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, November 28, 2012

Balancing rural and urban policing

I have had a reply back from PCC Stansfeld regarding my question about his pledge on maintaining the balance between urban and rural policing. Here it is:
Dear Mr Harvey
I intend to keep the present balance of police numbers between Local Police Areas (LPAs) unchanged.  It is not possible to give the baseline breakdown between urban and rural areas as many LPAs have both rural and urban areas within them.  For instance West Berkshire is essentially small towns and rural areas, yet it contains the western urban areas of Reading.  Milton Keynes again is both rural and urban, as is Buckinghamshire.
What I don’t envisage is moving numbers of Police between LPAs , either from or into, more rural or urban areas.
Anthony Stansfeld | Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley 
Now of course, this raises lots of interesting questions:
  1. Is it for the PCC to decide on the numbers of police officers deployed around their area? 
  2. Might the Chief Constable have a view that this is an operational matter?
  3. If it not possible to give a baseline breakdown between urban and rural areas, how will he assert that this pledge has (or has not) been kept come 2016?
  4. There are 14 local police areas in Thames Valley which could probably all be described as containing both urban and rural zones although the mix would vary. Is he really saying that he does not foresee any movement between these LPAs in the next 3.5 years, even if crime rates vary differentially?
I shall watch how this all plays out. Interesting.

Impartiality and PCCs

The election is over. The PCCs have begun work. They have all sworn an oath of impartiality. So does that mean we can now leave politics aside until 2016?

In my view: yes and no.

There are many people (including about a 1/3 of the PCCs) who believe that party politics (if not politics in general) has nothing to do with the governance of policing. I have argued here and elsewhere over the last few months that policing strategy and governance has always been, and will always be, political. When decisions are being taken about the deployment of scarce resources (for example), those decisions cannot be anything but political, in my opinion. Choices over priorities will have to be made and these are influenced by politics and values. I do not think PCCs will be influenced in a crude way in that they will merely be seeking to favour their core support: politics is more subtle than that. But PCCs will be employing sets of principles and values to determine their approach to budgeting the police and crime monies, whether these are explicit or not.

Moreover, one of the more interesting hustings discussions that happened during the campaign here in Thames Valley (and one that I have only heard & read about) was about whether police should be routinely armed with tasers or not. This was a political and ethical discussion but I am not sure how much it interacted with party politics per se. There were other debates elsewhere about whether police resources should be used to protect farmers culling badgers. Everyone reading this will surely know just how political animal ‘management’ politics can get… And all this hinges upon the dividing line between what is strategic and what is operational, naturally.

Given that PCCs will be have to be functioning on the national stage as well and relating to government (see for example PCC Bob Jones’ letter to the Chancellor) one can easily see how PCCs individually and collectively will have to be political.

So, no, politics cannot be left aside until 2016. But also yes: now is the time to be non-partisan. PCCs and those working with them now need to leave aside the electioneering contest behaviours and get on with the serious job of making a difference to their local communities.

Shrewd observers of my blog will have noticed that I have removed the obvious emblems of my Labour party membership. Please do not be confused, I still act as a Labour town councillor (there are eight of us on Buckingham Town Council out of a total of 17 councillors) and I will be actively campaigning for Labour values and election victories in the future. But now is the time to put aside party political differences (as I have always done in my work with the police service and other public agencies) and get on with the business of stimulating, supporting, assisting, nudging and occasionally prodding PCCs to make lasting improvements to policing, crime reduction and community safety for the benefit of us all.

This is a time for collegiate and collective action based on evidence based practice, transparency, accountability and a robust passion for a better criminal justice system. In other words, a just future: fair for all.

And this is why the Confederation of Police & Crime Commissioners has the potential ably to assist PCCs. We are people from across the political spectrum (and none) who acknowledge our differences but are committed to working together in support of PCCs and the whole new governance structure.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Confederation of Police and Crime Commissioners

Some of you will have noticed that my name has now appeared on another site: the CoPaCC team. As the main part of the website makes clear: the purpose of CoPaCC is to offer a fresh alternative for Police and Crime Commissioners seeking to be stronger together.

The existence of CoPaCC raises a number of questions, not least: why do PCCs need an 'alternative'? Sam Chapman on his Top of the Cops blog has added his contribution to answering this question. I feel I should add mine now, to add to the conversations that I know are happening both on and offline about CoPaCC.

Sam makes a persuasive case, as does of course the home site. To the points already made, I would add:

I have worked in and around the Association of Police Authorities (the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners is the successor body) since it began. Indeed, I facilitated their first three annual away days back in the mid nineties, for example. I have a great deal of respect for the work they have done and the staff (past and present) have served police authorities well. Evidently, the 'new' organisation has invested in a number of informative and well written briefing papers for the incoming PCCs. And so my involvement in CoPaCC includes a substantial appreciation of the work done to date by the APA/APCC.

However (there was always going to be a 'however'), it is my view that the body of PCCs now elected will need a very different entity from the past to service their representation, coordination and collaboration needs. This is not just about numbers of people (we have gone from around 700 authority members to just 41 PCCs) it is also about the nature of the governance role. PCCs will operate very differently to the erstwhile police authority chairs at both Chief Constable level and with national bodies and governance structures. Just how and in what way differently will be emergent, of course. The questions are, has the APCC adapted enough so far and does it have the capability to adapt further as PCCs find their feet? How likely is it that it will seek to mould PCCs' requirements around what it is accustomed to doing rather than starting with a blank slate? Is it more or less helpful to PCCs for them to have a ready made association or a body that seeks to start where they are at? Will it serve this new policing and crime governance model well to use existing 'grooves' or chisel out new ones?

I do not know the answers to any of these questions. But I do know that it is valuable to offer PCCs a choice. Many, most or even all PCCs may well choose the APCC as the body to take forward their needs for national representation, good practice sharing, resource pooling, coordination and collaboration (etc.) And some, many, most or even all may elect to ask CoPaCC to carry out this work on their behalf. Either way, it will be a choice, which can only strengthen the body (or bodies because we may end up with two) chosen.

With all this in mind, I responded positively to the request to be involved in making CoPaCC a success. By participating  I also wanted to help ensure that the new organisation represented a broad church not only professionally but also politicly in the hope that all the elected PCCs would see the organisation as one that could meet their professional requirements and resonate with their political values, whatever those were.

As a final point here, I would say that I wanted to be part of something new and progressive. Regular readers will know that I remain concerned about the PCC governance model and how it will work out in practice. However, given the opportunity to be involved in helping PCCs make the most of their new role and ensure that communities become and feel safer, I could only answer yes.

What do you think?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Local accountability?

Anthony Stansfeld was elected PCC for Thames Valley on a number of manifesto pledges. One of these pledges was:
If elected as the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony pledges:
- To maintain the balance between urban and rural policing.
When PCC Stansfeld made this pledge I wrote to Thames Valley Police to ask them (under FoI) what is the 'current' balance between urban and rural policing. I received their response back today:
This request is refused under Section 12(1) of the FOIA. Please see below for further detail.
And they go on to say (with my added highlights):
Section 12(1) of the Freedom of Information Act allows that public authorities do not have to comply with Section 1(1) of the Act if the cost of complying would exceed the appropriate limit.  It is Thames Valley Police general policy that should a request for information exceed the appropriate level then we will exercise our legal right not to respond but cases will be assessed individually to consider the implications. In this instance, Thames Valley Police does not record this data in a centralised format and would need to review a significant amount of records with reference to the resourcing of each officer to retrieve it It should be noted that this letter acts as a Refusal Notice under the Freedom of Information Act. 
So as of now, it is impossible to hold PCC Stansfeld to account for one of his five campaign pledges. I have just written to PCC Stansfeld for his response:
Dear PCC Stansfeld
Congratulations on being elected PCC for Thames Valley.
During your campaign, you made a pledge (number two of five: http://www.anthonystansfeld.org.uk/campaign-pledges) that you would ‘maintain the balance between urban and rural policing’. When this pledge was published, I wrote to Thames Valley Police asking them for a baseline value for the current balance. I received this reply (below) from them today, essentially saying that it would take too many resources to give me the actual figure.
Therefore, as you are now our elected PCC for Thames Valley and you made the pledge, I thought I should write to you with the same request. I am sure that you will wish to be held to account for achieving this pledge over your 3½ year term. With that in mind, please could I have the current value. 
Many thanks
Very best wishes
I am looking forward to his response...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It really is the budget stupid (part two)...!

