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.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Social media policy (Secret Diary of a PCC)

I am becoming rather concerned that some of the social media accounts of several senior and other officers in the constabulary are becoming just a little too friendly. I know all this fashionable social media baloney is supposed to be all about 'engagement', 'reaching out' to the public and making the police seem human. But I think it could all be going just too damn far. So I have come up with these dozen rules that I expect the Chief Constable to enforce (although the Chief is one of the worst offenders!)
  1. No mention to be made concerning musical tastes, pop concerts, contents of pies, drinks drunk, current (or past) relationships and pets (except Labradors).
  2. Strictly no pictures of any of the above either
  3. Also absolutely no pictures of baby hedgehogs / badgers (especially cute badgers) / foxes (and fox cubs) / kittens / puppies / any animal that could be deemed ‘fluffy’
  4. No mentions of any charities as this could be seen to be political, including seeking sponsorship for fun runs / triathlons / moustaches / wearing purple etc
  5. Only pictures of landscapes that are based in this county
  6. Plenty of mentions of success but no mentions of failure unless they can be blamed on another part of the criminal justice system
  7. Absolutely no political, ethical, satirical, Marxist or religious comment (which includes anything ‘funny’)
  8. No comments about budgets, strategy, problem solving, evidence based practice, professional conduct or anything else likely to bring the police service into disrepute
  9. Trendy hashtags are to be used with extreme caution and absolutely not if they include woollen garments, socio demographic descriptions, cinematic references, One Direction or anything to do with body parts 
  10. No language that could offend the PCC or other upstanding people in the world
  11. No puns, double entendres or words that could be blamed on a spell checker
  12. Retweeting or sharing certain items are OK so long as none of the above rules are broken
I just wish I knew what rules 9 & 12 were all about though....
_________________________________________________

Thursday, October 17, 2013

PCP Clan gathering


Yesterday, CoPaCC hosted an event focusing on the relationship between Police & Crime Panels and PCCs. It was sponsored by Grant Thornton and the participants were treated to excellent contributions from some notable speakers including Dame Jenny Jones and Mark Reckless. The details are all here of course.

It was a great day!

I will leave the detailed report to CoPaCC Chief Exec Bernard Rix to prepare (my role was to design and facilitate the day). But here are a few reflections on the day as a warm up to that report (coming soon)...

With 60+ people attending, most of whom were PCP members, it was a vibrant clan gathering. If a facilitator's job is sometimes to get people talking... this was not a problem yesterday! War stories were shared, cunning wheezes exchanged and generally lots of good practice was teased out, pulled apart and put back together again.

I almost had to push some people in the direction of the lunch before all the sandwiches went curly!

A huge sense of relief permeated the day - relief that as PCP members they were not alone. There was much talk of how to continue meeting and exchanging ideas. (Watch this space...). Perhaps the event should have been subtitled PCP Members Anonymous!

Anyway, I will stop there. Bernard will reveal more about the content of the day and the ideas that emerged in coming weeks (in between researching the CoPaCC Transparency Audit...)

And I have also written enough blogs for today!

Dead duck or ugly duckling? (Conference)

On Saturday 18 January 2014, The Reading Criminal Justice Association is hosting this conference on Police & Crime Commissioners.

This conference has been convened to investigate what is to do be done about PCCs. Is this system of police governance a dead duck that needs to be quickly buried by an incoming progressive government? Or would new legislation have the power to transform the ugly duckling into an elegant swan?

November 2012 heralded the most significant change to police service leadership in a generation: PCCs were elected to set Police & Crime Plans and hold Chief Constables to account for achieving them. These positions will be up for re-election in May 2016.

The question is now: what next? There will be precious little parliamentary breathing space following the May 2015 general election. The report of the Independent Police Commission, chaired by Sir John Stevens, will be published very soon. It is likely it will have some significant points to make about PCCs.

