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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stansfeld mystery - part four

See all collected posts about this matter in one place by clicking this link

Today I received this reply back from the West Berkshire Council monitoring officer:
My apologies for not getting back to you but there is very little I can add to my previous response.
However in answer to your specific questions regarding 'the procedure (as was)' as to the information requested from each councillor, each member was provided with a pre-printed form from Shaw & Sons (Cat. No. LGA1). The guidance notes to that form provide in respect of question 6: 'If you are employed or have been appointed give in this section the name of the person or body who employs you or appointed you. Please indicate whichever applies deleting the appropriate words in square brackets.'
Cllr Stansfeld followed the guidance in his response as far as I can see from his response. There was no request for details of the address of the body referred to under this section and as I mentioned previously there is no requirement to provide an address.
In regard to your second question you ask if councillors were expected to list all bodies who employ/appointed them. I would expect that any member who disclosed this information would disclose all such bodies. The completion of the form was a matter for each member, as I'm sure you are aware, and if they had any concerns they could have consulted myself as Monitoring Officer.

As far the other company you mention is concerned I have checked with Councillor Stanford and he is no longer involved with it. I am not responsible for the currency of his Linked in account so I am unable to comment as to whether it is out of date. 
Once again apologies for not responding sooner
This seems like a reasonable response from the Council officer. I do note that he says "I would expect that any member who disclosed this information would disclose all such bodies" [my added emphasis] and there is just a hint that perhaps Cllr Stansfeld may have omitted mention of Prescience AG. He says he is no longer involved with that business - but from when was he no longer involved?

So the mystery continues. 

Perhaps I ought to write to Cllr Stansfeld directly? 

Friday, July 27, 2012

The mystery that is Councillor Anthony Stansfeld (part three)

See all collected posts about this matter in one place by clicking this link

It is now (pretty well) three business weeks since I wrote to West Berkshire Council in response to their reply to my request to know more about the businesses that Cllr Stansfeld says he chairs. (See part two here and part one here for the back story.) I have not had a reply. This is curious since they replied to my first inquiry within one day.

Quite frankly, I am bemused as to why doesn't Cllr Stansfeld just make a clear statement about what companies (with accessible addresses / numbers etc) he is involved with. I am beginning to wonder if there is something a shade hidden here. The electors of Thames Valley may be wondering the same thing...

So, if I do not receive a reply from the West Berkshire Official by Tuesday (he is returning from holiday on the Monday it would appear from his out of office email), I may well have to resort to an FoI inquiry to prize the information out.

But come on Cllr Stansfeld! As you are standing to be the Conservative Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, you surely want to be (and be seen to be) totally transparent about your various commercial (and other) interests?

Don't you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

NHSpledge: The costs of the change

Just received an email asking me if I know of anyone who might wish to be an "Interim Chief Financial Officer" for a Clinical Commissioning Group. My contact says the role could run for up to five or six months. I won't bore you with the detailed person spec (commissioning, NHS knowledge, accountancy background etc) but the rate is interesting:

£650 - £1000 per day.

So let's do the maths. Say the fee rate is 'only' £800 per day. So that is 25 weeks, a 100 working days, which comes to £80,000 for half a year's work (plus expenses and VAT of course). So that is a minimum cost of £100k. (And there is probably a finders fee on top of this too...)

That is about 4 trained experienced nurses.

How much is this change to CCGs going to cost us?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Swift & Sure: critique (part two)

Dear Minister

Thank you for letting me have sight of your white paper, Swift and Sure Justice: The Government’s Plans for Reform of the Criminal Justice System. It makes for fascinating reading especially as so much hinges on the role of the Police & Crime Commissioner.

Like you, I am absolutely for a more effective, efficient and versatile criminal justice system. Victims and communities deserve nothing less. Delays in justice benefit few whilst damaging many. As you know, I want the administration of justice to be focused on working for the many not the few.

You say that from “November Police and Crime Commissioners will be in a unique position to help galvanise the local police, prosecution and courts to work together and focus on preventing crime and reducing re-offending”. Interesting word galvanise: I was hoping you would expand on what you meant by it. Perhaps you might define it now?

The paper goes onto say that it has been written in part as a "response to the commitment given by the Prime Minister to learn the lessons from the highly effective and rapid reaction of the criminal justice agencies to last summer’s disturbances.” The reaction was rapid, but with what are you referencing ‘effective’?

