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.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Thames Valley Police & Crime Panel Conference

The TV PCP have now uploaded slides and a webcast of the proceedings (Thames Valley Police & Crime Panel: The First Year and the Next) from a couple of weeks ago. You can access all the materials here.

And here is the back of my head!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

'Light touch' police and crime panels must shift scrutiny powers up a gear

Yesterday, The Guardian Public Leaders Network published my article about how Police & Crime Panels need to shift up a gear or three in their scrutiny of PCCs, especially their decisions about scarce resource allocation. You can read the whole article here.

In the article I say:
The question is, how well the police and crime panels (PCPs) will scrutinise these resource decisions over the coming months. Chief constables will be using all their considerable skills to ensure good and professional decisions are made about the operational deployment of tight police resources but they will be subject to the policy influence of their PCCs – and that influence needs to be carefully unpicked by the PCPs...

So how is your PCP doing..? 

And just as an aside: it is good to see my 'Ten Questions for PCC candidates' still coming in at number 14 of the Most viewed: Public Leaders Network articles:

STOP PRESS: Hold the 16 October. If this subject interests you... there could be a very useful conference coming up on this date. More details soon.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Too big for their pixie boots: the Secret PCC makes a speech to his Police & Crime Panel

Seems to me that the darn Police and Crime Panel are getting just a little bit too big for their statutorily small pixie boots. They have had the temerity to ask me questions about matters that frankly they should have no concern for. Have they not read the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act?! They should know their place: to be the titular body that sugars the pill of my extensive and really rather stimulating set of powers. So here is the speech I have been drafting to give to them at their next dormitory ‘meeting’.
By the grace of Her Majesty, the Queen, and local electorate who bothered to get off their savoury snack infested sofas, I have been granted the golden opportunity to make a real and lasting difference to the health, safety and well-being of NorthWestFordshire (NFWshire). Under my visionary leadership, policing will improve, more criminals will be caught and there will be fewer victims. Under my excellent governance, local community safety projects will blossom and prevent crime & anti-social behaviour like a hot knife through butter. Under my wise coordination, the local criminal justice system will whirr like Swiss clockwork. The people of NFWshire will never have had it so good.
All this requires a considerable amount of refined thought, meditation and careful data analysis. Indeed beyond recruiting my own driver to free up my time for such contemplation, I have now had to hire a yoga adviser, a tame (and fairly short haired) criminologist and cognitive psychologist (whatever that really means) to fulfill my role. You will appreciate, I have thought very carefully about my need for such assistance but I considered I was worth it.
Now what I do not need are ripples in the Force. And frankly many of you (with a few notable exceptions) have been acting like mini Luke Skywalkers: asking me stupid questions and trying to levitate the petty concerns in your locality to what I am doing at a strategic level. Or even just trying to catch me out. I would advise you to read the law and know that your powers are really rather limited. Your job is to assist me to get the job done whilst giving a nod to public accountability. Ask me questions of course, but do not push things too far.
I know all about public accountability: I have an election in less than three years’ time (if I stand again). And in truth, I am not that bothered about the little people of NFWshire until then. I have far bigger and more pressing matters to worry about, such as how to treat the discolouration of my chain of office. I jest of course, there are more important matters than that (although if anyone knows a good silversmith...?). Over the next few months, for example, I am going to have to choose who victims should be supported by in the future. That will be a difficult decision. I may even get the NHS111 service to do it. Or perhaps a high street bank call centre.

But back to the point: I hope I have persuaded you by now, that your job is not to challenge me. Your job is support me, help me, massage me, tickle my toes and just, you know, make me feel good. Have you got that?
But you know, I probably won’t say that to them because they would get all huffy. And the last thing I need is a bunch of irritable, irritating has-been local councillors tying me down in glutinous procedures and tedious meetings. Life is too short for that. So I will carry on schmoozing them and making them feel important.

It isn’t that hard to do…

The Secret PCC Diary until now:
Legal disclaimer: just in case you thought this series of secret PCC blogs is based upon a real person or persons: it isn't. It really isn't. Any similarity to a living PCC is entirely coincidental.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How would you appraise your Police & Crime Panel?

I am off to this meeting in a short while:

Thames Valley Police & Crime Panel: The First Year and the Next

It should be interesting. I will be using my checklist to appraise their performance over the last year:
  1. Does your PCP consider its role is to act like the old Police Authority and want to ask the Chief Constable lots of questions or is it closely scrutinising the performance of the PCC at doing this?
  2. When your PCP meets, does it allow any time for members of the public to raise petitions or make points?
  3. Overall, has your PCP acted like a) the PCC’s fan club b) the PCC’s pointed political critics or c) an independent scrutiny body acting in the best interests of all local people?
  4. Has your PCP been steadily building up its knowledge of local public concerns with which to challenge the PCC’s capability at understanding and representing these?
  5. Similarly, as the moderator/steward of the PCC's commissioning powers, has the PCP been steadily working towards fulfilling this role adequately? (Ref: report by Institute for Government on Making Public Service Markets Work)
  6. Has the PCP developed a set of criteria and measurements against which they can appraise the performance of the PCC at holding the Chief Constabulary to public account?
  7. Has the PCP achieved a level of public awareness of its role such that members of the press are inclined, if not driven, to report on their public meetings with the PCC?
  8. Does the PCP keep readily accessible records of attendance of its own members and others (including the public) who attend its meetings?
  9. Does the PCP have its own objectives or success factors against which it can appraise its own performance as a scrutiny body?
  10. Has the PCP been mostly proactive in scrutinising the PCC or reactive?
  11. Does the PCP website offer an accessible and searchable platform of information about the work of the Panel and what it has been achieving in its role?
  12. When the PCP questions the PCC on what s/he is doing, does it feel more like a pre-scripted and genteel school debating society or a rigorous and free flowing Parliamentary select committee, or something else?
  13. Are you having great difficulty in answering these questions, indeed did you even know that a body called the Police & Crime Panel even existed?

Do let me know how your PCP measures up...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

If Bruce Keogh had been investigating police services...?

This morning, I spent some time reviewing the report just submitted by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh KBE, MD, DSc, FRCS, FRCP (National Medical Director, for the NHS in England) into 14 NHS Trusts that have been causing concern due to higher mortality ratios.

His report (rather than the reporting of his report) deserves to be read by all involved in managing and governing the public services. He is clearly a very wise and measured man with a burning passion to make the NHS even better.

You can access the report here.

The report begins with a series of ‘ambitions’ that arose from the work he and his colleagues carried out with patients and clinicians engaged with these 14 Trusts. Wearing my ‘police hat’, I got to wondering what if he had been inspecting a number of police services instead? Below I have imagined what these ambitions might look like for the police service…

Ambition One: We will have made demonstrable progress towards reducing avoidable deaths & injuries in custody and out on the streets of the UK, rather than debating what HMIC, Home Office, IPCC statistics and other measures can and can’t tell us about the quality of care our police services are providing.