This is a follow up to my earlier post (here) where I argued for an allocation of police resources based on harm and risk of harm. I also highlighted that this will be one of the areas that is likely to be a source of great debate (aka conflict in some cases!) between the new PCCs and their Chief Constables (be they acting, constant or in the process of moving on).

This was one of the key subjects discussed on Friday by the online debate hosted by the Guardian Professional on where next for PCCs which you can read here. (Kathryn Dobinson will be producing a summary in the next few days as well.)

In my view, as indeed the Government's own leaflet suggested, a key part of the job of PCC is not just signing off the precept and the top level budgetary amount but also being actively involved in the process of determining how to deploy scarce resources around the constabulary area. Quite how this will work out in the wash is (probably as I write) being discussed.

However, I am keen to see the principles and priorities upon which the budgets will be made. As I commented in the discussion on Friday, doing the budget before the plan is putting the cart before the horse... but (and maybe I say this too often these days!): we are where we are...

If you are a PCC reading this: what are your principles and priorities that you will want to see reflected in the budget?

Friday, November 23, 2012

What not...

I am sure there were plenty of people on hand yesterday, telling the new PCCs (on their first official day) what they should be doing. Naturally, I joined in!

PCCs are no different from all leadership positions, there are always far more things to do than there are hours in the day. There are things you must do, things that others are asking you to do and things that you want to do. The pressure is on PCCs: a great deal needs to be achieved in the next 100 days, not least the policing plan.

In my view, the only way PCCs will politically and personally survive these next few months and beyond will centre on knowing clearly what not to do.

In my view a vital dimension in the art of leadership is judging what not to do.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Official day one: focus on children & young people

Today marks the first official day of work for the newly elected Police & Crime Commissioners. What they do today will be a signal for what is to come. If you are a PCC reading this: what are your priorities today?

If I were PCC, I would spend the day focusing on those people who I knew did not vote for me because they were not able to: children and young people.

I would hope that I do not really need to make the case for this priority given recent news of widespread abuse and the clear (and I know a little cheesy) fact that 'children are our future'. And teenagers especially are often demonised as perpetrators of crime and anti-social behaviour whereas they are far more likely to be vulnerable victims of crime.

So here are ten things that a PCC might do today (and beyond) to help these vulnerable young people:
  1. Begin the process of appointing a Youth Commissioner (an excellent idea first floated, I think, by Ann Barnes, Kent PCC)
  2. Set in train the creation of a local summit on child protection & the prevention of abuse to exchange good practice and generate a good 'stractegy' - not another 'strutegy'
  3. Ask the Chief Constable to produce a note on what the force has learnt in the last few months especially about how to tackle and prevent crimes against children & young people and how this learning is being embedded in professional practice
  4. Issue a request via the local media for people and organisations to send in examples of great practice in the field of child protection & the prevention of crimes against young people
  5. Make contact with all the youth councils in the PCC's area and set up a schedule of 'getting to know you' meetings
  6. Ask all the major criminal justice agencies in the area (including the police naturally) to explain how well they listen to and act upon the concerns, fears, hopes and dreams of the children and young people they serve (directly or indirectly) 
  7. Appoint someone to do some 'hurdle and girdle' research into what is slowing or constraining the capacity and capability of the police service to tackle crimes against children and young people robustly so that overall levels come down
  8. Begin the process of establishing a single composite measure of these crimes against young people and children so that progress can be assessed
  9. Invite the public, via the local and social media, to advocate what more might be done in this field of criminal justice
  10. Invite the NSPCC, Childline, Banardos and other key local/national bodies who specialise in helping vulnerable young people to suggest their ten actions for PCCs to take

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A man of the highest probity

I felt I had to copy and paste this comment from a 'Newbury Net' discussion forum:
Thanks for the links, I've only just caught up with the rest of this discussion. It's all very perplexing but I think we can agree that no one would be sufficiently stupid to apply for such a high profile post with any hint of a dodgy past and am confident that we can all rest assured that Mr Stansfeld is absolutely the right man for the job. 
I'm sure that there are very good reasons why he wouldn't give straightforward answers to the very persistent questioning by the author of http://ajustfuture.blogspot.co.uk/ and the confusion about whether he is or was a chairman of some company or other cannot possibly be relevant. I would go so far as to say that any suggestion that Mr Stansfeld isn't motivated by his deep commitment to public service or is not a man of the highest probity would be scurrilous in the extreme. (noobree)
You may wish to read the whole discussion here (page 3 showing quote above, you can scroll back to the two previous pages from there.

Naturally, I make no comment...

UPDATE: noobree has added further comment:
I've only seen Commissioner Stansfield in action once, at an open district council meeting. Some would say his performance during the meeting was hectoring, arrogant and amounted to bullying. That would be unfair. 
Clearly a firm and uncompromising leader is required for TVP if the government's aims of privatising as much of the police service as possible is to be achieved before the 2015 general election. Only once our police forces are safely in the hands of companies like G4S and Capita will we be able to sleep soundly in our beds. And if donors to and supporters of Commissioner Stansfield's party profit from privatisation that simply shows how far sighted they have been. 
Naturally, I could not possibly comment...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How should PCCs handle questions over their legitimacy?

On Friday 23 November (12 - 2pm), the Guardian Public Leaders Network are hosting another online discussion around the legitimacy of PCCs in the light of the voter turnout. The discussion will be focusing on: "what the new PCCs will do to improve their legitimacy, after a record low voter turnout of 12-15% in the first PCC elections for England and Wales." I will be taking part so I have written this blog to warm my brain up, if nobody else's! (Link to discussion page is here)

41 new PCCs have now been elected with significant powers to set budgets, hire & fire Chief Constables and forge the overall direction of the local police service. However, questions have been raised about their legitimacy given the very poor turnout for the elections. How might they handle these questions?

Firstly it is important to say that even if the turnout had been lower (say 8%), each elected PCC would still be the 'legitimate' Police & Crime Commissioner for their area. That is the law and something that I said in my attempt to persuade people (who were considering not voting / spoiling ballot papers) to vote nonetheless either for their preferred or least disliked candidate.

But... whilst they are legitimate, do they have credibility? Will they have real influence?

In my view, whilst voter turnout will remain an issue, especially when the whole statute comes to be assessed in a few years time (and the Electoral Commission may well have something to say before then), I do not believe it will be a day to day issue for the PCCs. What will matter is whether the PCC earns the respect and trust of local communities and builds a solid working relationship with their Chief Constable. This will not depend on the percentage of voters who voted for them, but on their personal, professional and political leadership skills.

Indeed,  I would argue that the low voter turnout will prevent them from being too courageous (ie rash & despotic) in their decision making and instead they will be forced to use softer means of power to get their way. I suspect that any PCC who tries exercising the 'I have a mandate for this' line with their Chiefs will carefully sidelined in a 'Yes Minister' kind of way. I could well be wrong, but most of the Chiefs I know are pretty adept at handling politicians who are all bluster and no substance. (And let's not forget that most of the 'manifestos' were remarkably short on substance beyond the anodyne 'cut crime' crowd pleasing statements.)

The wise & skilful PCC will move on from voter turnout pretty darn quickly and begin to shape their influence around superlative leadership and being a very good politician. By that I mean, getting out there, listening to people and learning about the stories that will impact upon the Chief and her/his team. Anecdotes should not direct change (that should still be done by good evidential research) but they can drive change. This is part of the power that PCCs now have. Their other key power will be in asking thumping good questions... but that is for another blog soon.