We look forward to welcoming over 100 police & justice professionals, political activists, public service observers, academics and people who just want a better governance model than what we currently have. This will be an intensely interactive event designed to provoke the maximum debate and ideas for the future. If you want to be part of the progressive debate about how police and justice services need to be shaped and governed in the future, this is an event you cannot afford to miss.

Location:
Quaker Meeting House, 2 Church Street, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 2SB
Times:
10 – 4 
Fee:
£15 (£10 RCJA members & unwaged) Price includes light buffet lunch and coffee

Agenda:

09.45 Arrival, refreshments, greeting and networking
10.15 Welcome from the sponsors of the day: Dr Fran├žoise Richardson  (Chair, RCJA)
10.25 Overview of the day: Roy Bailey (RCJA) & Jon Harvey (Facilitator, activist & blogger)

Lightning presentations
10.35 Bob Jones: PCC for West Midlands
  • How to bend, twist & improve the existing model: future practice and practical limitations
10.50 Dorothy Thornhill: Mayor of Watford
  • Rubber toothed crocodiles and what scrutiny is really required
11.05 John Hayward-Cripps: Locality Director South, Victim Support
  • Optimising the role of the third sector in any future governance model
11.20 Peter Neyroud: Academic, former Chief Constable & member of the Independent Police Commission
  • Building a new form of public accountability & robust governance for the future
11.35 Q&A
11.50 Break

12.00 Open Space: Delegates will have the opportunity to shape the agenda for the remainder of the day through suggesting questions to address, topics to discuss and ideas to develop.
  • Introducing Open Space
  • Setting the agenda
  • Workshops & discussions (session 1)
13.15 Lunch and networking (a sandwich lunch will be provided)

13.45 Open Space (part two): a chance to explore more questions & issues
  • Workshops & discussions (session 2)
  • Workshops & discussions (session 3)
15.15 Assembling learning and planning next steps: syndicate & plenary discussions
  • What needs to happen next?
16.00 Close and further networking

Book your place now by emailing john.roberts2950@ntlworld.com (who will send you details of where to send a cheque etc.)

Please note, as with other conferences (like Bluelight Camp), the organisers are happy for people to be present in cognito (such as twitter handle) as it were.

Angels dancing on a bicycle

I am not a little cautious about writing this blog, but I simply cannot resist making a statement or two about so called #Plebgate. After all, nearly everyone else seems to be!

Unless it is suddenly discovered that the CCTV cameras at the entrance to Downing Street have microphones after all, we will probably never know exactly what words were exchanged on that fateful night. However, at the moment, I think we are none the wiser. Perhaps we will know more when the Met Police investigation finally reports. (Why is it taking so long to investigate at most a few minutes of conversation at what must be one of the most observed locations in the country...? Would lip readers help?)

Anyway, I thought it might be helpful to set down a few facts (as I see them) about recent discussions concerning the meeting between Andrew Mitchell and representatives of the Police Federation from West Mercia, West Midlands and Warwickshire.

First here is my transcript of what Ken Mackaill said to the press following the meeting that he and reps from West Midlands and Warwickshire had just had with Andrew Mitchell. (I have done my best to get it down word for word):

KM: Whilst he has repeated, to use his words, his profound apology’ with feeling for what he did say, he has also repeated his denial using many of the words reported in the officers’ notes recorded at the time. Um… his explanation for that is that he did not want to, to quote, ‘get into a firefight’ with the police or impugn the integrity of police officers (who are [?inaudible]) unfortunately left in the position where, er… his continued denial of facts recorded in police records does exactly that, so we are no further forward than we were an hour ago.

Journalist: Should he resign? 

KM: I think Mr Mitchell now has no option but to resign. He is continuing to refuse to elaborate on what happened. Um… I think his position is untenable. 

He may well have said more, but this is all that is up on this BBC website that I have seen.

The question being debated now is whether Mr Mackaill gave a false or misleading representation of the meeting that he and his colleagues had just had. (The BBC website link above gives the background on this, including views from the IPCC and this morning the West Midlands PCC released a statement, accessible here.)