Ambition Two: The leadership of the UK police services (Home Secretary, Chief Constables, PCCs, Boards etc) will be confidently and competently using data and other intelligence for the forensic pursuit of quality improvement. They, along with the public, will have rapid access to accurate, insightful and easy to use data about quality at service line level.

Ambition three: Victims, their families and members of the public (including offenders) will increasingly feel like they are being treated as vital and equal partners in the design and assessment of their local police service. They should also be confident that their feedback is being listened to and see how this is impacting on their own community safety and the policing of others.

Ambition four: The public, police officers and staff will have confidence in the quality assessments made by HMIC, not least because they will have been active participants in inspections.

Ambition five: No police constabulary, however big, small or remote, will be an island unto itself. Professional, academic and managerial isolation will be a thing of the past.

Ambition six: Police officer and other frontline staffing levels and skill mix will appropriately reflect the caseload and the severity of crimes and antisocial behaviour they are tackling and be transparently reported by PCCs and Police Boards.

Ambition seven: Junior officers and members of staff in training will not just be seen as the police leaders of tomorrow, but police leaders of today. The police services of the UK will join the best organisations in the world by harnessing the energy and creativity of its young officers and staff.

Ambition eight: All police organisations will understand the positive impact that happy and engaged staff and officers have on victim satisfaction and restoration, and on community safety outcomes, including crime rates, and will be making this a key part of their quality improvement strategy.

In most cases, I have just tweaked a couple of words to ‘policify’ the ambition. What do you think?

What other ambitions would you add or change to the above?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


No, that is not Thames Valley - but a PCC on television!

John Dwyer has uploaded another webcast interview. You can view it here. (Thanks to Steve Bachelder's for highlighting this.)

As a way of reaching out and interacting with the public of Cheshire it is a good start. At least the PCC is prepared to answer some of the questions being put to him by the voters of his county. (I will log that I disagree with John when he says that the public have never had a say in policing governance before since over half the members of the previous police authority were elected Councillors. But let's put that to one side)

But does it make good TV? Well... it is a little dry, some might even say flat. I know that police governance is not the most exciting of topics but I would say the format could do with some extra zing! Perhaps next time, the PCC could be answering questions live from an audience? Or people could send in their video messages/questions?

I note the You Tube site has comments disabled. Perhaps a way of making this process more interactive (and democratic) would be to allow comments? Naturally, if some a plainly rude they can be removed but why not have the dialogue?

Another idea I would suggest would be to broadcast the PCC holding the Chief Constable to account. Why not record those sessions or even broadcast them live? If I had become a PCC, this was one of my plans.

But good to see a PCC responding to questions from the public.

The politics of stats, trends & probability

I am no statistical expert and it is many years since I studied the application of Student’s T test, two tails and correlation coefficients to psychological experiments. But I have retained just about enough of what I learnt then and since (about targets, trend analysis and statistical process control) to be pretty darn fed up with how most politicians and members of the media treat data.

The ridiculous way in which the media and certain sections of the government are treating the results of Dr Bruce Keogh’s investigation into hospital care is an object lesson in how complex data sets are twisted into political rhetoric. Some of this is clearly about politics and for that I can almost forgive them. But when it comes to the proportion of this twisting that is down to plain ordinary ignorance, I really can’t!

And if you want to know what I mean about the Keogh report, read this blog post and please read it carefully. And in addition this article has just been published:
Report into 14 NHS hospitals rejects claims that poor care killed thousands
NHS medical director says it is meaningless to use mortality indicators to quantify actual numbers of avoidable deaths.
Keogh's report will say: "However tempting it may be, it is clinically meaningless and academically reckless to use such statistical measures to quantify actual numbers of avoidable deaths."
We entrust politicians with a huge amount of power which they wield on our behalf. They spend vast amounts of money, our money, on projects which the evidence shows (if they looked closely) were never going to work. It is time this ended. All politicians ought to have a good introduction to stats, trends and probability (and scientific methods, while they are about it) so that they are better able to make decisions that will actually make a real difference.

Now I am not saying that all politicians and members of the media are ignorant of such matters, but many are. The information on Payment by Results that I have uncovered in the last few days disturbs me. In fact it horrifies me that we may well be paying service providers for results that could simply be chance results rather than the robust outcomes of a better service.

I do not intend to make this blog post a long lesson in stats. Other people can do that far better than me. But here is just one idea: if you were to throw a dice a couple of dozen times, you would expect the numbers to come up in reasonably even quantities. Perhaps the four might have come up 5 times and the three just once. But you would not presume the dice was loaded. However, if you threw the dice a hundred times and the three only came up (say) 5 times and the four came up (say) 26 times you would begin to think something odd was happening.

Stats is simply about measuring when the threshold between chance and a real variation (a loaded dice in this example) is crossed. Without statistics, you cannot know whether an occurrence of (say) less teenage pregnancy (etc. etc.) is just a random chance or that something ‘significant’ has happened (i.e. it is NOT chance, or at least very unlikely to be).

I would hope that most people reading this, get this. But do most politicians? And journalists? What do you think?

And I won’t even start to talk about about systems theory, the role of blame and the fact that complex things really are complex!! (I will leave that for another blog post.)

But please… please can we have less of the ignorance around trends, evidence and chance occurrences and a bit more understanding that ‘wicked’ social (and medical) problems require some pretty darn ‘wicked’ solutions…

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tilting at lamposts

Yesterday I received a response to my inquiries concerning the pilot data being used by the MoJ to support the extension of Payment by Results. I have reprinted the letter I received in the blog post below.