If I had been elected as a PCC, one of the things I would be doing now, is conducting my own personal power audit: what kinds of power & influence do I have and where do I need to gain more?

And so to answer the question in my title: PCCs should address concerns about their legitimacy by earning credibility and trust through exceptional leadership. We now await to see who will do this well...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Secret Diary of a PCC: Movember

As regular readers know, I have been compiling an irreverent, satirical and (I am told) humorous Secret Diary of a PCC since September, beginning with a memo from a Chief Constable to an incoming PCC. (Hopefully the memos being despatched as I write are nothing like the one I compiled!)

The feedback from the people about the memo (many sent messages and it was browsed over 1500 times), inspired me to write up how the PCC might have reacted... This has now turned into the first ten days in the life of a new PCC. I wrote day ten last Friday as the PCC election votes were being counted.

I have now converted all the blog posts into one easy to read pdf file for your enjoyment and digital delectation. You can download a copy here from my Google drive.

It is free!

However, if you have enjoyed the blogs (and now this accessible single document), I would be most grateful if you would consider donating to my MOvember efforts. If you can spare a pound, that would be fabulous. If you can spare more, that would be even better!


The money all goes towards research into prostate and testicular cancer.

My Dad died sixteen years ago with prostate cancer and a good neighbour in my street is currently battling with it too. So this means a lot to me, as I know it does many other people too.

If I manage to raise over £500, I will be dyeing my moustache bright RED for the Town Council meeting on 3/12/12! So if you want me to look even more ridiculous that I already do, please make a donation. Thank you!

In the meantime, here is the current state of play:


Thanks. And I hope the Secret Diary of a PCC makes you smile.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The other 'approval ratings'

On my blog below, I analysed the providence of the 12 independent candidates who became PCCs on Friday 16/11/12. As part of this, I developed an 'approval rating' score for each. This is my own creation and comprises the multiplication of the turnout by the percentage of first preference votes cast. It is a crude measure of what percentage of the voting population gave their first vote to the winning candidate.

Here are the results for the Labour & Conservative PCCs. (All data taken from the Guardian DataBlog)

Labour (from North to South)

  • Northumbria: Vera Baird. Turnout: 16.45% | 56.02% of first preference votes | Second: Phil Butler Party: Con 25.64% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 9.2%
  • Durham: Ron Hogg. Turnout: 14.41% | 51.57% of first preference votes | Second: Kingsley Smith Party: Ind 26.82% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.4%
  • Cleveland: Barry Coppinger. Turnout: 14.73% | 41.58% of first preference votes | Second: Ken Lupton Party: Con 25.97% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.1%
  • Lancashire: Clive Grunshaw. Turnout: 15.05% | 39.28% of first preference votes | Second: Tim Ashton Party: Con 34.76% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.9%
  • West Yorkshire: Mark Burns-Williamson. Turnout: 13.34% | 47.88% of first preference votes | Second: Cedric Christie Party: Ind 22.96% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.4%
  • Merseyside: Jane Kennedy. Turnout: 12.41% | 56.18% of first preference votes | Second: Geoff Gubb Party: Con 12.58% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.0%
  • Greater Manchester: Tony Lloyd. Turnout: 13.59% | 51.23% of first preference votes | Second: Michael Winstanley Party: Con 15.61% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.0%
  • South Yorkshire: Shaun Wright. Turnout: 14.53% | 51.35% of first preference votes | Second: David Allen Party: Other 15.56% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.5%
  • Derbyshire: Alan Charles. Turnout: 14.35% | 44.31% of first preference votes | Second: Simon Spencer Party: Con 24.52% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.4%
  • Nottinghamshire: Paddy Tipping. Turnout: 16.42% | 43.13% of first preference votes | Second: Malcolm Spencer Party: Ind 22.76% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.1%
  • West Midlands: Bob Jones. Turnout: 11.96% | 42% of first preference votes | Second: Matt Bennett Party: Con 18.51% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.0%
  • Bedfordshire: Olly Martins. Turnout: 17.75% | 34.03% of first preference votes | Second: Jas Parmar Party: Con 31.93% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.0%
  • South Wales: Alun Michael. Turnout: 14.68% | 46.95% of first preference votes | Second: Mike Baker Party: Ind 32.48% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.9%
Conservative (from South to North)
  • Devon and Cornwall: Tony Hogg. Turnout: 14.65% | 28.98% of first preference votes | Second: Brian Greenslade Party: Ind 12.96% of first preference vote | ‘Approval rating’ 4.2%
  • Sussex: Katy Bourne. Turnout: 15.33% | 31.51% of first preference votes | Second: Godfrey Daniel Party: Lab 21.54% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 4.8%
  • Wiltshire: Angus Macpherson. Turnout: 15.3% | 36.24% of first preference votes | Second: Clare Moody Party: Lab 20.56% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.5%
  • Thames Valley: Anthony Stansfeld. Turnout: 12.88% | 34.7% of first preference votes | Second: Tim Starkey Party: Lab 25.85% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 4.5%
  • Essex: Nick Alston. Turnout: 12.81% | 30.51% of first preference votes | Second: Mick Thwaites Party: Ind 23.85% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 3.9%
  • Hertfordshire: David Lloyd. Turnout: 14.1% | 45.89% of first preference votes | Second: Sherma Batson Party: Lab 28.98% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.5%
  • Dyfed-Powys: Christopher Salmon. Turnout: 16.38% | 50.86% of first preference votes | Second: Christine Gwyther Party: Lab 49.14% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 8.3%
  • Suffolk: Tim Passmore. Turnout: 15.41% | 34.99% of first preference votes | Second: Jane Basham Party: Lab 35.07% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.4%
  • Northamptonshire: Adam Simmonds. Turnout: 19.5% | 30.08% of first preference votes | Second: Lee Barron Party: Lab 24.81% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.9%
  • Cambridgeshire: Sir Graham Bright. Turnout: 14.77% | 26.78% of first preference votes | Second: Ed Murphy Party: Lab 19.84% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 4.0%
  • Leicestershire: Sir Clive Loader. Turnout: 15.92% | 48.43% of first preference votes | Second: Sarah Russell Party: Lab 34.36% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.7%
  • Staffordshire: Matthew Ellis. Turnout: 11.63% | 51.85% of first preference votes | Second: Joy Garner Party: Lab 48.15% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 6.0%
  • Cheshire: John Dwyer. Turnout: 13.74% | 36.84% of first preference votes | Second: John Stockton Party: Lab 28.44% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 5.1%
  • Humberside: Matthew Grove. Turnout: 19.15% | 22.01% of first preference votes | Second: John Prescott Party: Lab 24.88% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 4.2%
  • North Yorkshire: Julia Mulligan. Turnout: 13.25% | 58.25% of first preference votes | Second: Ruth Potter Party: Lab 41.75% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 7.7%
  • Cumbria: Richard Rhodes. Turnout: 15.63% | 29.04% of first preference votes | Second: Patrick Leonard Party: Lab 24.58% of first preference votes | ‘Approval rating’ 4.5%
Some observations & calculations:
  • Average 'approval rating' for 13 Labour PCCs is 6.8%
  • Average 'approval rating' for 16 Conservative PCCs is 5.5%
  • Average 'approval rating' for 12 Independent PCCs is 5.4%
  • There were three 'two person' contests: Dyfed Powys, North Yorkshire & Staffordshire. Conservatives won all three. This will have boosted their 'approval ratings' average
  • The 'approval rating' may be function of the number of candidates standing
  • The person with the highest rating was Vera Baird in Northumbria with 9.2%
  • The person with the lowest rating was Simon Hayes in Hampshire with 3.3%
I will write more at another time.

Independents' Day

The early big story of the PCC elections was the turnout which was shockingly low, lower than many commentators predicted. (Although I had my secret PCC being proud of his 15.1% turnout back in September). The authors of this policy dismissed concerns about turnout as the early teething problems you 'always' get with a new electoral role and it was all the fault of the Lib Dems anyway for wanting the election in November. This story will run, especially as the Electoral Commission are conducting a review. However, I reckon it will not run and run...

