Ruth Joyce, (pictured) is the new “lead member” representative for Cambridge City Centre on the Cambridgeshire Police Authority, she took up her position on the 1st of October 2008.
Ruth, who lives in Linton, became a member of the Police Authority in October 2008. Ruth wanted to join the Police Authority to help promote its important work and would like to encourage and include young people as active citizens in our communities whilst promoting their worth and value.
Ruth Joyce has been involved in educational issues as both a teacher and education policy maker for many years. Most recently she ran the national drug education research programme and is a strong supporter of personal, social and health education in schools. [Ruth Joyce is photographed on their website with a tray of cakes, perhaps at a fete.]
From the Linton Village Newsletter:
Ruth, who used to work full time for the Home Office in Westminster for which she was awarded the OBE and is now a freelance consultant, has been involved with cooking for as long as she can remember. Her first job was as a domestic science teacher (now called food technology), then in education with local government and then with the Home Office. Her main free-time interest was always cooking and now she has more time on her hands she has come up with the idea of a personalised catering service, which she is calling Ruth Cooks For You. … Ruth can cope with anything
The newsletter contains a currently functioning email address, which is also available here. There is also a Withersfield, Suffolk address given suggesting perhaps she doesn’t quite live in the Police Authority area.
I wrote to Ruth Joyce asking some questions in an attempt to find out a bit more about her, I also wanted to make suggestions to her and to draw her attention to a number of things I thought she ought to be aware of. At the time of writing no contact details were available from the Police Authority website, but I was able to find an email address for Ms Joyce online. I received a reply, not from her, but from the Chief Executive of the Police Authority. I was very surprised by this, and am worried by the fact that she is not prepared to communicate directly with members of the public. In my view this alone makes her totally unsuitable to act as a representative for Cambridge City Centre on the Police Authority. “Engaging with local people” is a key part of the role of a member of the Police Authority, not just according to my expectations but according to the guide to being an Independent Member of a Police Authority in England and Wales produced by the Association of Police Authorities and localised by the Cambridgeshire Police Authority. Ms Joyce’s email, postal and phone contact details are all available online, which makes her decision not to make them easily available to the public via the Police Authority website particularly baffling.
Highlights of my correspondence:
- “Ms Joyce” has “made a personal decision not use her OBE title in connection with her authority appointment”.
- Ruth Joyce has committed to attend, where possible, Area Committee meetings at which local policing priorities are set in Cambridge City. I support this, and this was one aim I had in raising the point.
- Ruth Joyce and the Chief Executive of the Police Authority believe the meetings which local policing priorities are set are: “publicised on the force website via the most recent neighbourhood profile document”. This is absolutely not the case, the meetings are not routinely publicised in advance by the Police, it is something I have been lobbying for, but it has not happened.
- Ruth Joyce and the Chief Executive refer to Neighbourhood Panels with respect to setting police priorities in Cambridge City Centre. This is at odds with the view of Paul Griffin, Strategy Officer, Community Safety – Cambridge City Council who has written to me to say: “The term ‘Neighbourhood Policing Panel’ is not one that is used in Cambridge, it is used by other local authority areas in Cambridgeshire so this may cause confusion.” Ruth Joyce and the Chief Executive of the Police Authority appear, shockingly, to have fallen for this confusing trap. If they can’t get their heads around the mechanisms for setting police priorities in Cambridge City, what hope has a member of the public (or newly elected councillor) trying to interpret the system for the first time got! I think this provides evidence there is a need to make the current system more comprehensible. One of my local councillors won’t vote on the police priorities until the process is explained in a clear and consistant manner.
- The Chief Executive has shown complete contempt for the Freedom of Information Act in saying: “public bodies are inundated with requests for information and we are no exception. Frankly, as a rule of thumb, 50% of the information requested seems to have no practical purpose and we really do wonder what the recipient does with it. Some “drill down” endlessly and we see no product from it in the media, at our public meetings or in other forms. We feel something will have to change to control this headlong dash for information which is an industry in itself”
- As a slight aside the response gives a further indication that the Sector Inspector for Cambridge has ceased to be Inspector Jon Hutchinson and is now Inspector Steve Kerridge, yet Inspector Jon Hutchinson continues to be quoted in the local paper so clearly still holds a similar role.
The post of Chief Executive of Cambridge Police Authority was advertised as being paid circa £100K. I think it is important to bear that in mind when reading his responses.
My questions and the Chief Executive’s responses on behalf of Ms Joyce in full:
1. Are you planning on ensuring your contact details and photograph are placed on your page on the Police Authority website? I would like to suggest you provide a direct email address. What is your view on the public profile members of the Police Authority should have, and if they should be contactable by members of the public?
