Cambridgeshire Police Authority June 2012


Monday, June 25th, 2012. 1:31pm

Full Police Authority Meeting 28 June 2012

Full Police Authority Meeting 28 June 2012

A full meeting of Cambridgeshire Police Authority is to take place on the 28th of June 2012.

I intend to seek to use the public speaking slot at the meeting to make a statement covering the following points:

  • Was a secret, private, pre-meeting held before this public meeting? Were any presentational materials, or papers, made available in that meeting, which members are going to use in relation to the decisions now before them and which therefore now ought be made public?
  • The Police Authority are continuing along the road towards approving the expansion of the scheme under which police powers, including summary justice powers, are given to security guards and others. I oppose this because I think it creates a lack of clarity for the public as to who has police powers and who doesn’t; it gives police powers to individuals, in relation to whom the safeguards which apply to police officers are not in place; and the hard-won, easy to damage, reputation of the police is put in the hands of people other than the police.
    I am concerned that the authority may not be aware that one of the mooted proposals, giving police powers to Cambridge City Rangers, is opposed by Cambridge City Council. This fact certainly wasn’t mentioned in the report on the scheme to the authority’s 24 May 2012 scrutiny committee meeting. I clarified the city council’s position using the public speaking slot at their full council meeting on the 19th of April 2012. I don’t know for sure, but I presume this opposition will also extend to the proposals to give police powers to security guards on Bonfire Night, and at similar events.
  • The authority have recently issued a press release talking about their role on making information available during the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections. I would like to suggest publishing the dates, locations and papers of the joint meetings between Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire police authorities on the Cambridgeshire Police Authority website would increase transparency and inform debate.
  • Is the authority’s Deputy Chief Executive and Treasurer, John Hummersone, still paid “fees” via “Hummersone Consulting (Sole Trader)”. What are the reasons for this arrangement? Are all authority members confident this isn’t tax / national insurance avoidance and that we won’t see authority staff line-managed by an individual not employed by the organisation?
  • In relation to the authority’s scrutiny committee, rather prematurely in my view, disbanding itsself last month:
    • Will the authority’s process of working towards a decision on routine TASER deployment to front line officers now be brought back to the full authority?
    • Will the full authority take on the work the scrutiny committee was doing monitoring phone answering performance, and in particular take on the committee’s efforts to get information from the police on how badly they were missing their target phone answering times?
  • During a recent presentation on behalf of the authority member Olive Main stated authority staff will be remaining in post until April 2013, and the authority expects the incoming commissioner to spend in the region of £1m/year running their office, ie. spending at a similar rate as the Police Authority do now. Is this actually the view of all authority members? I would like to suggest the authority make arrangements so an incoming commissioner can, if they wish, start making savings as soon as possible, and are not lumbered with expensive ex-police authority staff for months on end.

Privatisation of the “Back Office”

It should be an interesting meeting as it has been reported on the radio that police unions are planning to use the public speaking slot at the meeting to oppose increasing privatisation.

The authority is to consider a recommendation from the Chief Constable and the Authority’s Chief Executive to work towards outsourcing the force’s “Organisational Support services” to private company “G4S” in a project in collaboration with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire police.

The recommended option is:

all Organisational Support functions and services including ICT systems, networks, maintenance and development and would be outsourced to a commercial partner on behalf of all three forces. The benefits would be contractually guaranteed. This would be negotiated and procured through an existing framework agreement.

The “Organisational Support” functions are:

  • HR (incl. Learning and Development)
  • Finance & Payroll
  • ICT
  • Procurement
  • Corporate Communications
  • Corporate Services/Development
  • Estates and Facilities
  • Fleet
  • Legal Services

The police authorities are trying to push this through before Police and Crime Commissioners are elected in November, but note that even if they fail to meet this timeline, they will have worked up an option for the incoming commissioners to consider.

Much of this has been worked up at relatively secret working group meetings involving members of the three police authorities; while the minutes do appear in Bedfordshire Police Authority’s papers the meetings are not listed on the Cambridgeshire Police Authority site.

It will certainly be interesting to hear the Chief Constable explain why he is supporting the proposals, and what the union’s objections to them are.

Locally, and nationally privatisation of public services is becoming common place; there are lots of experiences to draw on and public sector commissioners ought be getting better at it – at protecting the interests of staff (not just those transferred over to the private company, but new employees too) while ensuring the public services remain under democratic control and excellent value is obtained for taxpayers’ money.

Flexibility is also important, if what the police need changes, we need to ensure the private contractor isn’t able to use this as a means of extorting money from the taxpayer. The documents before the authority appear ambitious on this point:

Change should be delivered at cost and that the costs should be clearly identified so that the user pays (either the three forces together or one user if a different requirement). The ability to be flexible and react to new and changing requirements will be essential.