But what I did not see coming was the number of candidates running on an independent ticket being elected. I got my prediction well and truly wrong. Although, perhaps where the indies did get it right was in promotion of some radical ideas, as I was urging in the same article. I will be interested to see how (Kent's) Anne Barnes' Youth Commissioner works out, for example.

But let's run through the independents who were elected.
  • Avon & Somerset: Sue Mountstevens. Ex magistrate, business woman and ran on "and no party politics!" ticket. (Turnout: 18.77% | 35.81% of first preference votes | Second: Ken Maddock Party: Con 24.35% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 6.7%
  • Dorset: Martyn Underhill: Ex police officer, charity trustee and college lecturer. Ran on no politics in policing ticket. (Turnout: 16.34% | 45.16% of first preference votes | Second: Nick King Party: Con | 32.41% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 7.4%)
  • Gloucestershire: Martin Surl. Ex police officer and against further police station closures. Also ran on the "party politics has no place in policing" ticket. (Turnout: 15.96% | 35.26% of first preference votes | Second: Victoria Atkins Party: Con 36.21% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 5.6%)
  • Gwent: Ian Johnston. Ex police officer and former President of the Superintendents Association. Will "work... without political interference" (Turnout: 13.97% | 39.64% of first preference votes | Second: Hamish Sandison Party: Lab | 38.89% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 5.5%)
  • Hampshire: Simon Hayes. Ex police authority (former Chair) and currently chairs local Crimestoppers. Stood "free of Party political pressure or obligation" (Turnout: 14.53% | 22.48% of first preference votes | Second: Michael Mates Party: Con 24.83% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 3.3%)
  • Kent: Ann Barnes. Ex police authority (immediate past Chair) and ex magistrate. Will keep "party politics out of police". (Turnout: 15.99% | 46.8% of first preference votes | Second: Craig Mackinlay Party: Con 25.22% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 7.5%)
  • Lincolnshire: Alan Hardwick. Ex police authority employee (Marketing & Media officer) and former TV journalist. Ran with "absolutely no political agendas". (Turnout: 15.28% | 31.37% of first preference votes | Second: David Bowles Party: Other 32.66% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 4.8%)
  • Norfolk: Stephen Bett. Ex police authority (immediate past Chair) and cites 16 years of PA membership. Believes in "keeping party politics out of policing". (Turnout: 14.51% | 28.66% of first preference votes | Second: Jamie Athill Party: Con 31.74% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 4.2%)
  • North Wales: Winston Roddick. Ex police officer, former QC and Wales’ first Counsel General. Ran on being a "commissioner who can act independently of political interference". (Turnout: 14.83% | 33.07% of first preference votes | Second: Tal Michael Party: Lab 29.67% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 4.9%)
  • Surrey: Kevin Hurley. Ex police officer, reservist army officer and involved in rebuilding policing in Iraq. Strictly speaking not an independent but ran on "Zero Tolerance Policing ex Chief" ticket. (Turnout: 15.36% | 26.12% of first preference votes | Second: Julie Iles Party: Con 26.13% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 4.0%)
  • Warwickshire: Ronald Ball. Ex magistrate, former national executive member for the British Airline Pilots Association and commercial airline pilot. Party politics should be kept at "arms length". (Turnout: 15.23% | 33.3% of first preference votes | Second: James Plaskitt Party: Lab 34.7% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 5.1%)
  • West Mercia: Bill Longmore. Ex police officer, businessman and award winning community work.  He declared that he is "not a politician but a man of the people". (Turnout: 14.54% | 37.75% of first preference votes | Second: Adrian Blackshaw Party: Con 36.56% of first preference votes | 'Approval rating' 5.5%)
All the voting data has been taken from the Guardian DataBlog and the results confirmed by the Home Office site. The 'Approval rating' is my own creation and comprises the multiplication of the turnout by the percentage of first preference votes cast. It is a crude measure of what percentage of the voting population gave their first vote to the winning candidate.

So what do we have?
  • 12 out of the 41 PCCs are independent of the main political parties.
  • 6 are ex police officers, 3 are ex police authority / employee and 2 are ex magistrates.
  • 6 won on both first and second prefernces, the other 6 came second in first round
  • 8 beat Conservatives into second place, with 3 Labour came second and in Lincs it was a contest between two people not in major parties in the final count
I am cautious about drawing any hard conclusions from this, but here goes:
  • Being ex police in some way made all the difference in support and might explain why in other areas the indies did not succeed (either because the Labour or Tory who did, had substantial 'legs' in policing / crime worlds or because the indies on offer did not). But this needs further investigation.
  • The Conservatives set out on this policy hoping for notable local figures to represent local people saying that it should not be about party politics. In a way, they got their wish.
  • The independents 'stole' PCC positions off mainly Tories.
Now we await to see how these independents remain above party politics, especially as they are confronted by a highly political Home Office & MoJ and local police and crime panels made up of local politicians. 

In the absence of party support & allegiance, these indies might find the job of being PCC even tougher. Equally they may feel more liberated and free to really focus on what local people need and want the police to do than their party counterparts. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Secret Diary of a PCC (day ten)

Ah... I remember that electric moment when I was elected. The tingly feeling of being really wanted, approved and commended by literally thousands of people. I imagined it being like a job interview with a very long table in front of me and them all nodding and saying yes. The retiring Chief Constable sneered at the second preference votes that got me over the 50% mark, but they were still votes! To my mind 15.1% is a heck of a lot more than the pusillanimous police authority ever got! Authority - hah! I have the authority now and I'm going to use it!

And then this morning, as I was contentedly musing on my authority & power (etc.), it all gets ruined by Winger coming to see me! It seems the darn chap has gone native!!

I sent him off to start working on the policing plan several days ago. And now he has come back blathering on about evidence based practice baloney, the 'Strategic Policing Requirement' guff, legal constraint blither, human resource capability blah, public consultation (strike that - public engagement...) claptrap and all manner of management jargon. I swear he's been for a Bramshill brainwash. Damn the man!

I asked him to do a simple job: write me a policing plan that matched my manifesto. And he has the effrontery and audacity to tell me that my manifesto promises were "contradictory, vague and populist". I say, "of course they were, I was running for election you squarehead!! But it is the job I gave you (remember that?) to go away and turn the promises into a plan!" I told him that "just as I don't bother with taxes as they are for the little people, you are the little person who has to turn my big picture into a plan. Now get on with it!!"

And then he resigned and walked out of the room with a big grin on his shiny fat face. Last time I trust him to do anything!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Police: who will be the leader?

I first posted this article 20 months ago. It seems appropriate to post it once more...

___________________________________

There is now draft legislation to replace Police Authorities with elected Police Crime Commissioners. As we await the passage of the legislation into law, the debate is continuing about how these new PCCs will work - or indeed whether they should happen altogether. Today the Civil Service Live Network put up a debate between a past Home Secretary and a think tank Chief Exec about the pros and cons of this new policy. You can access it here.

It is a debate that I felt moved to add my six pennyworth - here is what I wrote:

Not being able to name the chair of local Police Authority is not a powerful argument. Not even knowing that such a body exists is perhaps more convincing. Certainly, despite their best efforts, the awareness of Police Authorities is still very low amongst the general public. But there again, how many citizens really understand how all public services join up and are governed?

Quoting the research about public satisfaction with the police is not best placed since that has far more to do with how members of the public feel treated by police officers & staff (sadly) following a crime that it does about concerns about the setting of overall priorities.

The gap between reality (crime has been going down significantly in recent years) and perception (fear of crime & antisocial behaviour is still high) is notable. I ran my own one person campaign to get fear of crime included in the responsibilities of the local Crime & Disorder partnership legislation (1998) but failed. I do wonder, had it been in there whether things would be different now?

