" or "I know my street language, we are all in this together" or "the ... means I will be able to get away with doing more or less anything if I am elected) ???

But you tell me - what does this poster 'say' to you? What words would you insert (a bit like http://mydavidcameron.com/)?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The 'Thames Valley Policing & Crime Scrutiny Network'

The new law that gifted us Police & Crime Commissioners also brought in Police & Crime Panels. The Home Office website states:
Panels are being introduced in each force area to examine the actions and decisions of each PCC. These panels will make sure information is available for the public so that they can hold their PCC to account.
They sound wonderful....

But just as we always have to wonder "qui custodit custodibus" (who guards the guards...?), one also has to wonder who will monitor the PCPs for how well they carry out their job?

The Thames Valley PCP met on September 14 which I believe was their second or possibly third meeting. Information about the Panel can be found here. You can find out who attended the meeting here. There is one co-opted member listed and this person was present. 2 of the 6 officers listed were present (some were 'expected'). 8 of the 17 elected members were present...

This does not bode well. (I am told that at the meeting in October, there were only 6 members present and 3 of those left early, but I cannot confirm this as yet.)

So how effective is the PCP in Thames Valley (and elsewhere) going to be? If attendance at meetings is any measure, not so good. But more critically, if a Conservative PCC is elected and the PCP remains dominated by Conservative councillors (as it is at present) how much rigorous scrutiny will there be of the PCC performing his/her functions?

What do you think? (Cynical me is not expecting much...)

So, as an antidote to this possibly parlous state of affairs, I would like to initiate the Thames Valley Policing and Crime Scrutiny Network. Not the snappiest of titles I know (other suggestions welcome) but its purpose is clear. My vision is for this network to hold both the PCP and the PCC to account for their actions.

The network will be open to people of all political persuasions (and none) who wish to engage in the process of examining the performance of the PCC & PCP. Membership will also be open to the spouses, friends and representatives of police officers (who are otherwise prohibited from partaking in political activity). It will be open, of course, to trade unions and police staff members who are not so restricted. It will probably 'meet' virtually lots and face to face as often as required. Anonymous contributors will also be allowed.

So if you would like to get involved, please email me and I will create a confidential list. I will be in touch post 15/11 where we can consider what to do next... 

Vanity blue flashing lights? (UPDATED)

30 days from now the Police & Crime Commissioner elections will be over and the new PCCs will have been elected. With predicted low turnouts and the supplementary voting system, it is impossible to predict who will win these contests around the country.

Although I am sure that the candidates have analysed past voting patterns in their areas and are feeling more or less confident that they will be the victors...

From what I have been told, it would appear that Cllr Anthony Stansfeld has already organised a car and driver for the incoming PCC. That could point to a brazen act of self confidence that it will be him in the passenger seat (has he selected the car make and colour?) or an act of generosity with other people's money for whomever is elected and to help them on their way so that they can hit the ground 'running'.

I am about to write to Thames Valley Police Authority to seek confirmation on this matter. So please watch this space.

Now I could argue that having a car and driver does make some sense as Thames Valley is a huge area to cover and the PCC will need to get out and about and be able to optimise the use of their time. However, it is my understanding that police chief officers have (pool?) cars that can be used as pursuit cars and are equipped to fulfil operational functions as well. Their expense is partly justified on that basis.

The PCC's car clearly won't have such features (I presume - operational independence and all that...) so will it be just for the PCC?

At times of extreme austerity & cuts of over 20%, is this a good use of public money?

UPDATE

I have just had this email back from TVPA (again impressed by the speed!):
Dear Mr Harvey
A part of the briefings offered to four of the prospective PCC candidates in the last week of September, one of the agenda matters discussed with all candidates was whether there were any specific requirements that they, if successful, would need to operate effectively (e.g. transport, office equipment, etc).
Two candidates (including Anthony Stansfeld) did express a desire for some form of transport facility to enable them to effectively cover the Thames Valley force area.  
The other two candidates had not identified at that stage any specific requirements.
Following these discussions, I can confirm that I consider it appropriate that temporary arrangements may be put in place to ensure that transport facilities will be available to whichever candidate is elected PCC, if they wish to use them, pending their future decisions about ongoing permanent arrangements for their Office support infrastructure requirements.
That is the position of this Authority regardless of what you may hear from any candidate and/or their supporters who, obviously, cannot themselves take ‘decisions’ that would entail a financial or operational commitment being incurred on behalf of the Authority now, or the Office of the PCC in the future, until they are actually elected as PCC.
I think you would agree that this represents a reasonable and sensible plan of action to cover all eventualities.  At this time, however, no arrangements, permanent or temporary, have been made and until I know what the ongoing requirements of the successful elected PCC are then I am not in a position to state what the potential annual costs of such arrangements would be.
Regards,
Paul Hammond
Chief Executive & Treasurer
Thames Valley Police Authority
I think that is very clear and I am grateful to Mr Hammond for this explanation. You can decide whether "you would agree that this represents a reasonable and sensible plan of action to cover all eventualities" ... or not. But let us see what happens after election. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Community Safety & the Power of We...