However I wonder if “at cost” means “at a cost” rather than “at cost price”; if the latter I can’t see a private contractor agreeing to such terms

Other Items

  • I note call handling is discussed, but the data requested by the scrutiny committee is not provided; without this data its hard to assess the statistics provided.
  • The latest Inspectorate of Constabulary report into the force’s policies on responding to calls relating to “ASB” is mentioned as being awaited*, yet it has been published on the inspectorate’s website. It notes the force have not been as a matter of course asking callers, or checking their records, to see if they have been repeatedly calling about problems. (Update 26/6/12 The ASB report is mentioned as “awaited” early in the agenda, then in item 17 the report is mentioned, the report is from the Deputy Chief Constable and it presents the conclusions as being “an inconsistency in identifying vulnerable victims at the earliest opportunity.” Accurate but hardly enlightening, I hope authority members have actually read the report)
  • Restorative justice “performance” is not reported quantitatively, there is a solitary fluffy line in the performance covering report
  • The unapproved minutes of the Scrutiny Committee meeting at which it disbanded itsself have been released. There is a note saying the scrutiny committee might un-disband itsself if necessary, presumably to negate criticism of its premature disbanding months before commissioners are to be elected.
  • The Scrutiny Committee minutes include the following statement from the Deputy Chief Constable:
    the situation regarding Taser remains the same as at the last meeting, with only already firearms trained officers using Taser, rather than trained non-firearms officers.

  • The agenda for the meeting is very heavy, with the Force’s Annual Report and accounts also going before the authority.

10 comments/updates on “Cambridgeshire Police Authority June 2012

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve sent my question / statement off to the authority and have added:

    I intend to attend the meeting in person, and will be bringing my video camera with a view to filming it.

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    The Police Authority secretariat has surprisingly pre-emptively denied me permission to film the meeting. They have written to me to say:

    The Police Authority is not against the recording of meetings per se. However, there is a large amount of business on the agenda and a need for the Police Authority to focus on that business. We must also be mindful that other public attendees whom we anticipate will attend may not agree to your filming. On this occasion, therefore, the Chair has denied permission for you to record on the basis that it will be a distraction to the proceedings.

    The Police Authority like to operate in the shadows so perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Their suggestion that there being a lot of business on the agenda is a reason for disallowing filming is bizzare. I suspect many of those members of the public expected to be attending the meeting, such as union representatives, would like their representations to be recorded and shared with as wide an audience as possible.

    The authority added that there have been a large number of public questions submitted and there might not be time to take them all.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    Comments on the Chief Constable’s Draft Annual Report, to be published at the end of June.

    The focus is on reported crime statistics. I think these should be viewed with great caution. Reported crime dropping could indicate crime levels are falling, or it could indicate that people are thinking its not worth reporting things to the police, or even that people are unable to get through to the police or unable to persuade the police to record crimes.

    The chief constable’s report highlights only police crime recording statistics, and not data for example on injuries, or incidents on the roads, or costs of crime to insurers, organisations and individuals.

    The report notes Cambridgeshire is one of the cheapest forces to run per person in the force area; and that it has one of the lowest ratios of police officers and police staff members to people in the population too.

    Restorative justice is given a prominent billing in the Chief Constable’s report, yet it is reported only 1200 cases have been dealt with via restorative justice in just over a year. It has a long way to go to negate the need for 1/4 of arrests which was the stated aim. When I visited Orton Goldhay in Peterborough I heard Restorative Justice was hardly being used there, and in Bassingbourne and Melbourn I heard it was being applied where no crime had been committed.

    It is interesting to see a section on “Integrated Offender Management” from the Chief Constable’s point of view. For him and the police it appears more about keeping track of offenders and targeting the repeat offenders, than about focusing rehabilitation efforts, although it is noted that the police contribution is just one part of the scheme.

    Those charged with disorder in Cambridge during the 2011 summer riots are still awaiting trial.

    A highly selective choice of nine tweets to @CambsCops supposedly sent during the period of the riots is quoted.

    Overall the report is short and lightweight, more of a leaflet or promotional brochure than a report. Much of it is taken up with news clippings.

    There is no mention of the desire the chief constable has expressed to issue TASER to non-firearms officers, or other major changes to policing we could soon see in the area, such as more police powers going to security guards, privatising the force’s support operations.

    The report is very much police centric; it doesn’t take the holistic view of crime and justice, or even safety of the population, which I would expect from the chief constable.

    The chief constable states the single question which must be answered when operational decisions are made is: “does this make people safer?”, now that’s clearly a very important question, but that shouldn’t mean that crime with, for example, a primarily economic impact is discounted or not given the attention it deserves.