The gap is down to many factors not least the media coverage of crimes, the doubt over 'statistics' (lies, damned lies etc) and the ability of many in and involved with the police to really 'connect' with the public. PCSOs have been doing a remarkable job here and local PC led neighbourhood teams have been making real inroads. But, how many of these structures will survive austerity measures is yet to be seen. I do worry that expectations on these new PCC's will be so high whilst at the same time front line services will be cut back (there is only so much money to be saved by reducing the IT department to one person and an electronic dog) - that a perfect storm will be created. And in this storm, the perpetrators of antisocial behaviour and broad acquisitive crime will have a field day. Crime and fear of crime will rise together. I hope not, of course, but the omens are not good.

But on the other hand, over the years I have been working with the police as an independent adviser / coach / facilitator - I have seen the police HQ car parks grow and grow...

I don't think the last Government 'chickened out' - I think they ran out of legislative time. By the same token, one could argue that this Government has chickened out of a national restructuring and moving away from 43 independent police forces in E&W. Interestingly though - Scotland and possibly Wales are moving towards whole country forces in each case.

It is vital "that local people had a real say over the policing in their area" but I am just not sure that PCCs alone will be the answer. They may be part of the answer - but on their own - almost certainly not. I speak as someone who has lived and worked in the Thames Valley Police for nearly all of my adult life. It is a very large patch which extends from Milton Keynes to Witney to Reading to Slough to Eton and so forth. The idea that all these geographically (and otherwise) diverse communities could all feel represented by a single person is a stretch of the imagination. What will be critical, assuming the draft legislation becomes law, will be to elect a person who has a very clear and convincing plan for how to 'stay in touch' with the broad sweep of the area. I can only hope that the preferential voting system that the Government is proposing to use for electing these PCCs will be able to ensure that the best possible people - politically and otherwise - become the new PCCs. I also hope that the rigour of scrutiny and challenge that must happen as part of the selection processes and subsequent campaigns of all the candidates will tease out the wheat from the chaff (ie the really committed, knowledgeable and citizen focused people from the 'place people' that the central political parties may try to parachute in).

Once these people are in place - yes there will be some very tricky issues around governance and relationship with the Chief Constables to resolve. On its own, I don't think that is an argument against having the new PCCs. However it is an argument for some very clear thinking about roles and boundaries before the PCCs are elected. Perhaps some simulations, thought experiments and the like would not go amiss. This is not wholly new terrain since PAs have had the lead responsibility for Best Value while the CC is operationally independent. It was never really tested when (say) the PA decided the 'Dogs Section' should be closed down on BV grounds while the CC said that it was an operational matter over which he/she had complete autonomy. This was never tested.

So it is a big debate - which will only kick into gear when / if the legislation is passed into statute. When that happens, I hope that Civil Service World will host more debates like this (on and offline) to flesh out just how this new leadership role will operate in the context of 150+ years of policing.

Debate: Elected police and crime commissioners

I am left pondering on how the new PCCs (assuming it becomes law) will impact upon leadership in the police service - not just at the chief officer level but also throughout the organisation.

And so...

Here we are. Election day has arrived.

With this post may I wish all the candidates standing for election today well. (All the PCC candidates, the by election candidates and the mayoral contest in Bristol.) It takes a strange mix of courage, confidence, vanity and masochism to stand for election and I applaud all those who are taking the risk today. There are many who never pass by an opportunity to have a go at politicians. I often wonder how many of those people would take the risk the be so very publicly counted.

And like Sam Chapman, I hope that the best people win and go on to make an extraordinary contribution to policing and public life following their election. (Although, unlike Sam, I am less than enthusiastic about the PCC governance model: I think it dangerously concentrates power in the hands of a single individual and is anything but 'local'.)

Moreover, I wish all supporters, party workers, letterbox stuffers, telephone canvassers, GOTVers and polling station tellers well too. This is democracy in action. Long may it continue to thrive.

And now to action... 30 minutes and counting!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

John Howson: second preference?

John Howson (Lib Dem candidate of Thames Valley PCC) has posted my description of him on his blog. You can see it here. I don't mind, and I won't be charging a copyright royalty fee...

However, as I have been open and transparent on where I will be placing my second preference vote (see below) and now that Professor Howson has indeed used my words, I thought he might have had the grace to be equally open about how he will be casting his second preference vote...

So then I see further down the page, a reference to the questions placed in the box at the Oxford Hustings and John Howson's answers. I clicked on the link hopefully...

I saw my question reprinted:
You will all of course be giving your own first preference vote to yourselves. But you and everyone else have a second preference vote too. Will you be using your second preference to vote? If so, who for and why? If not, why will you not be casting a second vote?
And then I read his answer:
I will be using my second preference and invite every voter to use both preferences. However, the second preferences of the candidates who come first and second will be ignored.
Hmm. Either Professor Howson did not read all of my question, or he has copped out. So come on, John Howson, what is sauce for the goose is surely sauce for gander... If you quote me and my second preference, you could at least return the transparent favour...?

PCCS: Vote Tim STARKEY!

Yesterday, Michael Crick (highly respected political reporter for Channel 4 News) posted this extraordinary tweet:


It would appear that Anthony Stansfeld was hiding from him. Mr Crick's later report confirmed that he had tried 15 times to get in touch but got nowhere. You can see the whole report here.

So is Cllr Stansfeld "afraid of an election, is he? Afraid? Frightened? Frit?"

He should be. There are enough questions about his past and present that still remain unanswered. And he faces a formidable campaigner in the shape of Tim Starkey, the Labour Party Candidate.

There is not much time left to ensure that Tim becomes PCC. I fear for local policing if Anthony Stansfeld is elected. His campaign promises do not add up, he eulogises about his recent achievements and basks in the glory of long past efforts in Borneo and manufacturing planes. But in total, the facts do not add up. If his campaign was a job application, I don't believe any employer would appoint him.

On the other hand Tim's campaign has focused on clearly stated priorities, he is endorsed by the former Chief Constable of Thames Valley and he has sharp end experience of criminal matters and policing through his role as a barrister.

Contrast Tim's sharp end experience with that of Anthony Stansfeld who decided that requesting a chauffeur driven car for the incoming PCC (which I am guessing he assumed to be himself) was a priority matter to address before almost anything else. What does that tell you about the man?

So please give your first preference vote to

Tim STARKEY [X] 

and you might at least get to meet your new PCC...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

20,000 and counting!

I hoped that I would be able to post this before election day - and I can! This blog has now been browsed over 20,000 times. Thank you to all my occasional and regular readers!

PCCs: Vote Labour!

We are now in the last few hours of what for many has been a very long campaign. It will soon all be over and by Friday afternoon, 41 PCCs will have been elected (regardless of any decisions to opt out or spoil ballot papers).

It seemed to be the right time to reflect on why I hope 40 Labour PCCs will be elected.

I have been a Labour activist for nearly 40 years, stuffing leaflets through people's doors in the good and bad times. Some years, it has been hard to do this. I profoundly disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq (and still do), I could see how PFi would end up, I worried about a drift away from upholding human rights and so forth. I could go on!

Being a political activist is about resolving the mix between pragmatism and idealism.

In some ways I am envious of the Green Party supporter who snorted "a rather staggering amount of cognitive dissonance!" at me on Saturday. I wish I could be that pure. I almost admire the Socialist Workers Party / Communist Party of GB / People's Liberation Party of Judea for how they persuade people into stapling thousands of placards onto wooden sticks before every demo in London: so organised (and yet... so ineffectual).

But I always come home to Labour. Partly what keeps me coming home is the thought of all the people who are being exploited by the Libor fixers, the wholesale gas 'merchants', the pay day loan sharks, the glib disability 'assessors', the PPI telephone fraudsters and the people who just don't give one jot for the lot of people who live round the corner from them.