Later, the paper defines sure as a system that “can be relied upon to deliver punishment and redress fairly and in accordance with the law and public expectation”.  I am surprised that you did not mention rehabilitation as in my world that is a key element of the justice system. In my view the public want a system based on punishment, redress and rehabilitation as they recognise that all three are the interwoven foundations of a fair and indeed economic justice system. Do you agree?

The paper seems to be conflating speed with efficiency as if they are one and the same. In my experience they are not: a fast car is anything but efficient for example. Moreover, in my years working on performance improvement, I know there is no earthly point making an ineffective process more efficient (or indeed speedier). The task must be first to tackle the ineffectiveness. What do you think?

The paper sets out “how we intend to reform criminal justice by: creating a swift and sure system of justice; and making it more transparent, accountable and responsive to local needs. In this way, we will transform criminal justice from an uncoordinated and fragmented system into a seamless and efficient service.” I appear to be missing a page between the two sentences showing, step by step, how greater transparency (etc.) will transform the system… Could you provide that please? (Although perhaps that comes later?)

You appear to be proposing a triage based approach whereby cases that can be dealt with swiftly, should be. That makes sense to me. The critical success factor in this will be to have a just and effective approach to this triage stage. The paper says that you will be extending pilots such as the “Early Guilty Plea scheme for Crown Court cases and Stop Delaying Justice in the magistrates’ courts” which will “fast track cases in which a guilty plea is anticipated”. Of the Early Guilty scheme, the paper says that “the results have been promising”. And of the Stop Delaying Justice scheme (launched only six months ago) that you “are now working with the judiciary to agree how best to monitor the impact”. In other words neither scheme has been evaluated before you intend to roll them out across the country. Do you believe that implementation should be based upon proper evaluation?

I will have more to say about sure, efficient, transparent and accountable justice in part three. I am also wondering if the section on effective justice has been left out somehow?

Meanwhile, I would value your response to my emboldened questions above. Thank you.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Justice delayed is justice denied,

The Government's new white paper (copy here) begins with Nick Herbert quoting Gladstone "Justice delayed is justice denied". This is a somewhat ironic as I know how long this document has been in the melting pot! But that aside, this is white paper worth reading. It heralds the next stages in the Coalition's plans for 'reforming' the criminal justice system.

I have not read its 64 pages / 22500 words just yet - but I have browsed it. First some word frequencies

Reform - 171 times
Sure - 146 times
Swift - 107 times
Victim - 87 times
Magistrate - 77 times
Crown Court - 46 times
People - 15 times
Fair - 12 times
Harm - 9 times
Equality - 4 times
Outsource - 0 times


Police and Crime Commissioners - 37 times

Naturally, I am very interested in what the white paper has to say about PCCs. Here are some quotes (with my added emphasis):
Although they are not yet in place, we are starting to consider how Police and Crime Commissioners might play a wider role in criminal justice reform. We have already announced that they will take on responsibility for commissioning services for victims of crime and we are considering whether over time they should also be involved in commissioning services for the management of offenders.
The Home Secretary announced on 4 July 2011 that she would support the police in setting up a new Police Information Communications Technology (ICT) company to help exploit the full potential of technology. It will be staffed by IT experts, owned by Police and Crime Commissioners and led by its customers.
Each criminal justice agency will remain responsible for setting its own priorities and the operational independence and impartiality of the judiciary and prosecutors will be preserved. Charging decisions will remain a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service or the police, respectively, depending on the seriousness of the offence (in accordance with The Director’s Guidance on Charging 2011), and decisions on the management of individual cases, and sentencing decisions, will remain entirely a matter for the judiciary. However, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 contains within it a reciprocal duty to co-operate between Police and Crime Commissioners and the criminal justice organisations in a police force area, requiring them to make arrangements for the provision of an efficient and effective criminal justice system.
That is why we are already considering ways in which the Police and Crime Commissioners’ role could potentially be further developed within the criminal justice system over time. This might include, for example, commissioning Probation and Youth Offending services, as well as clear leadership on improving the local administration of justice.

I think you should watch this space!