In summary, having read the transcript of the meeting I do not see any incompatibility between Mr Mackaill's statement and what ground the meeting covered. (Tell me where you can if you disagree, of course.)

From that transcript we know what Mr Mitchell says he did not say and what words he did not use... However this is how the meeting (more or less) opened (with my added bold):

WARKS: So really the first question we have got to ask because that is why (inaudible) and this is also why this has gone on so long is because you haven’t been able to say what you actually did say and I think we would all like you to tell us what you did say.

AM: It is a very good point and I’ll tell you why I haven’t done that is because the police account was filtered through a very hostile national newspaper and the police have made no complaint and my apology was accepted and that I felt should draw a line under all of this because my memory of what I did and didn’t say is clear and I will not as a supporter of the police for twenty six years be put in a position of suggesting an officer is not telling the truth but equally I did not say and I give you my word, I give you my word, I did not call an officer an f’ing pleb I did not say you are an f’ing moron and I did not say you should know your f’ing place I would never speak to anyone like that least of all a police officer and you have my word I never said those things.

So, Mr Mitchell says what he did not say, and repeats this (for the record, perhaps, on several other occasions). But he does not answer the question posed to him, in my opinion.

Later on AM does say:

The incident was very brief I complied with the officer and I picked up my bicycle but I did say under my breath but audibly, in frustration, I thought you lot were supposed to f***ing help us and it is for that I apologise and I am grateful to that officer for accepting my apology and I should never have said it and I will never do it again

I am happy to be corrected but that is all he says about what he positively said in the 40 or so seconds that his approach to the gate took. It takes about 4 seconds to make that statement. What else was said? We do not know other than what the officers (we believe) put in their notebooks.

Elsewhere in the transcript Mr Mitchell says:

AM: With respect I haven’t told you anything I haven’t said before I hadn't said to you

and later on:

WARKS: What you have said to us is that the words you said you do not attribute, which is a lot different to you saying in my eyes what I said is different

AM: No it is the first time you heard me say it, in the reporting it is always clear that I have made it clear that I never used those words and in particular pleb and moron so I have not said anything new today but I have done you, because you are the leaders of the Fed in your three areas, the fair thing which is look you in the eye and tell you the truth there is nothing new or different I have said today there is no point in rehashing but I have said very little which is new today, I mean there is little point re hashing it but I have explained why I took the view, and it is frustrating.

[Again my added bold]

And to repeat again. Ken Mackaill concurred with that view when he said "we are no further forward than we were an hour ago"

So what is this really all about? Here are my theories:

1) Andrew Mitchell is a very competent and experienced politician, and some powerful friends (such as David Davies) want him back from the cold. I suspect that this is part of some big ducks being lined up in advance of replacing Mr Cameron as leader, should he lose the next election. (Or perhaps even before...?!)

2) Mr Cameron wants him back and this is all part of Mr Mitchell's journey back to power.

3) The Government have got wind of the results of the Met investigation which is going to fudge the whole issue and give a metaphorical shoulder shrug to the affair. So the Government wants to get some blood at least from Police Federation by going after the scalps of the three Fed officials from the meeting in question.

But really I don't know.... do you?

But I will give up now, lunch calls, and my geeky ocd obsession with the truth will have to be put back in the box where I try to keep it most of the time.


UPDATE 1951 / 17 October: PCC Bob Jones has now published his letter of 'concern' to IPCC Chief, Dame Anne Owers. You can read it here.

UPDATE 0737 / 18 October: Just clocked this report/statement from IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass is available on the net too. No time to set down my analysis, but I would argue this is just grabbing at straws and her case does not hold water... in my opinion. But read it yourself and let me know what you think...

UPDATE 1853 / 18 October: Thanks to @IanBrealey, here is an extract from Channel 4 News yesterday which features more footage of the original press briefing post Fed/Andrew Mitchell meeting and a later interview with Ken Machaill. Worth watching. But again nothing in this that justifies him or the other Fed reps being had up for misconduct in my view.