In the end, what keeps me voting & supporting Labour is the anger that we live in a society which means that millions of people don't even get to dream about a better future for themselves and their families, let alone a chance to make their ambition come true. Labour is the party of aspiration! Always has been and always will be. Because in Labour, we aim to create a world in which everyone has the resources to shape and realise their dreams and ambitions. That is what keeps us going.

But what has all this to do with policing?

Policing, like any public service, is about making choices. There will never be enough police officers / doctors / teachers / care assistants / road repairers / etc to go around. Choices have to be made as to where to deploy these scarce resources. This is a political choice. Along with the Countryside Alliance, my Tory PCC candidate wants the balance between rural and urban policing to remain as it is, even if it is the wrong balance. Why could it be wrong? It depends on where harm is greatest. If a disproportionate slice of police resources deployed in the countryside, more victims of crime will suffer in the towns. It is as simple as that.

So as a Labour activist, I want police resources distributed fairly. And I judge what is fair by the degree to which harm from crime is minimised. This is an issue that you won't have heard Tory PCC candidates or indeed Independents talk much about (although I am happy to learn otherwise). This is important and this is political.

As I have said before, I am not ideologically opposed to outsourcing (how can I be, given the job I do etc...) but (and it is a BIG BUT) I am opposed to outsourcing which exploits the citizen and taxpayer, as much of it does! Therefore this is a political issue.

The PCCs will have the power to set council tax precepts and this again is political. I would rather have a Labour PCC who focuses on value rather than someone else focusing only on cost when setting precepts in the future.

The LGIU have analysed the top pledges made by PCC candidates of various hues and at number five for Conservative candidates is "Engagement. A legal requirement of the job, but enough Conservatives are making a virtue out of this necessity to bring it in a number five". Excuse me while I fall of my chair. The Labour Party was born out of community activism. It is in our blood. What record does the Conservative Party have of being engaged with local communities, or supporting community activism? In local Tory councils, what get's cut first? Etc...

So I urge you to vote Labour on Thursday. Using the LGIU's analysis again, vote for
  • Boosting neighbourhood policing.
  • Protecting police numbers 
  • Resisting privatisation
  • A real focus on victims and witnesses
  • Partnership working that works
  • A service that is tough on crimes that are often overlooked

Monday, November 12, 2012

Questions about Anthony Stansfeld that we will probably never get answers to...

Perhaps you have alighted on this blog post after searching for information about Anthony Stansfeld, the Conservative candidate for the Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner. Perhaps you are a regular reader of this blog. Either way, here are some questions which I hope may one day be answered:
  • How come Anthony Stansfeld was selected over David Burbage (leader of Windsor & Maidenhead Council) and why has Cllr Burbage stayed so quiet in recent weeks?
  • Why does Cllr Stansfeld talk so much about his time in Borneo and being MD of Pilatus Britten-Norman and so little about his time as a cabinet member of West Berkshire Council (a post much closer to being PCC)?
  • Did that company export planes to Burma, Iraq and Iran in the 1990's and did he as managing director approve those exports?
  • Why did Cllr Stansfeld declare 'ELS' on his Thames Valley Police Authority register of interests but an entirely different company (FIDAS) on his West Berkshire Council declaration?
  • Why has mention of him being "Chairman of a small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry" now slipped off later CVs and his campaign newspaper?
  • Given Cllr Stansfeld's understanding of the seven principles of public life, why has he got so tetchy with me investigating public records about his commercial and other interests? (And for the record again, I have not been trawling through his expenses or his bank accounts...!)
  • Why do some of his pledges contradict each other?
  • How come Cllr Stansfeld appears to believe that he has single-handedly improved performance of Thames Valley under his chairmanship of the TVPA sub committee on performance, overlooking the official police authority report which documents improvements and better scrutiny from well before his tenure?
  • Why does he believe he is the best person for the job when the PCC role was designed to overcome the problems of police authorities, of which he has been a local member for several years?
I could go on. But one day perhaps, we might get some answers....


You can follow my research and thinking about Cllr Anthony Stansfeld 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

If you can't get cynical as you get older, what's the point?

Yesterday, my wife and I shared a glorious walk through the leaves up at Stowe. We are fortunate to live within walking distance of the place, although we usually drive there.


After walking for nearly an hour we felt justified in returning to enjoy a free cream tea for two. We won this in a raffle on Friday at the opening reception to a local art show hosted by Buckingham Art for All. At the Stowe refectory, we ended up sitting next to a couple, a little older than us and got into conversation with them. It ended with the man saying to me that it was good to meet another Conservative... and we bade them farewell.

How did we get to that point? Allow me to reflect on the conversation which included me saying the title of this post and the other couple laughing.

The other man did most of the talking which centred on his abhorrence of rules and regulations (and consequently the EU) and how things were so much better when corporal punishment was liberally applied in schools. And how he can't bear this idea of Police & Crime Commissioners. He was frankly amazed that his own party had brought it in and was considering voting UKIP if he voted at all. I said (and I think this is where he may have got the impression I was a Tory) that I understood and that I think a lot of Conservatives are thinking of voting UKIP. I also suggested that perhaps one day, care of superior virtual technology, one will be able to jump into a black & white movie from the fifties (à la Mary Poppins) and spend two weeks having a retro experience. Both he and I wife thought that would be a great idea. I quite fancy it myself although I think my chosen era would be late sixties...

But it struck me that what underlay his rants against the modern day world and his cynical dismissal of what governments of all hues do, was a shattered dream. I think he holds onto a dream, which perhaps was once even a reality for him, of a Britain of gentle cricket, warm beer and courteous respect. A kinder, less frenetic, less tortured world.

I think I share that dream.

I suspect that like me, he would raise his eyebrows with disbelief at the increasing numbers of technical standards that people have to follow - ISO 9000 this and COSHH regulation that and so forth. He might even despair of a world which seems intolerant of mistakes or in which people are cautious about what they know and therefore do not wish to jump to easy conclusions.

All this brings me round to say that I believe the most ardent cynics are also the most ardent dreamers too. I have vented my cynical spleen about PCCs mostly through my 'Diary of a Secret PCC' blogs. But these blogs are merely camouflage for a deep despair that I feel towards the whole concept.

I want a police service and set of crime prevention agencies which fair buzz with a focus on really improving the safety of our communities. I want these services to vibrate with the wishes, needs, hopes and dreams of the people they serve so that the right priorities are selected. I also earnestly hope that one day crime fighting and crime prevention will resonate with evidence based practice like the health service does nowadays (although it still has a long way to go).

Police & Crime Commissioners are not the answer. I don't think there are many people who do think they are the answer other than a few policy wonks in a couple of right wing 'think tanks'.

But as I have said on many occasions before.... we are saddled with this daft experiment. All I can hope is that we end up with PCCs who are cynical dreamers and who will use every molecule of their being to ensure that they do no harm. With a fair wind, they might even do some good before the next Labour Government puts in place a wiser model of governance.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Secret diary of a PCC (day nine)

Of course there were many people who said the legislation was poorly drafted, and the Home Office had not done enough to publicise and inform people about the election... yada yada. But of course, I knew that the Government knew exactly what it was doing. The legislation was made to look amateurish (for example) just so that people would not scrutinise too much. Hidden in its words were some very clever clauses.

For example the law says that the PCC "must consult the relevant chief constable before issuing or varying a police and crime plan if, and to the extent that, the plan or variation is different from the draft prepared in accordance with subsection (6)."

The simple people will have read this and thought that just sounds nice and polite: the PCC has to work with the Chief Constable and all will be hunky dory. But of course the wiser people like me will have spotted to two key aspects to this. It is only about consulting the Chief Constable. I can still completely ignore what the Chief says! (Unlike, as it happens what the Home Office says as the law there is more crunchy: "In issuing or varying a police and crime plan, a police and crime commissioner must have regard to the strategic policing requirement issued by the Secretary of State under section 37A of the Police Act 1996."  ...note the "must have regard to" bit!)

And secondly, because I have consulted the CC, I can blame him/her for when it all goes belly up! Rather like when that Entwhistle chap at the BBC resigned over the Newsnight programme.