And perhaps the country will begin to wake up to the changes that the Government are planning and just how important the elections in November are going to be... 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The NHS Pledge: standing up for Buckingham NHS

On Tuesday, I went to the Houses of Parliament on behalf of my District & Town Councillor colleague, Robin Stuchbury to be part of a rally to sign the pledge set to defend our local NHS.

I joined Labour MPs and Labour Councillors from all over the country at Westminster to officially launch the ‘NHS pledge’ - a five-point practical attempt to limit the damage of the NHS reorganisation. This means Robin, I will be working with all the Labour councillors on Buckingham Town Council and Aylesbury Town Council to act as patient champions and the last line of defence for Buckingham’s NHS.
We call on local health leaders to:

1. Protect NHS founding values
2. Prevent postcode lotteries
3. Guard against longer waits
4. Promote collaboration over competition
5. Put patients before profits

I will be asking our NHS Wellbeing board in Buckinghamshire to adopt the five principles to protect the NHS from the worst that David Cameron throws at it. Labour locally will not sit back and wait for things to go wrong in our NHS - it is far too important for that.

By joining forces we can resist the drive towards the rationing of treatment and the encroachment of charges we are starting to see in our NHS. The Tory-led Government’s NHS re-organisation is already causing real harm to patients and is wasting £27,757,281 in Bucks.

Andrew Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said on Tuesday:
“I am very proud to be launching the NHS pledge in Parliament. It will be an invaluable way of showing how Labour Mayors and Labour Councils can make a positive difference to local health provision and defend the things that matter in our NHS.” 
“People are particularly angry about what’s happening to our NHS and believe that David Cameron has betrayed them. Before the election he promised no more top-down NHS re-organisations but brought forward the biggest ever, taking £3.45bn away from the frontline and running unforgivable risks with patient safety. The NHS Pledge will show where Labour Councils are making a difference.”

Beware 'loudist' influences

I went to an excellent workshop in Houses of Parliament on Tuesday last to discuss Labour's plans for the NHS & Social Care with Andy Burnham and members of his team. This meeting included Diane Abbott talking about public health which is about to shift to local authority control next spring.

She made the very cogent point that planning public health must be done on the basis of need not just on who makes the most noise.

Let me call this idea 'loudism' (as opposed to localism). I fear that PCCs could be subject to 'loudist' influences. Perhaps police authorities and chief constables always have been?

One of the most critical budgetary decisions made is how to distribute scarce resources. I argue that police resources should be shared out to the geographical areas and crime types which generate the most harm. However I am concerned that the 'worried but loud and (relatively) safe' communities get a disproportionate slice of the cake. Am I right to be worried?

I trust that Labour PCCs will use their powers & influence to ensure that resources are spent on reducing the most amount of harm for the communities they represent. (Indeed the odd FoI inquiry or two into how resources are currently allocated may already be winging their ways to police authorities, as I write.)

But how will other PCCs make this decision?

Moreover will chief constables see it as their job alone to decide and implement resource allocation formulae? Is this an operational or politico-strategic decision?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Should sentencing be more evidence based?

The criminal justice system is a complex system which means it is most difficult (perhaps impossible) to predict the outcomes of any decisions with any real accuracy. A Minister for Justice falls asleep at a cricket game in the Amazon rainforest and UK prison population rises to another peak…

But that said, I think that all attempts must be made to introduce measures and indicators to assist in the assessment of whether decision X is better than decision Y. And then next time, a better decision is made. (How indicators became targets which became micro-management is another story that I don’t plan on going into here...) So if we accept the premise that such indicators and measures are helpful in determining better ways of administering justice, the question then becomes where might such measures be usefully applied?

There are probably many places, but I would argue for one critical place: sentencing.

Every time a magistrate or a judge delivers a sentence, there is a purpose underneath. The purposes might be variable and multiple ranging from punishment to rehabilitation or through to acting as a warning to others. But these purposes are never tested. To my knowledge (and again happy to be told otherwise) there is no feedback mechanism whereby judges or magistrates get any insight into whether the purposes underlying their sentencing decisions have been fulfilled or not. Robber Joe is sentenced to 10 years but the Crown Court Judge never gets to hear anything more about Joe unless he happens to come up before the same Judge again a few years hence.

Put simply: sentencing is not evidence based.

I once put this argument to a High Court Judge at a Restorative Justice seminar and he said that of course sentencing is evidence based… criminal evidence based. I explained a little more what I meant and he looked at me somewhat quizzically.