This blog contains some commentary on the replies I received.
  • The Moj used Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act to not answer two of my questions. They say that the information I was seeking is about to be published on July 25. I am prepared to wait until then before deciding to appeal their reply or not.
  • I asked why they published the results early, they said they did this "to ensure the information was made public as soon as it was available" despite admitting in other answers that it was incomplete. I suspect they wanted to get in some 'good news' before the summer vacation and in advance of CSR negotiations. But in my view, it looks shoddy and is evidence of using data and stats for political purposes. However, I guess all governments do that... don't they?
  • Their answers do seem to assert that they have sought to compare like with like in terms of cohort comparisons.
  • Their answer to question 4 does evidence the fact that this data is incomplete and premature, in my view
  • They originally said that a key difference between the cohort is that in this group "reconvictions only count offences for which the offender was convicted at court, whereas the National Statistics proven re-offending measure also includes out of court disposals (cautions)”. I asked what the impact of that difference was likely to be. They referred me to "Table B3 of annex B from the MoJ’s proven re-offending statistics quarterly bulletin:". I have looked at this table and it is not entirely clear so I think I am going to have go back to them on this and seek further clarification. But do note that they said "We have not produced alternative interim figures on what the impact would be if different rules (such as including cautions) had applied". Which seems a bit sloppy to me. This is a critical difference after all and I suspect that if the data was showing not in favour of the pilot providers, they would be seeking further clarification!
  • I asked whether the comparison groups (to evidence that the pilot intervention was in fact working) were selected using some kind of randomised selection. They said "The control group will be selected by an Independent Assessor using Propensity Score Matching (PSM), the methodology for which has been published at: Peterborough Social Impact Bond: an independent ... -" So the answer is 'NO': comparator groups will be selected by 'independent' assessor (being paid by the government, I assume). I looked the reference document and here is a quote from it: "It should be noted that, unlike random control allocation, PSM cannot take account of unmeasured differences which may account for variation in reconviction aside from ‘treatment received’" Uh huh. But it goes onto assert that: "However, PSM [propensity score matching] is widely regarded as one of the best ways of matching quasi-experimentally (Rosenbaum, 2002), and it has been increasingly used in a criminological context (e.g. Wermink et al., 2010)." So that is alright then. Excuse me while I give you this new medicine that has been quasi-experimentally tested on people who are sort of similar to you...
  • I asked "For Doncaster, success “will be determined by comparison with the reconviction rate in the baseline year of 2009”. How will this accommodate national and/or local trends in (say) sentencing practice or levels of crime?". They replied "The five percentage point reduction target was agreed after analysis of historic reconviction rates established that this would illustrate a demonstrable difference which could be attributed to the new system and not just natural variation." That is not an answer to my question, I will need to go back to them on this.
  • I asked about the 6 versus 12 month comparison and how the headline data (based on six months) was going to look against the usual (12 month) data. They said in reply "The statistical notice made clear the limitations of the information presented and the care that should be taken in interpreting these interim figures." Remind me - was that subtlety in the press releases that went out when this interim data was released...?
  • They missed the point completely on my question about seasonality...
  • Please read their answer to my question about why 19 month data. Please let me know what you think. I am thinking 'wool', 'eyes' and 'what do you really mean?!'
  • The maths question is funny. They said "The figures presented were the rounded versions of the actual figures, which were 68.53 and 79.29". So I have done the calculations again and the result I get this time is 15.7. So they are sort of correct - but why leave out the first decimal point?
  • I asked about statistical significance (the test of whether a difference is just a chance difference or one that indicates a real effect is in play). This is what they said "We have not carried out statistical significance tests on the interim figures because, when it comes to the final results, neither pilot will be assessed on the basis of whether they have achieved a statistically significant change."
OK. Let me repeat that again in big and bold:
We have not carried out statistical significance tests on the interim figures because, when it comes to the final results, neither pilot will be assessed on the basis of whether they have achieved a statistically significant change.
So, Payment by Results could well be based upon purely random chance events that may just have happened.

Is that a solid basis for the distribution of taxpayers' money?

Payment by Results, lamp posts... lit?

The day after #tagginggate you would expect me to be somewhat sceptical about how well government manages complex contracts with external suppliers. Moreover, of course, questions remain about how well the external suppliers manage these contracts too! But that is for another blog post one day.

But meanwhile, I received a reply to my questions about the Payment by Results pilots (and if you thought tagging contacts were complex...!). Below I have reprinted in full the reply I have received from the relevant person in the Ministry of Justice. It is already quite a long piece, so I will leave my commentary to another posting (now uploaded). Please read what they have to say critically - you will be able to then to see whether your thoughts match, contradict or add to my interpretations.

Dear Mr Harvey,

Thank you for your email of 13th June 2013, in which you asked for the following information from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ):

(I have left out their repetition of the questions - as they are shown below anyway)

I can confirm that the department holds information that you have asked for, however, please be aware that questions 15 and 16 of your request [these are the questions in question: 15. Given that you must have the data for Peterborough for the missing 19 month period (September 08 to March 11), and acknowledging that this overlaps with the pilot beginning, please could I have this data nonetheless.
16. Likewise, please could I have the data for the quarter beginning April 2012] have been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the remaining questions have been dealt with as normal business.  

Section 84 of the Act states that in order for a request for information to be handled as a Freedom of Information request, it must be for recorded information. For example, a Freedom of Information request would be for a copy of an HR policy, rather than an explanation as to why we have that policy in place. 

Following our assessment of your correspondence we believe that questions 1-14 and 17-21 relate to general questions and not recorded information.

The responses are as follows:

Questions 15 and 16 – Dealt with under the FOIA

I can confirm that the department holds information that you have asked for, but it is exempt from disclosure because it is intended for future publication.

We are not obliged to provide information that is intended for future publication (section 22 of the Act). In line with the terms of this exemption in the Freedom of Information Act, we have considered whether it would be in the public interest for us to provide you with the information ahead of publication, despite the exemption being applicable. In this case, I have concluded that the public interest favours withholding the information.

You can find out more about Section 22 by reading the extract from the Act and some guidance points we consider when applying this exemption, attached at the end of this letter.

You can also find more information by reading the full text of the Act, available at

When assessing whether or not it was in the public interest to disclose the information to you, we took into account the following factors:

Public interest considerations favouring disclosure
There are public arguments in favour of disclosure of this information at the present time.  Disclosure would for example improve transparency in the operations of Government, and of the justice system in particular.

Public interest considerations favouring withholding the information
There are public interest arguments against disclosure of this information at the present time.  These arguments include that is in the public interest to adhere to the existing publication process for official statistics, which includes time for the data to be collated and properly verified.

It is also in the public interest to ensure that the publication of official information is a properly planned and managed process, to ensure that data are accurate once it is placed into the public domain.  It is also in the public interest to ensure that the information is available to all members of the public at the same time, and premature publication could undermine the principle of making the information available to all at the same time through the official publication process.

We reached the view that, on balance, the public interest is better served by withholding this information under Section 22 of the Act at this time.

You may be interested to know that this information is due to be published in the MoJ’s Proven Re-offending Statistics Quarterly bulletin on 25th July 2013 at the following link:

[It seems reasonable to wait until 25/7/13 to decide whether I will appeal this decision or not.]

Questions 1-14 and 17-21 – Dealt with as normal business

As mentioned above, we have dealt with these questions under the provision of normal business.

1. The pilots began on 9 September 2010 and the 1 October 2011 (Peterborough and Doncaster respectively.) Please can you qualify “began”?

This means that each pilot included eligible offenders (as defined in Table A1, Annex A of the statistical notice) discharged from the pilot prison from these dates onwards. 

2. Given that “the next Proven Reoffending Statistics quarterly bulletin will not be published until 25 July 2013”, why did you publish your results today rather than a few weeks from now?

As set out in the publication, rather than wait until 25 July, the results were published in this ad-hoc bulletin to ensure the information was made public as soon as it was available. In accordance with the Official Statistics Code of Practice the publication date was pre-announced by MoJ statisticians in May 2013. The next Proven Re-offending Statistics quarterly bulletin on 25 July will contain updated interim figures for the pilots, with quarterly updates thereafter.  