Today is international Blog Action Day.


And the theme this year is the 'power of we'. In other words it is about what we can do together to change the world for the better. Bloggers from all over the world are writing about this topic today. Here on this blog I want to focus on how the power of we is an essential component of building safer and more peaceful communities.

Many people (including several PCC candidates, I suspect) talk about 'policing by consent' without, in my view, grasping a) the real complexity of the idea and b) just how difficult it is to achieve.

For me, policing by consent means that not only are people generally supportive of the police and see them as acting on our behalf to create safe communities but also (and critically so) people see the police as partners and take action as a consequence. This partnership is two way. Not only would we not have safe communities without the police, but also the police would not be able to function if members of the community did not work with them: providing information, ideas and challenge. For us all to benefit from living in a safe and secure society, we need to 'co-create' this social outcome. So it is not just the passive support that is part of the policing by consent, it also implies active support as well.

But this active support is not easy to achieve. Unfortunately far too many public services (including the police) have fostered the idea that citizens and taxpayers are merely passive 'customers' to be pleased rather than partners to be engaged. In many places the notion that the police are for the public and the public are for the police is a long way from the reality. The thin blue line is seen by some not as a few guards or sentinels holding positive and chaotic societies apart, but as a line dividing the police on one side and the public on the other.

We need a new kind of public service ethos that sees one of its main roles as enabling individuals, families and communities to do all that they can to create safer communities. (I have written about this before here.) I could go on, but I want to keep this blog post brief.

To bring this idea back to the present PCC elections, I sincerely hope that the PCCs who are elected see it as one their main roles to encourage and support actively this new kind of public service ethos - so that policing by consent is boosted not damaged. This will require skilful and passionate leadership.

Which one of your PCC candidates is up for that job?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Khan Juna withdraws from Thames Valley PCC race

Khan Juna, Chair of Thames Valley Police Authority, who entered the race to become the Thames Valley PCC just over a week ago, has decided to withdraw. I was sent his full statement and so was Sam Chapman. His full statement can be read here. I have just a commented on Sam's site, which I reprint below as well:

I have the hugest of respect for Mr Juna. He added much wisdom, experience and wit to the first PCC Hustings on Monday last. I am sorry to see him exit the race.

Once this new elected position was established, it was always going to be very political. The governance of such a large and significant public service has always been and should be political. The police authorities were statutorily required to have a majority of nominated elected members on them from the councils in the area covered by that police service. Decisions about precept had to be carried by a majority of those members. Whilst the party affiliation of those members was muted it was nonetheless present. This was leavened by the addition of a number of non-aligned / independent members who were selected and appointed on the basis of their professional expertise. Mr Juna remains one of those skilled independent members on the PA.

Now I know that the 'Indies' in these elections are running on the ticket of 'keep politics out of policing' but I would contend that what they really mean is 'keep party aligned politicians out of policing governance' since the governance of vast policing budgets is necessarily political and should be open to democratic scrutiny. To repeat, it always has been in police governance.

The public are rightly concerned however about the investment of so much political power in the hands of one individual and have expressed this as favouring independent candidates. Based on similar regarding City Mayors, had November 15 had been a referendum on this new system, the public would have roundly rejected it, I suspect.

But as I have said on many occasions over the last months, we are where we are.

However, there are some points in Mr Juna's statement above that I would take issue with. The party aligned candidate will still have to get a real set of 100 signatures on their nomination forms (there is no pass on this). The problems of reaching 1m households in Thames Valley is a significant challenge for all political parties although as Mr Juna points out there is a network of people who will be out delivering leaflets over the next few weeks - I will be one of them.

But what I fail understand are the reasons why Mr Juna has cited for withdrawing from the race. Of all people, given his role, he surely would have known of all the hurdles he outlines when he decided to enter the race in the first place. He surely cannot have just discovered them after doing so. Which, for me, raises some critical questions:

- Was Mr Juna only entering the race in order to exit with a flourish only a week or so later?
- Did Mr Juna really not realise the uphill struggle he was facing, in which case, how did he not realise this?
- Has he given us the full and true reasons why he is now exiting from the race?