    One striking and unusual line in the “report” reveals volunteer special constables who own and ride horses are to be recruited to provide a mounted patrol in rural areas. It’s not clear but it appears the idea is they’ll ride their own horses. (Googling leads to this photo-illustrated article of a scheme which has just got underway in Norfolk)

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    The annual statement of accounts is available however only a summary statement is part of the papers to the full authority meeting which is considering them.

    The key point is an underspend of £6.8m on the £130.5m budget.

    The Police Authority cost £838,000 to run in 2011/12, an astonishing amount considering it is basically a committee which needs a clerk. Authority members trousered a mind-blowing £202,065 between them.

    £113K was spent on redundancy payments for just two officers.

    The number of officers paid a salary of over £100,000 has been cut from 4 in 2010/11 to 3 in 2011/12 (Though I note there is a missing band in the table on p44 of the full accounts)

  5. Dave

    I note that Bedfordshire PA have this morning stymied the Chief’s plans to outsource and demanded that an alternative be put forward which is in the best interests of Bedfordshire. Also insist that the decision awaits the new P&CC in the autumn, which won’t please GFS at all. Can’t see how Cambs PA can support Mr Parr’s position now. Perhaps Cambridgeshire will stop giving Herts and Beds their assets to save them money.

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    The authority have published my questions, some of which their secretariat has answered.

    Q1. Was a secret, private, pre-meeting held before this public meeting? Were any presentational materials, or papers, made available in that meeting, which members are going to use in relation to the decisions now before them and which therefore now ought be made public?

    A1. Prior to many of the police authority meetings members are invited to a seminar/training session on a topical issue. The seminar held before the June 28 meeting was not related to any items on the full authority agenda, however during it members were given an opportunity to ask any technical questions they had on organisational support services. No additional papers were given out, nor were any extra presentations given at this seminar to aid members with the decisions to be made at the June 28 meeting.

    They’ve admitted to regularly holding secret pre-meetings, and that one was held prior to the public session on June 28. Their statements that the meeting was “not related to any items on the full authority agenda” and that “during it members were given an opportunity to ask any technical questions they had on organisational support services” appear to be contradictory.

    Clearly it appears members of the authority did do some of the main business of the day behind closed doors.

    Q3 In relation to the authority’s scrutiny committee, rather prematurely in my view, disbanding itsself last month:
    will the authority’s process of working towards a decision on routine TASER deployment to front line officers now be brought back to the full authority?
    will the full authority take on the work the scrutiny committee was doing monitoring phone answering performance, and in particular take on the committee’s efforts to get information from the police on how badly they were missing their target phone answering times?

    A3 As set out in the unapproved minutes of the 24th May Scrutiny Committee, specific reports on Taser will be provided and considered by the police authority until this is integrated into the Performance Report which will in turn be published. The Performance Report, which also contains information on call handling, will then be considered by members of the police authority in public.

    The answers here do not in any way address the questions. The process for the authority taking a decision on roll out of TASER to non-firearms officers is not addressed, neither is the matter of the police’s failure to provide data on how long people have been waiting on the phone.

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    Q4. During a recent presentation on behalf of the authority member Olive Main stated authority staff will be remaining in post until April 2013, and the authority expects the incoming commissioner to spend in the region of £1m/year running their office, ie. spending at a similar rate as the Police Authority do now. Is this actually the view of all authority members? I would like to suggest the authority make arrangements so an incoming commissioner can, if they wish, start making savings as soon as possible, and are not lumbered with expensive ex-police authority staff for months on end.

    A4. The Transition Action Plan covering sheet Agenda item 16, page 3 of 4, sets out the functions and infrastructure required by the Police and Crime Commissioner. Nationally and
    locally it is expected these functions will be delivered within the current budget for police authorities, which is approximately £1million in Cambridgeshire.
    The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner will need to have a skilled and experienced team to create this infrastructure and deliver these functions. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act will automatically transfer staff employed by police authorities, on their existing terms and conditions, to the employment of the commissioner on the day that they take office. This will provide the commissioner with help and continuity in their early days. It will then be for the commissioner to restructure and reform their team

    This answer confirms my concerns; the proposal is for the £1m/year office to continue and arrangements are not being put in place to enable an incoming commissioner to rapidly institute savings.

    I’ve written a separate article on my second question, on the arrangements for paying the authority’s treasurer

    The relevant legislation is Part 6 of Schedule 15 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, it does say staff will be transferred, but not that the assumption ought be the commissioner will need the huge £1m/year organisation of the Police Authority.

    There was no response to my suggestion for opening up Joint Working Group meetings between Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire police authorities.

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