3. I understand that “the interim re-conviction figures being published in this statistical bulletin are based on periods half the length of those that will be used for the final results” – daft question I am sure, but presumably this applies to both the ‘experimental’ subject averages and the national comparators?

Yes, the interim re-conviction figures presented in this publication have been produced in exactly the same way for each pilot prison and its national comparator.

4. You say that these “interim 6 month re-conviction figures are available for almost all of Peterborough cohort 1 (around 850 offenders) and half of Doncaster cohort 1 (around 700 offenders)”, please can you explain what has happened to the other portions of the cohorts and why they are included?

The interim figures have been provided for as much of each cohort as possible, but at this stage they do not include all offenders in cohort 1 of either pilot. This is because some offenders were released from prison too recently to be measured on this basis (the 6 month re-offending window and 3 month waiting period have not yet elapsed). However, they will be included in the interim figures in future as soon as enough time has elapsed to allow us to measure them on a consistent basis.

5. In terms of methodology, you say “offenders enter the PbR pilots after their first eligible release from the prison within the cohort period”, please can you explain “eligible” in this context and whether the national comparator figures also cover the same “eligible” group?

Not all offenders released from the pilot prisons are eligible for the pilots. The Peterborough pilot for example, only includes adult males released from a custodial sentence of less than 12 months, so a prisoner released from a sentence of 2 years would not be eligible.  For each pilot, the national comparator figures have been produced on the same basis using the same eligibility criteria. More details on eligibility are available in Table A1, Annex A of the interim re-conviction figures publication:

6. You explain that the key difference is that reconvictions only count offences for which the offender was convicted at court, whereas the National Statistics proven re-offending measure also includes out of court disposals (cautions)” and “Additionally, there are a number of other differences between the pilots and the 
7. National Statistics proven re-offending measure in terms of which offenders are counted within the cohort”. Are you able to say what difference these differences might make to the figures? For example, what number of offenders per hundred are usually subject to a caution (or similar disposal) as opposed to a court conviction?

We have not produced alternative interim figures on what the impact would be if different rules (such as including cautions) had applied. However for information on the effect cautions have on re-offending, please see Table B3 of annex B from the MoJ’s proven re-offending statistics quarterly bulletin:

8. Again I assume that given that the “Peterborough pilot includes offenders released from custodial sentences of less than 12 months, whereas the Doncaster pilot includes all offenders released from custody regardless of sentence length”, the national comparisons are on a like for like basis?

Yes, the figures for the national comparisons are calculated on the same basis as their respective pilots.

9. You explain that the “success of each Peterborough cohort will be determined by comparison with a control group (of comparable offenders from across the country)”. How will this ‘control’ group be selected to ensure there is no inadvertent or unknown bias? Indeed was there (will there be) any form of randomised control trial element to either of these two trials (and extensions)? If not, what is your considered professional judgement as a statistician as to the validity of these results to guide future practice?

The control group will be selected by an Independent Assessor using Propensity Score Matching (PSM), the methodology for which has been published at:

Peterborough Social Impact Bond: an independent ... -

10. For Doncaster, success “will be determined by comparison with the reconviction rate in the baseline year of 2009”. How will this accommodate national and/or local trends in (say) sentencing practice or levels of crime?

The five percentage point reduction target was agreed after analysis of historic reconviction rates established that this would illustrate a demonstrable difference which could be attributed to the new system and not just natural variation.

11. Given that normally reconviction rates are measured on a 12 month basis and these interim results are measured on a 6 month one, how much is that likely (based on past data) to have depressed the reconviction rates?

The figures presented are our best assessment of change in re-conviction figures at this time and have been provided as an early indication of each pilot’s progress. It is not possible to say at this stage what the final 12 month re-conviction figures will be, though naturally the final 12 month re-conviction figures will be higher than the interim 6 month figures simply because offenders will have had more time in which to commit offences.  The statistical notice made clear the limitations of the information presented and the care that should be taken in interpreting these interim figures. 

12. You say “Whereas in this publication, to eliminate the risk of seasonality and enable a consistent comparison over time, all figures relate to offenders released in the 6 month period from October to March”. I may well be missing something here, but by only using the six winter months, are you not likely to increase the risk of a seasonal effect in the data? Please explain further. 

We would be risking a seasonal effect if we took the 6 winter months for the pilot period and compared them to a different period in other years. For example if we had compared October 11 to March 12 with January to June 2009, it would be possible that any changes were simply the result of seasonal effects rather than a real change in re-offending. Whereas by only comparing the Oct-Mar pilot period with other Oct-Mar periods, we are comparing like with like and have therefore eliminated the risk of seasonality 

13. Given that the Peterborough cohort finished on 1/7/12, and allowing for the 6 months plus 3 (for court delays), this takes us up to March 2013. So on this basis, why have the last three months of data (April, May and June 2012) been excluded? (As far as I can see there is no explanation of this decision, but forgive me if I have overlooked it.)

Before releasing official statistics the information needs to be collated, processed and quality assured. Re-conviction data for offenders discharged in April, May and June for the Peterborough pilot had not been fully collated, processed and quality assured in time for this publication. However, re-conviction figures for the full Peterborough cohort (including all releases up to the end of June 2012) will be included in the next quarterly update to be published in July. 

14. Given that I assume that data is ordinarily collected on a quarterly basis, it would have been helpful to have presented your data in a similar way so that trends could be spotted over time rather than use the fairly arbitrary 19 month period to show the data. Why did you present it this way? Please could I have the data on a quarterly basis.

The 19 month period was chosen as this shows figures for as much of the cohort as possible as explained in the statistical notice. It is not an arbitrary cut off, but simply the period of the cohort for which we were able to provide interim re-conviction figures. 

The interim figures were published as soon as the MoJ Chief Statistician judged that we were in a position to produce statistically robust interim re-conviction figures, meaning that the number of offenders being reported on was a large enough sample for each pilot.  We have not produced any figures based on quarterly cohorts because the numbers involved would be too small to give statistically robust information. 

Additionally, reporting on the cohort by quarter would not show a like for like comparison across each quarter, and would therefore be more likely to confuse than to provide meaningful information. The reason for this is that offenders join the cohort after their first eligible discharge within the period. However some offenders will be released from the prison more than once within the cohort period. These more prolific offenders (who are more likely to re-offend) would therefore be more likely to appear in earlier quarters than later quarters.

15. Given that you must have the data for Peterborough for the missing 19 month period (September 08 to March 11), and acknowledging that this overlaps with the pilot beginning, please could I have this data nonetheless.

See earlier response.

16. Likewise, please could I have the data for the quarter beginning April 2012.

See earlier response.

17. You say “Nationally the equivalent figures show a rise of 16% from 69 to 79 re-conviction events per 100 offenders”. How do you get 16%? I can see a rise of 10 ‘points’ or a rise of (10/69*100) 14.5%. 