I understand his anger. This is a daft piece of legislation and I predict it will be repealed on the basis of daftness rather than for any particularly party political reasons. Our great police service deserves to have a proper form of governance not this one dreamt up on the back of a fag packet by some policy wonks a few years ago.

But (I say again) we are where we are...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Secret diary of a PCC (day four)

Bad day

Had first meeting of the Police & Crime Panel... They seem to think that they a) can tell me what to do and b) they are the new police authority.

I had to disappoint them on both counts.

They are not happy bunnies.

Good day

My new desk arrived. Swift service! The built in webcam & digital recorder will come in very useful. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Didcot Questions

This evening (11/10/12), Victim Support have organised another hustings meeting in Didcot.

Venue: Civic Hall, Britwell Road, Didcot, OX11 7JN
Time: 6.30pm for a prompt 7pm start. The meeting will close at 8pm.
Focus: Victims of crime but all members of the public are welcome
Organiser: Linda Darrall, Divisional Manager for Thames Valley Victim Support.

I hope you can make it as I cannot. Had I been there, there is one question I would like to asked all the candidates:
Given the Olympic G4S fiasco, so as not to risk the safety of Thames Valley people, will you promise now, that outsourcing any major functions of the Thames Valley Police Service to G4S will not happen on your watch? 
And (of course) I have three questions for Anthony Stansfeld:
1) In your CV published on the West Berkshire Conservative Association website, you have stated that you are "currently Chairman of a small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry". What is the name of that company and how can you prove your assertion that you are a) its chairman and b) it has interests in the fields you describe?
2) Your TVPA register of interests which was refreshed by you in August this year states under the section "Name of Employer or Name of Firm of which I am a Partner/Remunerated Director" the following "The above, c/o ELS, Redhill Chambers, 28 High Street, Redhill, Surrey RH1 1RJ". ('The above' may refer to the Sefinor Group which appeared on your register in March at the same address where you said you were Chairman.) However on your official register of interests held by West Berkshire Council where you are a member, you state that you are "Chairman of FIDAS - not registered in UK and with no interests in the UK. Unpaid". How do you account for the inconsistency between these two official records which are both contemporary?
3) In a private email to me, when I questioned you about your LinkedIn account which currently shows you as Chairman of a company based in Switzerland called Prescience, you said that you "“no longer have anything to do with Prescience, a company that never traded, so was disposed of”. However, one of the people listed on the Prescience website (which is still live on the net) is Frank Iding. On a US Government form in 2009, Mr Iding is described as the "Managing Director of Prescience AG since 2007". How do you account for a colleague of yours claiming to be MD of a company for two years that "never traded"? In your opinion, was Mr Iding telling the truth?
I will put these questions to him when I get the next opportunity, but if anyone wants to beat me to it, I would be happy with that.

And, Mr Stansfeld, if you are reading this, please feel free to post your answers below. I am interested in truth, transparency, integrity and accountability. I assume you are too...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Force performance: What is the Stansfeld effect?

Cllr Anthony Stansfeld is making much of his Chairmanship of Thames Valley Police Authority's Performance Review Committee. See his website for example where he says:


His CV also declares:
He took over as Chairman of the Performance Committee of the Thames Valley Police last year, during this period the overall crime rate has dropped by 15%, the greatest drop of any Police Force in England and Wales. He has, in conjunction with his Committee, set the exacting targets the Police have to achieve over next year. He concentrated his efforts on reducing rural crime, and improving household burglary detection rates, especially in Slough and Reading, neither of which has been up to standard in the past. 
And at the hustings on Monday night he said (if my listening back to the tape is accurate) "At last, a year and a half ago, we put a proper performance committee in to get a grip of this [performance], I chaired that committee". (You can listen to the full extract here on audioboo and you can draw your own conclusions.)

I would say that he wishes us to draw a clear conclusion: he took over in April last year and, almost single handedly, drove up performance. It would be impressive if it were true.

Firstly, the performance review committee meets every few months while all the while police officers and staff are working full time to tackle burglary and other crimes on their patch. I would contend that the impact of a police authority committee is very limited. What do you think?

But perhaps more interestingly, Thames Valley Police Authority published yesterday on its website an agenda with papers of the 9/10/12 meeting of this committee. You can download it here and go to page 45 which is the official transition handover report from TVPA to PCC governance for this committee.