UPDATE 1044 / 20 October: Not really an update, but here is a link to a contemporaneous report in the Telegraph of how the events unfolded from the fateful night. (Other useful Telegraph links here too: In full: Police log detailing Andrew Mitchell's 'pleb' rantDavid Cameron: no need to investigate Andrew Mitchell's four-letter police rant. (Thanks to @ianbrealey for pointing me in these directions - via Twitter)

UPDATE 1151 / 20 October: Due thanks to @ianbrealey again for pointing me towards this blog post near the time which forensically analyses the CCTV footage of the fateful night. I am not planning to get into the debate about the original incident (as I have said now on many occasions, let's wait for the Met Police investigation report). But this blog is illuminating in my opinion.

UPDATE 1227 / 20 October: Today's story in the Mail on Sunday claims to have established that (among other things) that DCC Chesterman of West Mercia 'blocked the disciplinary action' against officers involved in the meeting that was in the first version of the report prepared by Inspector Jeremy Reakes-Williams of West Mercia.

The piece also says that "separately, this newspaper has established that Met chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe ordered Greater Manchester Police to conduct a review into its initial handling of Plebgate. The probe was completed in June, but Scotland Yard has refused to make it public even though Sir Bernard said the review was ordered to create ‘more openness’" [my added bold]

UPDATE 1449 / 20 October: You may wish to listen to this audio recording of statement from Simon Chesterman, just highlighted for me by @markdpryan

We have not heard the last of all this yet...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Human Rights (BAD)

That is 'BAD' as in international Blog Action Day when thousands of bloggers all of the world get together and write a blog about a common theme. And the theme for this year (on 16 October 2013) is Human Rights.


I thought I would take a moment to highlight the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child
  1. All children have the right to what follows, no matter what their race, colour sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, or where they were born or who they were born to.
  2. You have the special right to grow up and to develop physically and spiritually in a healthy and normal way, free and with dignity.
  3. You have a right to a name and to be a member of a country.
  4. You have a right to special care and protection and to good food, housing and medical services.
  5. You have the right to special care if handicapped in any way.
  6. You have the right to love and understanding, preferably from parents and family, but from the government where these cannot help.
  7. You have the right to go to school for free, to play, and to have an equal chance to develop yourself and to learn to be responsible and useful. Your parents have special responsibilities for your education and guidance.
  8. You have the right always to be among the first to get help.
  9. You have the right to be protected against cruel acts or exploitation, e.g. you shall not be obliged to do work which hinders your development both physically and mentally. You should not work before a minimum age and never when that would hinder your health, and your moral and physical development.
  10. You should be taught peace, understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people.
The UK implemented the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child post ratification in 1991. I am not qualified to judge whether we have public and other services which fully recognise all these rights. But we do all know that due to circumstances both within and outside government control, many children in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have these rights denied to them.

And that is something that concerns us all, I am sure. So what can we do? I think we can keep asking ourselves these questions, based (loosely) upon the 10 rights above:
  1. How have I thought about and acted upon children's rights in the last week?
  2. How can I add to the physical and spiritual development of the children I know?
  3. When did I last listen (really listen) to a child telling me something about themselves?
  4. What do I do to ensure that children get to live with safety, shelter and good food?
  5. How can I make a difference to local accessibility?
  6. When did I last show a child just how much I love them? 
  7. What more can I do to support good play spaces and good schools?
  8. When do I put children first?
  9. How do I know that the stuff I buy hasn't been put together by a young child in forced labour?
  10. When did I last teach peace, understanding, tolerance and friendship?
... and acting upon our answers.

Lastly, I will leave you with this which I came across many years ago (thanks to Findhorn). It is just the best way of thinking about how to really love a child (and respect their rights), in my opinion...


Monday, October 14, 2013

Show us the money...

A good friend of mine was going to attend the meeting in Didcot tonight to listen to and question the Thames Valley PCC. Sadly work intervened and he was not able to make it. At his request, earlier on today, I sent him a question he could have asked. I will reveal what the question was in a second but here first is a tweet I just noticed from the Commissioner himself (or perhaps his social media valet... he is the Thames Valet PCC after all...)