We will be putting Ruth’s photo on the website shortly. Some members, especially those holding elected posts, are happy for their personal e-mail addresses to be put into the public domain, whilst others prefer to work through the [generic police authority] address. Hard mail enquiries can be handled via the Police Authority address at Police Headquarters. It is not our policy to provide other contact details as the methods described above suffice and prevent opportunities for “harassment”.
2. I note you do not appear to be using your “OBE” post nominal in relation to your Police Authority position. Have you made a decision to do this? Has this been your decision?
Ruth made a personal decision not use her OBE title in connection with her authority appointment. Why is this relevant to you and why do you want to know who’s decision it was?
[I think the fact she has accepted an OBE tells says a lot about her, she is clearly a Royalist, and sees herself as part of the establishment, she might well be trying to keep her nose clean and head down looking for a promotion to a K? If she wants to disown it she should give it back. Consider if you were the Home Secretary and you wanted centralised power - what kind of person would you like to see overseeing the police on Police Authorities? ]
3. When was the last time you were in Cambridge City Centre, a section of which you are the authority’s lead member for, after 10pm?
Ruth often goes to Cambridge City Centre in the evening, both during the week and at weekends. Your enquiry implies she has no experience of Cambridge City Centre after 10pm. If so, what is your point in asking the question?
[I think it is quite reasonable to question if someone apparently living on a farm in rural Suffolk has any experience of Cambridge City Centre in the evenings.]
4. Are you aware of the mechanism by which some police priorities in Cambridge City are set by councillors at Joint Area Committees? Have you ever attended such a meeting where police priorities are set? Do you believe the Police Authority should be publicising these, particularly in light of the fact there’s been nothing substantive under the public forums or community consultation sections of the Police Authority website for years?
Our understanding about publicising the Area Committees is that these are owned by either Cambridgeshire Constabulary or key partners, such as the City Council and it is their responsibility to advertise these. The Constabulary press office publicises details of Neighbourhood Panels and I believe they are considering providing an online ‘Events Diary’ as an area for future website development. The meetings are, however, also publicised on the force website via the most recent neighbourhood profile document, which also informs the public of the local priorities set. Posters are also displayed and a press release and e-cops message are sent out by the force. The world moves on Mr Taylor and the advent of Neighbourhood Policing has shifted the constabulary’s engagement with the community in a positive way. The Authority dovetails with that and most local people identify with the “police” and not with the Authority. We see little point in attempting to duplicate such information on our own website. The Authority working with the Chief Constable sets priorities but part of the new world is close working with local partners and we have a positive view about agreeing joint priorities which improve community safety overall. As lead member for Cambridge West and South Ruth Joyce will be attending Area Committee meetings whenever possible. Clearly, we think this is a curious question to ask of a member when only just appointed to the Authority and I wonder what you intend to do with the answer we have provided?
[I intend to:
- Express my support for Ruth Joyce attending the Area Committees and suggest that she identify herself as a member of the Police Authority when she attends and hope to see her participate, perhaps by committing to take appriopriate items raised to the Police Authority.
- Draw attention to the fact that both the Chief Executive of the Police authority, and a lead member for Cambridge City don't appear to agree with the City Council's view of the way local Policing priorities are set
- Note that I am aware of the fact the Police Authority forums have been discontinued and replaced, in part, in Cambridge City by the Area Committees - something which will be strengthened by Ruth Joyce's attendance. It is the Police Authority which has not responded to this change, the public forums and community consultation pages of the website have not been adapted or removed, adding to the confused situation.
- Inform the Chief Executive of the Police Authority and Ruth Joyce that the Police are not routinely advertising the Area Committees in the way they believe they are.
- Publicise the answer on my website so others can read it.
5. Are you aware Cambridgeshire Police have decided following the PACE codes is voluntary? Do you think that is acceptable? If not do you think you are now in a position to do something about it?
All members of the Authority in post prior to 1 October are aware of the temporary scheme to vary the application of the PACE Code on Stop and Account because they have discussed it a number of times with the Chief Constable. It has not been a priority for briefing new members. Suffice it to say that we are working with the Home Office in the context of the pilots they have running elsewhere and acknowledge mutual benefit in testing variations to the application of the Codes. Remember Mr Taylor the Codes are codes, not statutory mandates, but codes to encourage standards and their application in a consistent way. With the introduction of Neighbourhood Policing it is more relevant than ever to engage in discussions with members of the public, often in a proactive way. The question is where does this process end and Stop and Account begin? By testing the effect we better understand the consequences of change (we are sure you will understand that from your science background) and this approach is helpful. In fact it seems that early indications from our work and on the pilot sites will lead to a change in this Code. We will wait and see.