So for me the question now is whether the new PCCs, as new kids on the block, might have the influence and opportunity to raise such issues and maybe seek a change.

Should sentencing be more open to scientific interrogation? Should those who make sentencing decisions have more feedback on the effects of those decisions?

Monday, July 9, 2012

What does Cllr Stansfeld chair? (part two)

See all collected posts about this matter in one place by clicking this link

Ok - this is getting quite technical now. I received a reply to my email (see below) at the end of last week:
Dear Mr Harvey

I refer to your e-mail of 5th July addressed to the Council's General Information address which has been passed to me for comment and response

The Register of Interests is currently being updated by all members of this Council and others around the Country following the introduction of the revised Standards regime as part of the Localism Act 2011. Under provisions introduced by Government on 6th June members now have to reveal 'disclosable pecuniary interests' which are defined by Statutory Instrument.

Under the new provisions a member has to disclose any beneficial interest in shares or interests in securities in a company where that company operates within the 'area of the relevant authority'. In this instance, as the company is neither registered in the UK nor West Berkshire the interest does not fall within the provisions of the Act.
The requirements of the existing Register similarly refer to the

body(company) having a place of business or land in the 'authority's area' which neither of the two companies to which refer has. As far as I am aware the companies do not have any contracts with the Council and therefore there it is not necessary for Cllr Stansfeld to disclose their existence.

Under the previous Register individual members have to disclose the name of the organisation by whom they are employed and their position which Cllr Stansfeld has done as part of his disclosure under paragraph 5 of the Register. There is no statutory requirement to disclose the address of the employer although I would expect that to be the case if the body/company was based within the District. It will be a matter for Cllr Stansfeld to assess whether he feels it is necessary to disclose the additional information to which you refer when he completes his new Register in due course.
Hmm. So I mulled on this for a while, dug deep into my inner-terrier and I replied just now:
Many thanks for your detailed reply. It raises a couple of queries for me which I would beg your assistance with:

As a Town Councillor myself, I am naturally aware of the changes to the Standards Regime - indeed I have a new form to complete currently sitting in my in my email inbox. For the time being, I am not concerned with these changes and what information Cllr Stansfeld decides to declare or not under the new provisions.

I note from your own form as published on the internet that members are required to state (until the new provisions become active):

5. My Employment or Business carried on by me - Description of your employment activity

To this question, Cllr Stansfeld has replied “Chairman FIDAS”

I understand from the information you have provided me with that he has correctly answered the specification of that question. This is fine.

However the next question asks:

6. The name of people/bodies who employ, or have appointed, me

To this question, there are two spaces which I presume that you require to be completed (otherwise why have the two spaces)? You ask for Name of Employer AND Address of Employer. To this question, Cllr Stansfeld has answered “As above”, expressly leaving the address portion of this question blank.

Whilst I understand from you that there “is no statutory requirement to disclose the address of the employer”, your own procedure appears to require such a detail. Moreover, without such address detail (though I am sure it would not happen) a councillor could invent any organisational name and there would be no means of cross checking it.

And so, I would be grateful if you would supply a copy of your procedure (as was) as to the information requested from each councillor. I would like to know if Cllr Stansfeld was (either explicitly or implicitly) asked for an address of the “of people/bodies who employ, or have appointed, me” or not. Thank you.

Secondly, and your procedure will probably clarify this, but were councillors expected under the old regime to list all “of people/bodies who employ, or have appointed, me” or just one, more or none of their choosing? In other words, could a councillor choose not to declare a body (etc) that has appointed him/her under the old system?

If it is the case that Cllr Stansfeld was required to declare all such bodies, can you explain to me how it is that he did not declare his involvement with Prescience AG? Or is he no longer involved with this company or was he never involved? (Is his LinkedIn account now out of date, for example?)

Many thanks

Very best wishes 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Imitation, the sincerest form of...

When I say or write something which has come from another source, I always seek to attribute it as accurately and generously as I can. I know I may not always succeed but I am pretty diligent in such matters.

So, it was with interest that I received an email the other day from a former PCC candidate (not Labour Party, I would add) which was fairly sizzling with frustration about how the author's ideas had been appropriated by one of their opposing candidates on their campaign website. The email I received was entitled "Politics: it's a dirty game".