The figures presented were the rounded versions of the actual figures, which were 68.53 and 79.29. 

18. (As an aside, this is quite a large rise nationally in re-conviction rates comparing the period from just before the last election to period after. Have national rates continued to rise or have they levelled off now?)

Re-offending rates for all adult offenders have barely changed in a decade. Please see the quarterly re-offending bulletin for information on national re-offending levels.

19. You say “these interim figures show a fall in the frequency of re-conviction events at Peterborough” which is drop from 41.6% to 39.2%. At what threshold of probability is this statistically significant?

We have not carried out statistical significance tests on the interim figures because, when it comes to the final results, neither pilot will be assessed on the basis of whether they have achieved a statistically significant change.  Peterborough will be assessed by comparison with a national matched control group using a PSM methodology. Doncaster will be assessed against a baseline of calendar year 2009.  

20. Please can you confirm that the OGRS scores cited relate to the cohort groups in both Peterborough and Doncaster (rather than all offenders who were released)?

The OGRS scores relate to the offenders within each cohort.

21. Why are the national re-conviction scores given next to Doncaster data (which average 32.9%) differ from the scores given next to the Peterborough data (average 37.9%)? I now the period is different and there is some missing data, but this still seems like a large difference…

The criteria used to create the national comparator figures for the Peterborough and Doncaster prisons are different because the 2 pilots have different criteria. For example, the national figures for the Peterborough comparison will only include adult males released from custodial sentences of less than 12 months, whereas the Doncaster comparison includes all prisoners released from custody regardless of sentence length. For more information on the differences between the two pilots please see Table A1, Annex A of the interim re-conviction figures statistical notice.

Generally, re-conviction rates are higher for offenders released from custodial sentences of less than a 12 months than for all offenders released from prison.  Hence the national comparator group for Peterborough have higher re-conviction rates than the national comparator group for Doncaster. 

You have the right to appeal our decision if you think it is incorrect. Details can be found in the ‘How to Appeal’ section attached at the end of this letter.

I will stop there - the rest is pretty standard boilerplate about how to appeal etc. I will say thank you to the Justice Statistics Analytical Services (who signed the letter) for their work in responding to my challenges.

So what do you think about these answers to my questions? 
What would you comment upon? 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A tag for a tag

I have just been alerted to this story:

Tagging firm's 'overcharging' probed 
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has asked the Serious Fraud Office to investigate G4S for overcharging for tagging criminals in England and Wales.... overcharging... ran to tens of millions of pounds....

On a scale from one to ten, how surprised are you? 

If a fraud is found to have been committed, may I humbly suggest that those convicted are fitted with their own tags and have their movements restricted. I know this may not be the appropriate sentence for such crimes, but it would be deliciously ironic...

Would it not?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Accountability through photography

The Thames Valley PCC has published his Annual Report as statute requires and the Police & Crime Panel will be considering it this coming Friday. You can download a copy of it here. There are three impressive full page photographs of Mr Stansfeld who evidently wants to make sure, if nothing else, that the public of Thames Valley will recognise him. The other twelve pages make for some interesting reading too.

Here is my commentary

The foreword is mostly about the legalities. The first substantive thing he says “Nevertheless, since being elected last November I have visited all the police units within this large Force area to understand the issues and challenges affecting policing and crime reduction across the Thames Valley, and I have met most of the councils to discuss their community safety priorities and concerns.”
  • Which councils has he not met?
  • What about meeting the electorate?
On the next page he talks about how he has discharged his responsibilities. He states that has appointed Deputy but says little about what he has done.

“Despite significant cuts (21%) in Home Office funding in this specific area I have been able to maintain funding for community safety initiatives in 2013/14 at close to the previous year’s level by increasing the police element of council tax by 2% and topping up the grant from my own budget.”
  • Huh? It is all his budget…
“I hold the Chief Constable to account for her leadership of Thames Valley Police and delivery of an efficient and effective police service by holding regular meetings with her to scrutinise performance and progress on delivery of the policing priorities set out in my Police and Crime Plan”
  • Most of which happen behind closed doors – only one public ‘Policy, Performance & Performance" meeting happened before this report was published
“I have succeeded in visiting all the police areas, council leaders, partners, and representatives from communities across the whole of the Thames Valley area.”
  • Wow. He has been around the block a few times then... This is quite an achievement considering the problems we know he has with navigating his way around Thames Valley?!
“I launched Countrywatch, a free Thames Valley Alert messaging system specifically for people who live and work in rural communities.”
  • There is a video of Mr Stansfeld on the front of their website. The service is effectively a rustic version of an existing system of alerts on crime issues. It is a good system.
  • But, how many subscribers are there I wonder? No mention of outcomes  or any results.
  • The website includes a very helpful checklist to remind farmers (for example) to “feed livestock” as one of the key activities for February and to do “ploughing” in November. I am sure that the farmers of Thames Valley find this an invaluable aide memoire. 
Following this is an “Annual Performance” summary for the year April 2012 to March 2013 (the PCC was in post for just over a third of that period). The figures are mostly very positive with substantial drops in recorded crime in many categories.
  • Well done – these are impressive results!
  • How were these results achieved? Indeed, what did the PCC do to facilitate these results? No information here.
  • There no measures or targets for two of the six strategic objectives? (Strategic Objective 4: ‘Improve communication with the public in order to build trust and confidence with our communities’ & Strategic Objective 5: ‘To tackle bureaucracy and develop the professional skills of all staff’) and still no measures even after the PCC came into office? Why not?
Next page are the accounts.
  • Force income is nearly £31m – what is that for? I am intrigued.
  • The accounts gloss over the differences in cost between the old PA and the new PCC by mashing them both together. This is very much a lost opportunity I feel.
  • I know I am being picky here but shouldn’t 366.545 be 366,545?! (In other words the cost of staffing is £366m not £366k!)
On the opposite page is a photo of a police officer doing something to something shiny... And on the following page are three smiling (well two of them are smiling – the other seems most concerned to point to a triangular label) people next to a tractor (one is a PCSO).
  • Huh???
  • Some names of these people would have been appropriate I feel
The next section is about his priorities. But this page really confuses me. First here is a table of his various priorities/objectives/pledges

1.       Improve crime detection rates,
2.       Rehabilitate prolific and persistent offenders,
3.       Reduce household burglary,
4.       Reduce drug and alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour, particularly at night-time in town centres,
5.       Reduce rural crime
1.       To reduce crime and drive up detection rates,
2.       To maintain the balance between urban and rural policing,
3.       To ensure that the Police budget is targeted effectively,
4.       To protect vulnerable people,
5.       To ensure the Police act firmly and fairly, using good judgement to deal with the public politely, gaining their respect and acting with integrity
1.       Cut crimes that are of most concern to the public and to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities,
2.       Protect the visible presence of the police and partners to cut crime and the fear of crime and reassure communities,
3.       Protect the public from harm arising from serious organised crime and terrorism,
4.       Communicate and engage with the public in order to cut crime and the fear of crime and build trust and confidence with our communities,
5.       Work with the criminal justice partners to reduce crime and support victims and witnesses, and
6.       Ensure policing, community safety and criminal justice services are delivered efficiently and effectively

  • Can you spot the differences & similarities?
The annual report says “During my election campaign, and after extensive consultation that had taken place with partners and the public, my headline election manifesto priorities were...” and then he lists the first column above. Now compare these to the actual pledges he made. They are very different!

