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
- Corporate Communications
- Corporate Services/Development
- Estates and Facilities
- 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
- 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.