The email went onto say "Maybe his is an original thought. But those paragraphs feel like the pen pics the party asked us to write in the run up to the interviews x weeks ago. I am going to the final primary soon. Should be fun."

Naturally, I will not reveal my sources, especially as the author asked me not to do so. But this does raise for me some pointed questions about the selection campaigns that have happened and the wider public campaigns that are yet to really begin.

> Does politics have to be such a dirty business?
> Will candidates in the forthcoming campaigns be big enough to acknowledge the sources of their ideas, wherever they arose and even if those ideas came from their opposing candidate?
> Whilst the public are said to always be complaining about 'petty politics', they do seem to be influenced by those same grubby tactics when it comes to voting?

How will politics as politics influence these elections?

Unearthing the power of Section 17

My fellow blogger (and perhaps soon to the Conservative PCC candidate for Lancashire), Sam Chapman raises a good point in his recent posting (see here). He says “perhaps the PCC can provide the teeth that 'section 17' has always lacked”.

Hmm – that interests me as someone who has watched while s.17 of the Crime and Disorder Act (CDA98) has been fairly consistently ignored since 1998.

Some readers may be saying… what is s.17? Here it is in full:
17. Duty to consider crime and disorder implications.
(1) Without prejudice to any other obligation imposed on it, it shall be the duty of each authority to which this section applies to exercise its various functions with due regard to the likely effect of the exercise of those functions on, and the need to do all that it reasonably can to prevent, crime and disorder in its area.
(2) This section applies to a local authority, a joint authority, [F1 the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority,] a police authority, a National Park authority and the Broads Authority.
(3) In this section—• “local authority” means a local authority within the meaning given by section 270(1) of the M1 Local Government Act 1972 or the Common Council of the City of London; • “joint authority” has the same meaning as in the M2 Local Government Act 1985; • “National Park authority” means an authority established under section 63 of the M3 Environment Act 1995.
To my knowledge (and this is limited, I grant you), many councils just ignore this section altogether. There may even be people reading this post who ought to know about this part of the CDA98, but do not. If you are a councillor, for example, were you aware of this section? Other councils just add another impact assessment line to committee reports after finance and diversity etc. Very few councils if any, to my knowledge, have rigorously thought about this section and how they may be conforming to it or in breach of it… (Although I am happy to be informed otherwise...)

My interest in this stems from a small piece of work I did for Kate Flannery back in 1999 when she was at the Audit Commission (before she became one of the first, if not the first, ‘civilian’ HMIC). Kate asked me to produce a report outlining what a “s.17 compliant council” would look like. I have it still. I also ran a series of workshops investigating the implications of s.17.

In my view, then and now, s17:

> touches every element of council services – inputs, outputs and outcomes
> invokes the need to review everything that is done (and not done) by the council
> also invokes the need to review all decisions (including decisions not to make decisions) as to their likely impact on crime & disorder
And I proposed then that all authorities covered by the Act (will the PCC office itself be covered like the Police Authority was?) should ask themselves these questions:

1) What are we already doing to reduce crime & disorder and promote peaceful behaviour?
2) What have we got planned that will reduce crime & disorder and promote peaceful behaviour?
3) What more could we doing that would reduce crime & disorder and promote peaceful behaviour?
4) What are we already doing to increase crime & disorder and reduce peaceful behaviour?
5) What have we got planned that will increase crime & disorder and reduce peaceful behaviour?
6) What are we at risk of doing that would increase crime & disorder or reduce peaceful behaviour?

And now I am wondering, how the PCC might deploy this section of the CDA98 to ‘balance & support’ their relationship with the Police & Crime Panel members..!?

Interesting times!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Understanding how the Conservatives are thinking about PCCs

As readers will have noticed, I am keeping a close eye on what the Conservatives are doing in Thames Valley to advance their PCC campaign.

Whilst there is, as yet, still no word from Cllr Anthony Stansfeld about which company he is in fact Chairman of... (see post below), they are clearly not hanging about with getting their campaign going. There is a meeting tonight (4 July) that will feature their newly selected candidate. The description of the meeting says that "Non-members are welcome to attend and share their views on formulating future Conservative policies". So if there are any Labour members in the Reading area who wish to go along, I am sure they would welcome your contribution to formulating future Conservative policies. They probably need all the help they can get....