In this report, it says very clearly:
The Authority can clearly demonstrate how, over the past three years, it has used its performance management regime to drive up corporate performance in Thames Valley Police.... the Authority is also quick to recognise that the Force – through the leadership and direction of the current Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) and Head of Force Performance – have consistently responded to the Authority’s challenges [my added emphasis]
and
At a Police Authority meeting in July 2009 the Authority’s then Lead Member for Performance, supported by other members, identified areas of concern over the Force’s performance in a number of key crime reduction and detection areas in Thames Valley... By the end of August 2009, the Force had responded positively to the Authority in number of ways. [again my added emphasis]
and
In the spring of 2010, the Authority played a pivotal role in bringing forward a Force initiative, ‘Project Morse’, which had originally been planned for later that summer. Morse was designed to improve the Force’s approach to investigating offences or, put simply, ‘detecting not just the detections’. Given the Authority’s previous concerns, this sustained approach was instrumental in achieving some challenging detection targets by the end of the following year in March 2011. [again my added emphasis]
You can read all the report for yourself.

This is not to say that the Performance Review Committee has had no impact in the last 18 months. But the implication of the official TVPA report is clear, the road to improvement began at least 3 years ago, not just since 18 months ago when Cllr Stansfeld got 'a grip' of matters by starting to chair a new committee.

Judge for yourself: what impact has Cllr Stansfeld actually had on Thames Valley Police performance?

The political power of images and stories

As we enter the last few weeks of the PCC campaign, things are hotting up. The debate about who can claim credit for improvements in Thames Valley Police's performance is kicking into gear. I am not sure yet, but we could be seeing some (shall we say) creative use of statistics and a bit of history rewriting.

Please watch this space: some documents are coming into my hands which suggests a different version of the past than one candidate would have you believe...  I will keep you informed.

Meanwhile there has been a minor skirmish this morning over a picture that was attached to this story in GetReading: "Politics must be kept out of policing" says independent candidate Khan Juna. The article now shows a smiling picture of Mr Juna.

However a few hours ago, it showed a picture of Mr Juna and the Chief Constable. (Below is a clip from a Google search and you can see the picture I am referring to. If you click on that picture link you get back to the story above...)


Now it is likely that the newspaper applied the picture not Mr Juna himself. All I know is that an eagle eyed member of the public spotted it and wondered if all the candidates would be able to have their picture with the Chief Constable as well... Who contacted the paper to make sure the picture was changed?

As we know, images can be profoundly political. So I look forward to seeing the pictures that will accompany Mr Juna's campaign, and for all the others. We have already had some controversy over this when the Police Authority requested that a picture of one of its members was removed from the Labour candidates website.

And I really do think it is about time that both Anthony Stansfeld and Khan Juna resigned from the police authority. While they remain, it is not a level playing field. 

Secret diary of a PCC (day three)

Gosh. It is all go! No sooner had I put down the office furniture catalogue (you just can't rush choosing a desk because it says so much about you..) than the acting Chief Exec comes bursting in to tell me there has been an attempted murder.

Calmly I tell him that it was an operational matter and the Acting Chief will be handling all that gold, bronze, silver, platinum, tin hat thingy. We'd had a chat about what to do about this sort of incident in the briefings before the election. He takes charge and I take the credit when the bad person is behind bars in custody. He seemed very happy with that arrangement. It was what the Chief Constable always did anyway.

But it seems this is no ordinary crime and some politics are involved...

It turns out the person in custody is claiming a 'Grayling defence' and so he should not even be in custody. He says he was threatened in his own home by a menacing, shadowy figure and defended himself, as the Government says he has a right to. He has already briefed his solicitors on false imprisonment and all manner of other human rights infringements. He is also chairs the county council's health & well being and child protection committees.

On hearing all this from the acting Chief Exec, I ask him what the blasted heck are the police doing locking him up in the first place?!

The other half of the story is a bit more tricky. The menacing, shadowy figure was a 15 year old girl camping out in his greenhouse stumbling towards him in a thin sleeping bag at 11.00 o'clock in the morning. She is currently battling a punctured lung in the local A&E having been stabbed with a garden fork through the sleeping bag.

Already there are tabloid journalists loitering outside the hospital.

Then I remembered the 'training' the party had put me through a few weeks ago. Whilst the day was mostly networking, canap├ęs, briefing on the core (well focus grouped) messages and a few posed photographs... there was the small part of the day on 'scenarios'. Some fancy management jibber jabber really - but there was a clear conclusion. Don't get involved in any operational policing unless there is a 75% chance of reflected glory. If there were even a 2% chance of the proverbial hitting the spinning proverbial, stay well clear. After careful consideration, I reasoned this was one of the latter kind.

Even though the chap involved is an old friend, I know when to cut loose. I had helped him out once before with the who was really at the steering wheel speeding thing. This was clearly too risky and I would just have to carry on being a Godfather to his daughter at a distance.

I told the acting Chief Exec to keep me briefed but that this was clearly an operational matter that I should not be involved in. He concurred.