So my drafted question was this:

There were 59 incidents of crime in the centre of Didcot in August – as recorded by the Police.uk website. In the centre of Reading, there were 457. That is nearly eight times as many incidents of crime. One of the most important things that Thames Valley Police do is to work in partnership with local councils to prevent crime and disorder. You help to fund these local partnerships directly from your PCC budget. Are you able to assure us tonight that both Didcot and Reading (which many of us visit for work and social activities) will each get fair shares of the funding you provide – proportionate to the levels of crime and risk of crime

Now sadly, this question will not get to be asked even though it would appear I was on the money with highlighting the level of crime. (I expect the PCC has made sure the meeting is packed with his political supporters as he did in Bracknell a few days ago.)

You see the worry I have is that the PCC is cooking up some sort of formula whereby areas with low crime will get more Community Safety Partnership money in the future while areas with high crime will get less...

Does that seem right to you?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Headlines from the future?

Back in 2000, I gave a presentation to the Accelerated Promotion Course for inspectors. As part of the presentation, I suggested some headlines from the future... here they are:
  • National Police Procurement Authority praised by HMIC for economy, efficiency & effectiveness
  • All Wales Police Force established
  • Bramshill establishes accredited civilian surveillance training
  • Home Secretary opens tenth joint control room and local government call centre
  • Royal Bureau of Investigation praised by President Clinton on her state visit
  • Research demonstrates Best Value shift systems
  • More & more local authority chief execs get involved in appointing divisional commanders
  • Police authority battles with ACPO over appointment of civilian police chief executive
  • First black Chief Constable appointed
  • Merger of several forces looms as English Regional Government becomes a reality 
  • Youth Offending Teams and Drug Action Teams to pool resources
  • Audit commission slates many community safety strategies as little more than ‘glossy’ booklets
  • Reductions in vehicle thefts matched by rise in moving vehicle ‘piracy’
  • Home insurance to pay for burglary investigations
  • Integrated Transport Police Authority (rail / motorway / airport) to be created
  • ‘Bus lane dodgers’ help firm generate huge profits
  • Audit Commission praises shift towards proactive patrolling
  • Crime reporting via the internet is ‘the way ahead’ says joint HMIC & Audit Commission report
  • Fingerprint recognition and other key forensic services - outsourcing trend rises due to BV
  • Digital face recognition and Artificial Intelligence revolutionises application of CCTV
  • New technology reduces 999 mobile phone overload at motorway incidents
  • Restorative justice approaches now fully integrated into police probationer training
  • Targets set for recruitment, retention and promotion of women officers
  • Satellite tracking introduced into police vehicles
  • Drug Czar introduces international ‘Kite Mark’ for safe ecstasy (‘High as a Kite’ - Sun Headline)
  • National Parks Authorities given wider powers to police traffic and ‘day-tripper passports’
  • Traditional police helmets now ‘just for ceremonies’ says new Commissioner
  • Human Rights lawyers and ACPO put forward PACE II proposals
  • Senior officer recruitment crisis leads to pilot direct entry scheme

Over the years since then, I have updated and refined this list (adding in ANPR, deleting 'First Black CC' for example) but I still get to wonder what the headlines might be in a few years time... 

Here are some more (slightly more tongue in cheek, perhaps...) predictions, based upon the trends we are observing now:
  • Serious Crime Agency to be rebranded again (with more powers and fewer resources)
  • PCC appears in public with a 'this is not a' police uniform
  • Courts to be put in competition with each other (to achieve swifter cheaper justice)
  • National living wage introduced for Legal Aid lawyers
  • National police uniform introduced
  • Metropolitan police commissioner made to 'retire early' (again)
  • Just like teachers, police officers no longer need to be qualified
  • Entire police constabulary goes into special measures: G4SERCAPITA brought in to run services
  • Police officers (like soldiers) now required to buy their own kit
  • Judicial services reorganised into purchaser/provider split
  • Myanmar/Burma copies UK and introduces its own Bill of Rights
  • UK Bill of Rights is challenged in the European Court of Human Rights

What headlines would you propose?