The annual report goes on to say “I have now developed these priorities further in my Police and Crime Plan”. Again the link here is pretty tenuous. For example drugs and alcohol are mentioned in the priorities of the Annual Report but not in either the Police & Crime Plan or indeed the manifesto pledges..
  • Huh?
  • What is going on here?
  • At the very least there seems to be some confusion as to what the priorities actually are
  • Or perhaps that some sheep's wool is being pulled over our eyes (is that on the activities for July on the country watch rural checklist?)
The next page is titled “Spending and Community Safety Fund 2013/14” but says very little about where the money has gone / is going to apart from a couple of vague points. 
  • The PCC has allocated £3.5m to community safety projects. The Office of the PCC costs £1.7m
The next section is engagement. I read this page with great interest. He begins by (correctly) stating that one of his Police & Crime Plan strategic Objectives is “To communicate and engage with the public in order to cut crime and the fear of crime, and build trust and confidence with our communities”. So how will the PCC achieve this, I might here you say? He and his deputy will be visiting some events in the summer (such as the Thame Show) and he has “also agreed to hold” a series of ‘have your say’ events. 
  • No details as yet as to numbers of such events
  • And why the phrasing “agreed to hold”. Was this not his idea? Did someone have to persuade him?
  • And yep, and that is about it. This will cut the fear of crime, build trust and confidence.
  • Hang on, but he will also be “working with existing specialist organisations to consult with victims through focus groups and surveys” and he “will be attending or have representation on all Community Safety Partnership Boards as well as the Local Criminal Justice Board”
  • Phew. 
  • That is alright then. 
  • Engagement? 
  • Tick!
And that is it.

What will the PCP say, I wonder?

Monday, July 8, 2013

The audit, the critique and the PCC

Below, I have outlined my concerns and questions about the audit that has just been published by the Thames Valley Police & Crime Panel in advance of their meeting this Friday. It is rather long, but I think it deserves some open and transparent analysis. (There is a headline summary here.)

Please let me know if you think I am being unfair or unjustifiably picky. Also, if you are the auditor reading this, your answers to some of my questions would be very helpful. Thanks.

Audit of the police and crime commissioner’s expenses – Audit findings, recommendations and response of the PCC
My commentary:
  • How much did this audit cost, by the way? 
  • The audit – as established by the agreed scope / TOR have glossed over the whole basis for setting up the office in Hungerford altogether in my opinion. Given the concerns, widely expressed, that the office was merely a ‘sham’ in order to allow for some expenses to be claimed – this is surprising. Why has this not been fully investigated? Surely the PCC would wish to be exceptionally transparent on this matter given the damaging headlines?
  • Page 2 / item 8: The key features of this Policy are: It adopts the HMRC regulations and guidance as its basis… so does this mean that it did not before?!
  • Same item: No expense claims will be payable for the cost of home-to-work commute (‘private’) journeys between his home and his permanent workplace at Kidlington or his temporary workplace at Hungerford (or journeys between these two offices)… but what about journeys between Hungerford and Kidlington? Or is that no longer an issue given the change of status of the Hungerford office (see below)?
  • Same item: He will be repaying £142.20 for six non-compliant claims
  • Same item: Clear terms and conditions will be developed under which the use of the hire car, together with the services of the dedicated Support Officer, will be made available to the PCC to avoid a tax liability arising inadvertently… Hire car? I thought the car was owned by TVP? And were there not clear T&Cs before? I am confused
  • The auditor has gone over past journeys between November and March: the PCC has not and will not claim for journeys that he could have claimed for… ?? Hmm! (Item 2.1.9 / page 11: Up until 7th February 2013 all claims made by the PCC, when he went directly from home to an external meeting (i.e. when the meeting was not at Kidlington), had 74 miles deducted as this was the return mileage from his home to the Kidlington office… all of 4 – yes that is four – journeys…)
  • The Chauffeur has resigned. (His domestic circumstances have changed it is stated…) Did he sign a confidentiality agreement before he left, I wonder? 
  • Item 12 / page 3: As the PCC has previously stated, it is not practical for him to drive himself around the Thames Valley, given the considerable distance required and over a working day that is often 12 hours or longer. Is this going to go unchallenged? What about other PCCs who have far bigger patches to cover like North Yorkshire, Devon&Cornwall or Dyfed Powys? Are they claiming similar? Will the PCP challenge him on this? (I did a quick phone around on 5th July:
    • Devon & Cornwall “he drives himself” (3961 square miles)
    • Dyfed Powys “he drives himself” (4188 square miles)
    • North Yorkshire “she drives herself” (3200 square miles)
    • Why is Mr Stansfeld different to these three Conservative PCCs with much larger patches than Thames Valley? (2200 square miles)
  • Item 13/page 4: there is an option iv – he drives himself and organises his diary accordingly like most ordinary workers / commuters!
  • Item 5.1 / page 6: This audit is an ad-hoc review carried out at the request of the Office of the PCC… ad hoc??
  • Item 1.2 / page 9: It should be noted that the findings below do not constitute tax advice and are an interpretation only of the evidence supplied as part of the audit… who selected the evidence supplied? How proactive was the auditor?
  • Item 1.4 / page 10: In addition, from March 2013 the PCC has had the use of a TVP vehicle and, from April 2013, a part-time Support Officer whose duties include driving the PCC… so he had the car before he had the driver….?
  • Item 2.1.2 / page 10: This audit has focused on the mileage claims made by the PCC… and thereby missing a big point: why the second office at all? 
  • Same item: For the purposes of this section it has been assumed that both the Hungerford and Kidlington offices meet the HMRC definition of a permanent workplace… note ‘assumed’ because later on… 
  • Item 2.4.6 / page 16: Summary of findings: There is insufficient evidence to form a view if the Hungerford office is in fact a second permanent workplace or a temporary workplace where the PCC performs tasks of “limited duration”. There is no internal record available to substantiate the use of the Hungerford office or review process to check whether the HMRC guidance is being complied with. As such, HMRC could assess some of the expense claims as ordinary commuting, instead of a business journey which would result in an additional tax liability for the PCC… my added highlights. Additional tax liability…?
  • Item 2.1.3 / Page 10: The PCC returns this to Lin after he has completed his appointments with the mileage incurred written on the form… and The PCC signs the form, it is authorised (see paragraph 2.3.1 for details) and sent to Force Corporate Finance for payment… Now contrast this with his verbal statement now transcripted on the TVPCC website where he said “I do not even do my own expenses, they are done by the office staff”. Who writes the mileage on the form? Who signs it?
  • Item 2.1.11 / page 12: Arrangements are made to recoup the expenses paid relating to any home to office mileage which has been incorrectly claimed… note the word incorrectly
  • Item 2.2.3 / page 12: Paul Hammond (Chief Executive) confirmed that no written instruction had been given to the PCC regarding the private use of the vehicle, but stated that he had verbally advised him of the rules to follow to avoid a taxable benefit. The PCC confirmed this to be the case. Both confirmed that this advice was not given at the time the vehicle was initially available… my highlight – he was not told about not privately using the car initially. When was he told? And why did the CE overlook this?
  • Item 2.2.4 / page 12: Journeys direct to/from home to either workplace (Hungerford or Kidlington): This is treated as a normal commute and is private (however, the advice has not been clear on what the tax treatment is if the PCC is working in the car… so what is the situation? Is his commute to Kidlington with chauffeur driving him a taxable benefit or not? At night, when he is being driven home in the dark, after an exhausting day, will he be reading papers then? How does HMRC ordinarily assess such matters?
  • Item 2.2.6 / page 13: The PCC stated that there was no private use of the vehicle. He did advise that when he initially had access to the vehicle (and before the Support Officer was employed), he did for a short time have the vehicle at his home and it was parked on his drive. He also stated that at that time he may have used the car to commute from home to Kidlington… my highlight. Could he have used it for other purposes too? What about now? Who is insured to drive the car? When was this matter sorted with whose authorisation? Did the auditor seek information about the insurances on the vehicle and who signed these off?
  • Item 2.2.9 / page 13: A log book is kept in the vehicle, but the information completed is insufficient to demonstrate there has been no private use… huh?!
  • Item 2.2.11 / page 13: In addition, the PCC did confirm that there have been occasions when the car was kept at his home and has been used for a home to work journey, so there has in fact been some private use… huh? See 2.2.6, above.
  • No mention of vehicle insurance – easy way to stop PCC using car privately is not to insure to him to do so… surely? Who pays for the insurance and how much?
  • Item 2.4.6 / page 16: There is no internal record available to substantiate the use of the Hungerford office or review process to check whether the HMRC guidance is being complied with… but next para refers to “fob access records” – so do these already exist? If so did the auditor not ask for this information? I presume the HMRC could if they wish…?
  • No challenge to the need for the Hungerford Office, no uncovering of the email correspondence around the business rationale for having a second office – still… >makes mental note<
  • Item 2.4 / Page 21: NO LONGER APPLICABLE FOR TAX PURPOSES… But the question remains as to the real value of the second office. Just because he will now not charge any expenses via Hungerford Office does not mean scrutiny should stop!