It will be exactly the same with my tenure. If it all goes well and the plan that Winger is working on (mental note: have not heard from him for a few days mind you - hope he hasn't got too pally with that Chief Superintendent in charge of planning what not) achieves all the results we hope for, then I will claim the credit. If it goes wrong and crime stops falling (for example) then I can blame the Chief Constable. I will be saying that it was his/her operational command that led to the poor results etc etc etc....

I win either way. Bliss! (That is what I call 'clever' legislation...)

And as for people being ill informed... well tough. There was enough news coverage. Some people clearly did not have the blasted gumption to go and find out more about it! It is not for government to spoon feed people after all.

As it happened, this is what we wanted, of course. Heaven forbid that we had a democracy where every low life voted! Who knows who we would get elected then!!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

The second preference

This morning in Oxford, one long time Labour supporter told me that he was going to vote Lib Dem for the first time in his life as his second preference. 

I have been interested in people's second preferences and earlier blogged about how I had cast my second preference vote. And so at the Oxford hustings a few days ago, I placed this question in the box but there was not time for all the questions to be answered. However, the chair said he would bring all the questions to the attention of the candidates so that they could reply individually. I received (UKIP) Barry Cooper's answer this morning.

First my question was 
You will all of course be giving your own first preference vote to yourselves. But you and everyone else have a second preference vote too. Will you be using your second preference to vote? If so, who for and why? If not, why will you not be casting a second vote?
Here is his answer which he was happy for me to blog:
I am telling people to vote for the person they think will do the job almost as well as me!

On a more serious note, in my opinion there are two answers here. If you are happy with how things have been run for years and you are looking for some continuity and actual “small c” conservative values, Anthony Stansfeld is the best second choice – he is not a “modernised” Tory and I still think his rosette should be purple and not blue given how much he has tried to “out UKIP” me at several hustings! Of the other party affiliated candidates, I think he is also the least likely to allow himself to be used as a simple mouth-piece for his party, although whether that will be possible considering the presence of the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Attorney General in the Thames Valley still concerns me.
If you are looking for the person who will most likely embrace the democratic element of the role almost as much as me (although I am less comfortable with his general politics than I am with Anthony’s), then it has to be Tim Starkey. A big concern for me here is that there will likely be a Labour government again in 2015, and I think Tim is a bit too much of a Labour “true believer” to act truly independently from his party and fight against them to protect the police. But both are head and shoulders above the other options (and the prospect of one person in particular getting in frankly terrifies me), and one of these two will get my second preference; I will probably not decide which until polling day.
So there you have it - Barry Cooper will be either voting Tory or Labour. You heard it here first!

Opting out

As was widely reported a couple of weeks ago Lord Blair declared that people should not vote in the coming election. According to the BBC report "he told the Sky News Murnaghan programme the only way to stop the proposal was to refuse to take part in the elections".

I was out campaigning on the streets of Oxford this morning with Tim Starkey, Cllr John Tanner and Pete Willsman. As we handed out leaflets we received the usual range of responses from people perceiving us as invisible to the naked eye to others who proudly announced they had already voted Labour in their postal ballot. I think we handed out about 400 - 500 leaflets to passers by in the 3 hours or so we were there.

However one woman surprised me: she poured on us equal & large quantities of vitriol and scorn from her very lofty position in the Green Party. She maintained this was a terrible model of governance which was politicising something that should not be politicised and by taking part, we were colluding in this horrific enterprise.

Up to a point, of course, I agree with her wholeheartedly. This blog post would become tedious were I to list all the failings of this new governance model and the way in which the Home Office has managed the electoral process. (The fact that several people snatched the leaflet from our hands with words something like "at last some information!" was testament to this.)

But of course where I disagree with her is judgement that to be engaged with this electoral process is something akin to fascism. I know there are many people who are opting out, along with Lord Blair, for linked and other reasons.

But is opting out.... opting out?

Here are some facts and predictions:
  • These elections will go ahead and some people will vote. 
  • This time next week (barring some electoral quirk), the country will have 41 PCCs
  • These PCCs will be setting the plans and council tax precept in the weeks that follow
  • Moreover, where there are vacancies, some of these PCCs will be appointing new Chief Constables shortly as well
  • Turnout will be extraordinarily low which means that there might be surprise results
  • However even if the turnout is as low as 10% or less, the elections will be still be legal
  • Low turnout will be blamed on the November schedule and I fully expect the Lib Dems to be blamed for that.
  • Higher than usual proportions of spoilt ballot papers will be blamed on the voting system
In other words: not voting or spoiling ballot papers will not make one jot of difference except where it matters most: the results. Not voting, will favour the candidates who have managed to persuade their supporters to come out and vote. In most places this will be the Tories because I suspect many of them will dutifully go out and vote because it was their policy in the first place.

So not voting or spoiling your ballot paper will allow you to remain disgruntled / in profound disagreement / sanctimonious / apart / etc. (delete as applicable) but your 'non vote' will be, in effect, a vote for a party or individual (or both) that you entirely disagree with. That person may well do things in the future as PCC that you will have no real justification to criticise since you did not do the one small thing you could to prevent them gaining power.

All it will take for a crumby and damaging PCC to be elected would be for good people to do nothing..

And so, I have voted and I have been campaigning in various ways (this blog is one of those ways) to a) increase people's understanding of this new role and b) persuade people to vote Labour in the elections on Thursday. Through this I hope to make a terrible model of governance a little less terrible by helping make sure good people are elected and that everyone knows from the outset, the problems with the model. For me, this is the basis of changing the model when Labour are back in power. 

By all means, do exercise your 'right' not to vote or spoil your ballot paper (a 'right' that many millions in the world would love to have), if you are so inclined. But please do not think of this as a revolutionary act or protest that will heard. In my view, it is not, and may well benefit the people you least want to be benefited. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What is truth? (Secret diary of a PCC: day eight)

The great thing about being a PCC candidate was that I could make a whole series of promises which nobody could really challenge. Yes there were a few bearded academics who tried to get on Newsnight to complain and ACPO did its usual huffing and puffing but all the local papers were just lapping it up. The hustings were even better because there was no dialogue, just a series of questions to which we as candidates all gave our long replies, There was no comeback.

Well there was one mad cyclist woman who wore her helmet through out the meeting and kept asking me what I was going to f'ing do about cycle lanes and vans and even f'ing Bradley Wiggins getting knocked off his bike etc etc... So I just promised her that I would prioritise cycle safety. That seemed to shut her up and maybe she even voted for me. Of course, I am going to do diddley squat about cycle safety because a) it is not in my power and b) I am not that bothered if a few cyclists graze their knees - this isn't Brighton or Oxford.

Anyway, so here's a list of the promises I made during the campaign that I am now fully expecting to forget, at least until 3 years comes around...:
  • There will be a bobby with rosy cheeks standing outside village shops every day of the week except Sundays when he will be seen sitting in the local Church. They will all be male, slightly overweight and have gravelly voices like Jack Warner.
  • All drug pushers will be arrested and locked up for a very, very long time.
  • People who make too much noise late at night will be made to listen to non-stop Edith Piaf for 3 days
  • I will recruit 3000 more special constables because they will get a 50% reduction in the council tax and half price petrol vouchers
  • People who commit murder will go to gaol for a very long time
It doesn't really matter that I can't do any of these things because I ran my campaign on a thematic basis - and the theme was policing of yesteryear. If I could have got all my meetings and canvassing done in the magic hour, with Claude Berri directing my promo vid, I would have done so. I knew what the public wanted to hear and so I told them.

The other candidates seemed to have a problem with truth. I merely said (and still say): with regard to PCCs and the truth... what is truth?

That special question

It seems that a good many PCC candidates (mostly Tory ones as far as I have seen) seem to want to boost numbers of special constables and decide how they should be deployed.

I am not going to write much on this topic as it has been very well commented upon by the blogger here and I commend his post to you. He raises some very important questions which deserve answers, not least from the PCC candidates who are making the 'commitments'.