What if police services were schools?

I got to wondering this morning what could happen if the policies and principles that the Conservative led coalition are applying to schools & education services were made to apply to police services...

Here is an extract from the Conservative 2010 manifesto on schools somewhat changed... Could this be in the 2015 manifesto...?

Give every victim access to a good police station

Drawing on the experience of the Ruritanian police reforms and the charter police station movement in the Appalacian Mountains, we will break down barriers to entry so that any good policing provider can set up a new Academy police station. Our police station revolution will create a new generation of good small police stations with smaller case loads and high standards of discipline.

Our police station reform programme is a major part of our anti-poverty strategy, which is why our first task will be to establish new Academy police stations in the most deprived areas of the country. They will be beacons of excellence in areas where policing standards are unacceptably low.

We want every victim & citizen to benefit from our reforms. So all existing police stations will have the chance to achieve Academy status, with ‘outstanding’ police stations pre-approved, and we will extend the Academy programme to other parts of the criminal justice system too.

Policing's real power lies in its ability to transform life chances, but we can’t go on giving the poorest children the worst police services. That is why we will introduce a deprived victim premium – extra funding for police stations in areas with disadvantaged backgrounds.

The most vulnerable victims deserve the very highest quality of care, so we will call a moratorium on the ideologically-driven closure of special police units. We will end the bias towards the inclusion of victims with special needs in mainstream policing.

People have been far too ready to excuse failure in police stations. We will ensure that the HMIC adopts a more rigorous and targeted inspection regime, reporting on performance only in the core areas related to crime and, um, crime. And any police station that is in special measures for more than a year will be taken over immediately by a successful Academy provider. 

To give victims better access to a good police station, we will:
  • give victims the power to save local police stations threatened by closure, allowing communities the chance to take over and run good small police stations 
  • make sure Academies have the freedoms that helped to make them so successful in the first place; and, 
  • ensure failing police stations are inspected more often – with the best police stations visited less frequently.

What do you think - would you vote that?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

World Mental Health Day

Mental health and the degrees of it affect us. Some people, much more so. Some people are blessed with good mental health throughout their lives, but even they are likely to know several people who live lives that are variably crushed, riven and striated with depression, psychosis or manic behaviour.

Put simply, mental health affects us all.

And given this, it seems curious to me that mental ill health still carries such a stigma. Recent news reports such as the twisted Sun headline from a few days ago about the number of 'mental patients' who have killed people through to the 'psycho ward' dressing up costume available from all 'good' online outlets... Why is this?

I suspect that much of the stigma boils down to fear and/or lack of comprehension. Who would not fear becoming some of the depictions of people with mental health problems that many films present to us. Perhaps we are scared most of losing control (as it is described) or having our freedom take away from us and being 'sectioned'. And so we may well recoil from trying to understand and languish in our lack of comprehension. And even when we are confronted by poor mental health in our loved family members and dear friends, we cannot really understand what they are going through.

But despite these gloomy thoughts, I do think things are getting better. Whilst there is much intolerance still, there is also much more recognition, acceptance and understanding of people with mental health problems. We surely have a long way to go and this is why days like this are very worthwhile.

But let us also celebrate the progress made. Long may it continue so that one day mental ill health will be something we can talk about as easily and as compassionately as we might a broken leg, diabetes or more serious diseases.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

National Poetry Day: a contribution

Romb

Sometimes
Just when I’m tucking my eyelids in,
Wrinkling my toes, and
Telling my knees I’ll see them in the morning,
I hear them.
Screams,
Screams from the flat next door.

They start off like the child outside my window.
Falling off her swing
Then they build up and up
Until at last I can hear nothing else.
Not even the silence
Not even the clock thumping of my heart

And then suddenly
It’s quiet
And I fall asleep

One night before it was quiet
I left my bed
Opened my door
To wait and watch the door opposite

And, as I gazed
I saw a small glistening tear
Ooze out of the keyhole.
The screaming stopped.