And if you do go along, please be sure to ask Cllr Stansfeld which company (or companies) he chairs.

Full details of the meeting can be found here. It is 7.30pm in the upstairs meeting room at the Salisbury Club, 316 London Road Reading RG1 4HX. Very helpfully, the website features a power point set of slides and an article about the Conservative justice policies as their starter for ten for tonight's discussions. These are available for free download from the site linked above or from my Google drive, links here and here.

And in the meantime, I see that my sets of questions from the Guardian (all articles of mine are listed below) are still doing the rounds. On the same website is a page which describes one of the hustings meetings they held to choose their candidate: here. At the bottom are some helpful links.

Who knows, perhaps these questions influenced the selection of the Thames Valley Conservative PCC candidate?

Buckingham Labour Councillors Listening

On Saturday 7 July, the Labour Councillors from Buckingham Town Council are hosting an open & free ‘Tea and cakes morning’ at the Buckingham Community Centre.

One of the issues concerning local people is housing. We are very keen to hear your views about local rents, houses in multiple occupation and the availability of affordable housing – as well as all other matters relating to homes in Buckingham. We also want to know about jobs – what more do you think the Town and District Councils could be doing to create more jobs in and near the town?

We will be providing free hot drinks and cakes in exchange for your thoughts and ideas about our town. We promised in our election leaflets over a year ago to keep listening to local people. We have been doing that all these past months of course – but we thought now would be a good time to have an opportunity for a chat over a cup of tea. The Town Council will be working on the creation of the new Buckingham Neighbourhood Development Plan over the coming months

We had our last Listening event on Saturday 14th January 2012 which was very successful. Six months on we are having another one. So please come along and make your views known to your local Labour Councillors and other Labour Party Members from 11.00am to 1.00pm at the Community Centre on Saturday 7th July 2012.

AVDC Cllr Robin Stuchbury will be there to discuss District Council matters.

We are keen to hear what you have to say about local matters and national ones too, if you wish. And of course we will be very interested to hear your views on the forthcoming election for the Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner.

Beyond that, do tell us what you think about car parking, local plans and housing developments, roads, the town’s parks, events in the town, community safety, local health and social care services etc. – whatever matters to you.

We are keen to listen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cllr Anthony Stansfeld: Chairman of what exactly?

See all collected posts about this matter in one place by clicking this link

So, the Conservative Parties in Thames Valley have finally selected their candidate to fight the election to become the first Police & Crime Commissioner of our local police service. He is one Councillor Anthony Stansfeld (you can find his biography here)

He has spent most of career either in the Army or in defence industry working with the Army. He is now “Chairman of a small company that has interests in water systems for agriculture and energy recovery systems for industry”. He also chaired the “Performance Committee of the Thames Valley Police last year, during this period the overall crime rate has dropped by 15%, the greatest drop of any Police Force in England and Wales”.

I assume he will be resigning from the Police Authority soon. 

Meanwhile he is an executive member of West Berkshire Council. He was born and bred in Newbury and West Berkshire.

But of what small company is Cllr Stansfeld Chairman?

His West Berkshire register of interests says he is “Chairman of FIDAS” but does not give an address for this company.

I have checked out Companies House records but I have drawn a blank.

His LinkedIn profile lists him as Chairman of ‘Prescience Switzerland’ in Reading, a bio technology business. 

As far as I can discover, this company has details here but Anthony Stansfeld is not listed as Chairman.

However making the link between him and Frank Iding, it would seem that they were both Directors of company called European Land Solutions Ltd and terminated their positions (along with David Hewitson) on 15 July 2008. This company is now dissolved but was previously called ‘European Landmine Solutions Ltd’. Janes list this company’s activities as “Detection and clearance of mines, marking and monitoring, mine risk education, surveys and training” 

So I am puzzled: of what company is Cllr Stansfeld currently Chairman? 

If it is ‘FIDAS’, may we have an address or website? I will have other questions to explore, but perhaps he or his spokesperson might like to come forward with this information soon. And maybe Cllr Stansfeld might like to expand on his statement in the West Berkshire register of interests.