You will read my comments on his post there.

Suffice to say, I think special police officers play an important role in 21st century policing but we must remember they are volunteers. Their operational deployment must reflect that fact.

Lincs Police / G4S risk register: more analysis

Steve Bachelder has written to me with his comments on the risk register I published a couple of days ago:
The point I want to make about the risk register is in relation to the length of the contract i.e. 10 years. This has always seemed ridiculous to me and I was somewhat surprised to see that it is not mentioned in the risk register. There has to be a risk that the service provided will not meet the standards required by Lincolnshire as happened in Cleveland with the custody suites that they brought back in house. There is also the possibility that the supplier might go bust and stop the service again no mention in the risk register. These are to me fairly obvious risks but apparently not to Lincolnshire?
Many thanks Steve. Good points.

I have been doing  looking some more at the risk register too...

Risk 12: Inability to implement t-police solution with required timescales - this is the only risk that is flagged red so I thought it demanded some attention. First question: "t-police" ?? Here is your answer if you want the full Cap Gemini presentation (pdf download). You will read that "transform police" means "Enabling more informed and connected police services through an integrated law enforcement solution – enhancing the frontline and support functions" I am now beginning to see why this risk is coded red... The probability of the risk occurring has been scaled up from 3 to 4. The recommended action is "Project Risk Register required for t-police. Increased scrutiny by CPT team. External visits are being sought to Cheshire and Nothants. Quality Assurance process required for t-police implementation" By the way is this the same Nothants where there is a by-election next week?


Probably not - but I could not resist it.

But, back to the risk register... so people are off to the forces which are implementing t-police to learn about good practice, I assume. What have they found I wonder? It would seem from this news story that Northamptonshire and Cheshire are still fairly early on in their joint journey.

Whilst "Cheshire Police Authority signed a framework agreement with Capgemini for IT services to support back-office policing activities in February last year", it transpires that in "the autumn the partnership will move to the next phase and introduce a human resources shared service and implement technology to support HR and duty management". So that is about now then....

Interestingly the article in Computer Weekly also says "despite Capgemini’s role, the forces stress it is not outsourcing, because ownership and accountability remain with Cheshire and Northamptonshire Police, with the two forces acting as equal partners". Hmmm. (My added emphases of course.)

So a key pillar of the G4S/Lincs Police partnership is hardly off the drawing board in two other police areas. The risk is coded red. We watch and wait to see what happens. Of course it will all be fine as we know the track record for joined up IT systems in the police service: efficiency improvements by the score!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Can policing be bought and sold?

This is the title of a new report published by the Police Foundation based upon a meeting of the Policing Policy Forum with support from the University of Oxford's Centre for Criminology and Capita. You can download the report from here.

A group of the great and good from the world of policing got together with other key interested parties on 4 November. The report begins with this context setting paragraph:
In the current context of austerity and cuts to budgets, police forces are looking to do more with less and it is clear that a larger market for the buying and selling of policing services is emerging. This raises a range of questions such as: what kinds of tasks are suitable for outsourcing? What factors should be considered? How do we ensure that the outsourcing arrangement provides good value for money, while upholding the required standards of service the public expect from their police force?
I recommend that you read the report as there are some important themes to understand here.

Interestingly, there was only one politician present, the current Chairman of (you guessed it) Lincolnshire Police Authority, Cllr Barry Young.

I am not going to an analysis of the report but I would merely wish to highlight one remark from the report:
The Forum agreed that the relationship between the police and the public is of paramount importance and any potential effect of outsourcing on this relationship must be seriously considered. It was pointed out that although customer satisfaction is relatively higher in the private sector, trust is higher in the public sector; people believe that public sector employees are working for motives other than profit.
This is one of the key issues and I am glad to see that the Forum agreed it is a 'paramount' one too. As my piece below on the Lincolnshire Police / G4S partnership risk register also highlights, one of the key risks being the impact of outsourcing on volunteer and public relationships.

Secret Diary of a PCC (Day seven)

I knew I was going to win and become PCC the day that Barack Obama was re-elected US President. I thought here’s a man who has charisma by the bucket load, intelligence off the scale, compassion for his fellow human beings that hugs the world (unlike Mitt Romney who was able to happily return to his home planet as tweeted by @DeanLReeves) and political nous even greater than Peter Mandelson’s. Just like me! I had it in the bag.

And so it came to pass. I was duly elected by the popular vote.

But one thing has been troubling me since I was elected: there are mounting stories of low police morale. Many officers are considering leaving The Job. I know they won’t of course, because they all have mortgages and nowhere to go unless they want to work part time in a call centre or serve cocktails in a late opening bar. But I am still concerned as low morale means low performance and then guess who gets in the neck?

I blame the former Chief Constable of course: his leadership was clearly not up to scratch. Despite his years of study, cramming and hothousing in Bramshill, he couldn’t lead a bunch of 7 year olds to an ice cream party. The acting Chief is not much better.

And so it falls to me to put together a 10 point plan to boost police morale:
  1. New uniforms: the current wardrobe is made of scratchy material and shaped like tents, particularly on the larger members of our team. Whereas the mounted division always look rather smart in their jodhpurs, shiny boots and big gloves. Everyone is now going to wear this uniform! We will be the most dashing police force.
  2. New batons: the current batons look a little drab to me and not very easy to hold. I am sure the officers will appreciate the new standard issue ‘pirate’ batons with hand protectors and silver paint.
  3. New sandwiches: I know how the police ‘army’ marches on its stomach and so I have arranged new suppliers of lunch for the troops. All sworn officers (not staff sadly – the budget would not stretch that far) will now be issued with a lunch box and sandwiches every day. The choice will be chicken or ham or ham/chicken medley plus one cherry tomato to boost their vitamin C.
  4. New cars: Yes you heard it right. Every officer will be issued with a boxed replica of the force’s Land Rover Discovery with full livery. These will become collector’s items in the future to be handed down for generations to come.
  5. New organisational structure: (The acting Chief bleated on a bit about operational independence regarding this one but I told him it was all about priorities and if he wanted a shot at becoming chief…) I can’t describe this yet as we still working it out but I do know there will be lots of jobs with words like ‘neighbourhood’, ‘community’, and ‘performance’ in the titles. It will be a far flatter structure, of course, partly because all the management books talk about empowerment stuff and also, frankly, we can’t afford too many managers these days. 
  6. New vision: the old vision is looking a little, well, jaded. The font needs updating evidently. And ‘stakeholders’ is a bit pass√© now. And it lacks a picture – a rising sun will be added. I know some wags say that it looks like a setting sun. But it is not! It is rising, just like my popularity will be once these ten points are put into place.
  7. New culture: I have decreed that the old culture has got to go. Henceforth all officers and staff will have to be a) not cynical, b) driven by the aspirations (not targets) in my policing plan, c) respectful of all, even politicians.
  8. New procedures: We are going to re-engineer all of our processes in the next 3 months. I have hired some whizzy consultants who will map all of our processes in detail, scrunch up the bits of paper those maps are on and start again. We are going to be a lean, mean, crime fighting machine with no waste or legacy baggage. There will be a place for everything/one and everything/one will be in their place! We will be able to eat our sandwiches off the floor of the custody suites.
  9. New Chief Constable: I will be appointing the new Chief to implement all these points of course. If they don’t work and we still have low morale, I will need someone to blame. I will make sure that the new person has leadership grandeur, laser like insight into policing and real people skills. Someone a bit like the new head of the HMIC should suffice.
  10. New me: I am going on a diet and exercise regime as I have discovered that whilst it might be good use of my time being driven around the force area by my chauffeur, it has not been good for my waist line. So I have commissioned a new commissioner’s vehicle that includes an exercise bike with built in tablet so I can keep fit and read all the reports I need to whilst on the move. The energy produced by cycling will make the vehicle greener as well. I will look as slim as Obama before the month is out. Having a fit PCC can only help morale.