Sniping, snipping and snooping

Yes. I heard you Mr Stansfeld.

When asked by Bill Heine (Radio Oxford) on Sunday as to whether you were enjoying the job you replied that you were except for the political sniping. I guess you may have meant me, in part, along with your many other critics (just read the comments on articles such as this one) & the wider news media.

Honestly... what did you expect?

The party that you belong to decided to make the role of Police & Crime Commissioner a political one. You are living with those consequences. Like it or lump it.

Frankly, did you think that politics across Thames Valley was a bit like that which you have been used to in the (cosy?) five villages of West Berkshire that you represent? Indeed you said today (and this may not be an exact quote) that the election you went through was "something I have never gone through before".

Huh...?! You have stood for election before. You remain a Councillor for West Berkshire.

But perhaps you meant that you actually had to defend your position, assert your arguments to a less than convinced / compliant / supine / would vote for an stick insect with a blue rosette on constituency?

That must of been hard for you.

You see the thing is Mr Stansfeld, your party represents (and seriously looks after the interests of) the moneyed classes, the rich, the ones who went to public school and, quite honestly, who have little idea what it is like to go without food because there is nothing in the cupboard and kids must have something to eat before school. Your party is supported by those who are so sublimely confident and sure of their lofty position in the world that the idea of regarding their wealth as anything other a birthright just does not happen. Yours is the party that is punishing people for daring to have a spare room or who have failed an ATOS 'review' of their benefits. Yours is the party that is steadily making the rich richer and the poor poorer. (Is there a 'benefits' cap for landowners getting subsidies from the EU?)

But I suspect that this does not really register on your radar Mr Stansfeld. You appear more concerned about your fellow landowners who lose a few sheep or even a tractor than the lot of people facing daily threats of violence in Slough, Oxford, Reading or Milton Keynes. (Yes, I do say 'fellow landowners' since you own a share of an 8 acre field West of Kintbury...)

And so yes, I will continue to inquire (probably 'snoop' in your view) into your expenses, your priorities, your concerns and the contracts you are signing. I will continue to snip at your ankles since my power is limited beyond scrutiny, exposure, ridicule and challenge.

In short Mr Stansfeld, I and my fellow critics of your regime have only just begun. You have just under three more years of scrutiny.

Please be prepared.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Independent audit of PCC Stansfeld's expenses is published.

The Thames Valley Police & Crime Panel are meeting this coming week and their agenda / papers have been uploaded to net. You can access them here. Many readers will also be interested in reading the independent audit concerning Mr Stansfeld's expenses.

The audit paper is here.

I have done a detailed analysis of the paper which I will put in another blog post (it is rather long!) But here are the headlines:
  • He still maintains that it is impractical for him to drive himself around Thames Valley (2200 square miles) when his Conservative PCC colleagues in Dyfed Powys (4188 square miles), Devon & Cornwall (3961 square miles) and North Yorkshire (3200 square miles) all drive themselves. (I phoned their offices and verified this on Friday). What makes Mr Stansfeld so different?
  • He will be paying back £142 of expenses now judged not to be correct
  • He does do his own expenses! (which I think conflicts with what he said in his verbal statement at the last meeting of the PCP. You can read his verbal statement here 
  • He may have used the car for private use before the chauffeur arrived
  • The chauffeur has already resigned (due to a "change in person circumstances")
  • His use of Hungerford Office is unverifiable & so HMRC may be wanting some more money depending on whether it is a temporary place of work or not (although reference is made to the possible existence of security fob access information that the auditor was not given)
  • Many of the arrangements seem pretty patchy to me (the log book in the car needs to be made more detailed etc…) and perhaps the OPCC CEO needs to be questioned further on this & related matters.
  • And there is more...
Now off to listen to Bill Heine's interview of Mr Stansfeld on Radio Oxford