I have asked the person who lives there
Whether she ever hears anything
She never does
But I have noticed, she never shouts
Or cries
Or screams
And, so she says,
She has never fallen off a swing


July 1980 (revised August 2000)

______________

I felt moved to add a poem to National Poetry Day...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Small person racist

I watched my recording of the farewell episode of the IT Crowd last night. I have always been a fan of the series and at times the comedy has rivaled The Big Bang in its geeky humour. In Friday's episode Roy (Chris O'Dowd) gets labelled as a 'small person racist' after his run in with local barista of less than average height. (By the way: this is not a real term but merely a humourous twist within the plot line... in case you thought I am using the term seriously...)

This brought to mind a meeting that was held in Aylesbury Vale District Council offices last week to enable greater dialogue between their cabinet and local parish/town councillors. I went to the last one and the debate was good. This time my colleague Christine Strain-Clark attended on behalf of the town council. She noted this in her report of the event:
Later I asked Cllr Pearce about her responsibility for Equalities. When she gave her presentation, she had to apologise that we could not see her over the top of the lectern, as she is too small. I asked how we could take seriously AVDC’s attitude to equality if they could not even provide a lectern of a suitable height for the equalities portfolio holder. She thanked me, said she had frequently complained, and hoped that now something would be done about it.
Cllr Pam Pearce is a good councillor and, whilst we have our political differences, I enjoy working with her on the Local Strategic Partnership and we have also discussed the progress of the Police & Crime Panel (she is member of that too). She is an excellent listener and puts her own point of view across clearly. She deserves to be heard without impediment! 

Apparently following this discussion, another (male) councillor suggested that she ought to wear higher heels...! Equality obviously has some way to go in AVDC!

So with this blog, may I implore AVDC to sort this matter out: have a lectern arrangement that suits all people!

Online fraud and spiv businesses

The latest CoPaCC report from Bernard Rix prompted me to dig out a copy of the speech that Yvette Cooper gave to the Labour Party Conference last week. In her speech she said:
And Peter Neyroud, former top Chief Constable has agreed to work with us, consumer watchdog Which? and business to build an organisation to challenge online fraud, modelled on the successful Internet Watch Foundation which is tackling online child abuse worldwide.
Regular readers will remember I blogged about this back in the middle of August. So it is great to see the shadow Home Secretary saying things along similar lines and that my friend Peter Neyroud will be working with the Labour Party on this important policy development.

But I want to make a request: please can this be not only about online fraud...

As I put in my article a few weeks ago, the scale of junk mail, junk phone calls & junk texts is reaching epidemic proportions now, as well. This too needs to be tackled!

I was visiting my Mother in Wales over the weekend. I was down there to help her sort out her paper work which had been building up over the last few years. (I ought to tackle my own now!) In the course of doing this for her, I came across a set of marketing materials that, to the naked eye, were promising her that she had in fact won £100,000 - indeed the cheque was just waiting for her in the office... etc. All she had to claim this money was to send back an order in an envelope and it would be with her and so on and on.. (and on)

This sort of literature is nothing other than a rather seedy underhand scam where the 'real' state of affairs is hidden in the small print. It is what I call a '#spivbusiness. Be in no doubt that my mother is an intelligent woman but she is inclined to take these letters on face value. Why? Because as she reaches her twilight years, one of the things she hopes for most is to leave financial security for her sons and grandchildren. This natural (and probably near universal) desire means that she really wants to believe these letters.

And what makes me so angry is that there are 'businesses' out there prepared to exploit this desire in the most devious ways.

Now I am not sure how you stop these insidious, unethical and harmful scamming and dodgy practices. But I hope that when Peter and Which? sit down to talk, this will be on the table too. 

Perhaps what we simply need is a law against small print? Terms and conditions written in Latin would not be acceptable, so why do we tolerate 1000+ words in 6 point text written in legalese?

Do you have any other ideas?