UPDATE 5 July 2012

I have just written to West Berkshire Council:

 I have been looking at the Register of Interests of Cllr Stansfeld. Under the section “5. My Employment or Business carried on by me”, he records that he is “Chairman of FIDAS”. However no address (postal, web or otherwise) is given for this organisation – either here or in the box underneath (6. The name of people/bodies who employ, or have appointed, me) where he simply says “ditto” and the address box is left blank. I have been unable to find a record of FIDAS anywhere.
 As I assume that a Member’s Register of interests should be clear, comprehensive and unambiguous, may I request that Cllr Stansfeld completes the information about this company so that council taxpayers may have a full knowledge of the interests of their councillors. I am sure that this is a matter that can be quickly resolved.
 May I also request, through you, that Cllr Stansfeld may wish to adjust his LinkedIn record which shows him as Chairman of a company called Prescience, Switzerland based in Reading (see attached). Unless of course, he is Chairman of this company as well as FIDAS. In which case he will wish to add it to his register of interests, I assume.
 My interest in all of this stems from Cllr Stansfeld’s selection as the Conservative candidate for the forthcoming election for the Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner.
 Many thanks
 Very best wishes

I am looking forward to the response... (part two of this story is above)

Simon Weston and 'the plan'

The debate about ‘politics and policing’ is stepping up a gear or two. The announcement by Simon Weston that he has decided to pull out of the race to become the PCC for South Wales because it has all become “too political” (see Guardian article of 2/7/12) is one that deserves careful reflection.

When he was 14, Mr Weston was convicted of a crime that would probably have meant he could not become PCC in any case, although we will probably never know whether that would have been the case or not. In my view, this conviction says far more about the people he was mixing with as a teenager than it does about the man that Simon Weston is today. Anyone who has been through what he has been through and, moreover, how he has handled that experience, will have become wiser and more aware of the complexities of current society than most. He would have been a worthy contender – although I am sure that Alun Michael would have won and will win by dint of his greater experience in the field of policing and the criminal justice system.

However, at the same time, I think that Simon Weston was naïve in thinking (as the reporting of his campaign has suggested) that the race would be anything other than very political. To understand why, we only have to go back to one of the blueprints that led to this new governance structure in the first place.

“The Plan: twelve months to renew Britain” written and published by Douglas Carswell & Daniel Hannan in 2008 was the proto Tory manifesto for 2010. Nick Herbert, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa Villiers are listed as supporters of ‘Direct Democracy” in the back of the book. After section one on ‘cleaning up Westminster’, section two is entitled ‘A return to law, order and accountability’. The section
begins with a helpful summary:

> Police to be placed under directly elected Sheriffs
> Sheriffs to control all aspects of local policing, prioritising offences and setting budgets
> Sheriffs also to administer probation, young offenders institutes, community service orders and prison places
> Sheriffs to take over the roles of the Crown Prosecution Service
> Sheriffs to set local sentencing guidelines
> Directly elected mayors to perform Sheriffs role where metropolitan area is congruent with the constabulary (currently only London)
So that is ‘the plan’.

I won’t summarise the whole chapter but I commend it to you as essential reading if you wish to have more insight into the psyche of our Government’s thinking about law and order – and direct democracy. The book is available on Amazon (or better still, borrow it from your local library or look for one in a charity shop so that more money doesn’t go to Carswell and Hannan!)

But here a one quote:
“The Sheriff should also be responsible for supervising sentenced criminals. There should be a local purchaser-provider split. Each Sheriff should have responsibility for purchasing space in prisons and other ‘disposals’ (probation and community punishment capacity), with regard to local wishes.

Finally the Sheriff should have the power to set local sentencing guidelines. While granting an elected official the right intervene in individual cases would plainly be at odds with the separation of powers, there is no reason why local voters should not have some say over which categories of crime to prioritise. This may well lead to disparities: shoplifting might lead to incarceration in Kent, but not in Surrey. ”
You will then have read the book to be fascinated by their speculation about what might then happen with Kentish crooks deciding to “pour over the county border” to raid Surrey homes due to a lesser punishment in that county. (I am not making this up…!)

So the idea that the introduction of Police & Crime Commissioners was ever going to be anything but intensely political is frankly, laughable. The notion that what the Tories really wanted were people like Simon Weston to stand was mere spin and the attempt to sanitise (or detoxify?) what is evidently a long term strategy to reduce the practice of policing and the administration of justice to raw populism & tabloid simplification.

Please do not be fooled.