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rusticated crime policy

A few days ago, I blogged about the new definition of 'Rural Crime' now being used in Thames Valley which has been derived in response to the PCC's focus on the matter. In response, I was asked by James Ingham (BBC reporter for BBC South etc.):
Do you think the very idea of focusing on rural crime is wrong or just way they're doing it?
It was a good question. Here is how I responded:
Good Q. 
1) In essence I think that scarce police resources should be deployed proportionately to harm/risk of harm
2) Except democratic legitimacy requires a small degree of disproportionality in favour of areas of low risk but high interest
3) But 'keeping the balance' between rural & urban crime was a manifesto promise. Promises should be kept, naturally
4) Prioritising rural crime when trend is going down is, I would argue, breaking that promise.
5) And on top of this my hunch is that current definition of 'rural' crime is not what people thought they were voting for...
Sorry for long answer but, as I say, good Q & it's complicated!
James then tweeted back:
Do u think others share ur concerns? Should imagine people in towns like Reading, Aylesbury, Slough, not that impressed?
To which I said:
Possibly so - you may wish to inquire... Scarce resource deployment is THE critical issue for this new governance model imo
It would appear we could have
  • The Thames Valley PCC failing to follow his manifesto commitment ("to maintain the balance between urban and rural policing") by giving more priority to rural crime (to "tackle rural crime through intelligence, enforcement and prevention" as part of his "Priority 1")
  • A policy which could result in fewer resources going to areas of higher crime with consequences to the lives of people there.
  • A very disgruntled electorate who thought they were voting to maintain a focus on crime in rural areas but in fact may well be getting a greater focus on thefts (etc.) from only agricultural properties
What does the Police & Crime Panel think of that?

Destiny, cynicism and what is the bloomin' point?

It is very easy these days to find ways to criticise politicians as self serving, arrogant & out of touch... grubbily grabbing for every opportunity to feather their own nests. Or to look for ways to snipe and snip at politicians not for the policy decisions they are making but for the processes around them.

I surprised myself by agreeing with some of the statements made by Douglas Murray, contributing Editor of the Spectator (not a person I ordinarily support!) on BBC Question Time last night (26 minutes in). Here is my (probably inaccurate) transcript of what he said:
It is very striking to me and this isn't a criticism of David or the producers of this programme, we have now two questions and they are both about procedural issues of politics.... but this is a world away from what most of care about. >applause< Most of us who are interested or slightly interested in politics, we care about all sorts of things, how our children are educated, how the NHS is or isn't going to work, a whole set of things... and instead in this country... we end up discussing how much George Osborne spent on a hamburger. It is such a pitiful situation for a state like Great Britain to be in!
Given what he said, I was taken aback by the self satisfied ferocity of David Dimbleby's response who asserted that the order and content of the questions was determined by the audience. Which missed the point of what Douglas was saying altogether.

As I saw it, he was expressing exasperation with the general focus on the process of politics and the ethical choices of politicians rather than what politics ought to be about: policies, outcomes and building a better UK. It was an exasperation that chimed with the audience who applauded him.

Now I know I have done my bit to focus on the 'process' and ethics of the behaviour of my PCC and I will remain on his case! However, I have been acutely aware of all the while I have been doing this that matters of his decisions are perhaps not receiving the degree of scrutiny they deserve. I am also aware that I am contributing part of the general 'plague on all your houses’ view of politicians.

I still think that the behaviour of politicians deserve close scrutiny since it helps us, as electors, to make assessments of their morals and probity. But politics is about far, far more than this!

In my next blog post I will focus on a particular policy matter that the Thames Valley PCC is highlighting.

Meanwhile, this blog post is call to everyone not to be (too) distracted by the ethics of burgers, the jungle japes of some MPs or even the messy business of selecting parliamentary candidates. I am not saying ignore these issues. But I am saying please do not ignore the more important (in my view) issues of policies and the impact of these on the lives and destiny of us all.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

By the pricking of my thumbs, something radical this way comes! (Secret diary of a PCC)

Pish posh, this government is just not being radical enough! They are just being pusillanimous, pathetic and puny. If this country is really going to get a grip of the deficit, we need to find radical & dramatic ways to cuts costs and cut costs again. These damn civil servants seem to be incapable of thinking outside their tiny close box like minds. We have to think of big, bold and blooming bursting ideas to make a difference. I may not be in government, but I am in charge in my police service.

But if I were in charge of the government, I would start with outsourcing the judiciary. A more fat, complacent and whiney bunch of so called professionals would be hard to find. They swan about with an entourage of helpers and acolytes, take months to make decisions (probably in between several cases of sherry and Chateauneuf du Pape) and then stall attempts to introduce the 21st century into court proceedings for years! I say put them out to grass or make them G3SerCapito employees.

And then there is GCHQ. And they were meant to be such a tight organisation. Everything tied down by strap three. But then along comes some tech in a suit and blows the whole caper apart – and the NSA too. Well, we need to put GCHQ on a Payment by Results basis pretty damn quick. If they have been pilfering all this data, surely we can make some money out of it? They must know where all those Swiss and Cayman Island accounts are now? Indeed while we are about it, why not turn GCHQ into an internet service provider. It would, at least, cut out the middle man and everyone would know where they stood. If you upload or download something dodgy expect a knock on the door pretty soon. It might even be at 4.00am and not so much a knock as a crash.

And for heaven’s sake, the subsidised bars in Westminster should damn well close. I can’t get a subsidised drink there unless I toady up to one of my MPs. I don’t see why they should! And it would save the taxpayer loads of money and stop any more of them throwing punches at each other.

But turning to my bailiwick, there is clearly a need to get more of grip of policing costs. Here are some of the radical ideas I and my entourage are playing around with:
  • Charge the costs of burglary investigations to home contents insurance policies
  • Ditto accident investigation costs to car insurance policies
  • Turn PCSOs into freelance ‘community safety agents’ and contract them. This way they will have to pay for their own uniforms and equipment
  • Remove the rank of sergeant and make inspectors work for their money more (after all sergeants are often not much more than constables with stripes anyway)
  • Stop doing anything outside our statutory responsibilities unless someone pays us for it be they a football club, carnival committee or person with lost cat
  • Charge custody ‘visitors’ for their bed and board at motel prices
I am sure there are more ideas… so watch this space!

The Secret PCC Diary until now:
Legal disclaimer: just in case you thought this series of secret PCC blogs is based upon a real person or persons: it isn't. It really isn't. Any similarity to a living PCC is entirely coincidental.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Leadership in Austere Times

Just browsing through some files on my computer and came across this piece which I uploaded a couple of years ago. Austerity has not gone away... nor has the leadership needed to mitigate its impact, perhaps even make the most of it...

You can access this set of articles here.

In the pdf collection, you will find articles on:
  • Leadership in a cul-de-sac
  • The critical leadership role of middle managers in public service cuts
  • Austerity plans & budgets: who has the ideas?
  • Why we need 'Austerity Charters'
  • Three juggling balls: keeping leadership in balance in these stringent times
  • Cutting without bleeding
  • What is your cutting angle?
  • Tackling the financial crisis: What is your legs eleven?