[There are a lot of important safeguards contained within the codes, ignoring them in my view also places the police clearly outside of democratic control. ]
6. As the Lead Member for Freedom of Information on the Police Authority, are you aware that Cambridgeshire Police are failing to meet the statutory time limit for responding to freedom of information requests? Do you think that is acceptable? If not do you think you are now in a position to do something about it?
Ruth is aware of this and so is the wider authority. The fact is that whilst we endorse the principles of FoI and are rightly bound by our obligations, and endorse an individual’s right to information within the context of the Act, public bodies are inundated with requests for information and we are no exception. Frankly, as a rule of thumb, 50% of the information requested seems to have no practical purpose and we really do wonder what the recipient does with it. Some “drill down” endlessly and we see no product from it in the media, at our public meetings or in other forms. We feel something will have to change to control this headlong dash for information which is an industry in itself. In practice this means that the resources which need to be deployed to handle such requests would have to grow to the detriment of officers and staff deployed to make our communities safer. The Constabulary has seen a 60% rise in the volume of FoI requests over the past 3 years and this, together with unforeseen and unpredictable staff absences (partly due to illness) has resulted in a backlog of requests accumulating. This has meant that the Constabulary for a time is unable to meet the statutory duty to respond to all requests within 20 working days. This is being addressed but the Constabulary and the Authority are confronted with many competing demands and in the current straitened budgetary climate adequately resourcing the front line must be our first concern
7. Your biography on the Police Authority website states you have: “lived in and around Cambridge for over thirty years”. Yet the BBC report on the 2000 Birthday Honors list, in which a Ms Ruth Joyce is awarded an OBE “For services to drug education”, suggests that at that time you were from Clifton, Bristol. Could you let me know if, when and where you have lived within Cambridge City, and if you have lived “in and around” Cambridge for the past thirty years.
We think your enquiry is unreasonably intrusive and are surprised by the extent of your research. We will never answer such questions Mr Taylor and you have no right to know “when and where you have lived within Cambridge City”. Why is this relevant to you? Rest assured the entry on our website is accurate.
[I have not been reassured that Ms Joyce has not misled the Police Authority's appointments committee and that the entry on the website is accurate. If the thirty years during which she states she has lived in and around Cambridge were discontinuous I think the statements are misleading. If she has not lived in, but only "around" Cambridge again the statement would in my view be misleading.]
8. Do you think you are able to do a better job as a representative for Cambridge City Centre on the Police Authority than a member of Cambridge City Council, appointed by Cambridge City Council would?
What is the point of your question? In any event it is not an either / or situation. The Police Act 2006 as amended does require the Authority to exist with a specified constitution and Ruth is fortunate – and skilled – enough to have been appointed an independent member. She looks forward to working with directly elected councillors of all persuasions.
[I am perfectly aware that the make up of a Police Authority is set down in the Police Act, however I believe we should have more elected members, and the membership of the Police Authority should reflect local needs. In Cambridge I think we ought to have an elected member of Cambridge City Council representing city residents on the Police Authority. Elsewhere perhaps MPs and elected Mayors should have a role.]
9. How have you personally, rather than professionally, come into contact with Cambridgeshire police? Have you ever been stopped, stopped and searched, arrested or given a fixed penalty ticket for example?
Ruth has had contact with Cambridgeshire police both personally and professionally. Personally, she has called upon them on the few occasions when she has needed their support over issues affecting her home and local community and have found them polite and helpful, offering advice that was constructive, practical and useful. Why are you asking these specific questions Mr Taylor? What exactly is your motive?
10. Will you be attending Cambridge Community Safety Partnership meetings, either in your own right, or deputising for Mr Wilkins when he cannot attend. (The Police Authority was not represented at the July 2008 meeting)
As you correctly state, Kevin Wilkins is the Police Authority’s nominated lead for the Cambridge Community Safety Partnership and he will ensure that he keeps up to date on policing and community safety issues across Cambridge and that the Police Authority continues to be represented on the partnership and receives regular information. You may be aware that the force is represented at those meetings too, by Chief Inspector Vicky Skeels and the sector commander (formerly Insp. Jon Hutchinson, currently Insp. Steve Kerridge) and they too provide the Police Authority with a link to information regarding operational policing in the city of Cambridge via the appointed lead Authority members for the area – of which Ruth is now one.
I view the tone of the Chief Executive’s reply as bizarre.
I have made the complete original correspondence available online.
Full list of new members of Cambridgeshire Police Authority appointed as of the 1st of October 2008:
- Mr Ansar Ali
- Mr Benjamyn Damazer (Reappointed)
- Ms Ruth Joyce
- Ms Nicola Williams
- Mrs Jayne Wright
I prompted the Police Authority to put the minutes of the meeting at which they were appointed (held on the 17th of September) online on the 15th of October. Until then, almost a month after their appointment, I don’t think there was any way for the public to find out the identity of the new members.