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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Christmas Message: the Secret PCC wishes his girls and boys in blue an innovative 2015

It's that time of year again: when we notch up another annual episode in our lives. I have been working exceptionally hard all this year on behalf of the people of North Ford West Shire, making sure they all feel safe and secure in their homes. I expect most of you have been working pretty darn hard too: delivering the kind of police service we all want to see.

It is just a pity that the Government wants to see a different kind of police service that none of the rest of us want to see! 

We often talk about particular policies acting like 'recruitment sergeants' to dangerous causes. It seems to me that the scale of cuts arriving at the shores of our budgets are going to turn a lot of apolitical police officers and staff into becoming quite radical. The Home Secretary appears to be doing her damnedest at recruiting people to vote for anyone other than Cameron in May 2015 (or maybe that is the point!)

But of course we have to get on with getting on and protecting the public from crime and harm. So in the spirit of Christmas giving, I am telling you first about a bunch of whizzy ideas that my crack team of PCC elves & boffins have been cooking up over the last few months. All these will mean we can deliver policing where it matters with a lower cost! This is innovation in action!

I have heard that many officers are losing battery power in their mobile phones and tablet computers as a result of being out and about so much, communing with the community. (This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that we only have virtual police stations now.) So to address this problem, we will be introducing new police batons that will have a recharging battery built in. There will be a cleverly hidden USB port in which to plug various items of communication.

Internet crime is rising. We all know that. So we have managed to buy some new technology from the CIA (which they tested recently on a whole country) whereby the internet can be switched off in an area. I have no idea how this works but if we spot a rise in internet crime in a certain part of our patch, we will just turn the internet off for a while and make the criminals go somewhere else. Brilliant, eh!

There have been some concerns raised about our police station closure programme. Especially as this has meant fewer custody places being available. I will admit that the partnership strategy with the Royal Navy was not one of our best ideas: it seems people can get off boats a bit more easily than we expected. But we now have a new plan: virtual custody. People will now be held by a combination of specially adapted Google glasses and a Minecraft facsimile of Guantanamo which they will be put into. Their real life bodies will be sitting in a disused local warehouse, chained to a couple of fork lift trucks. I am assured that they won't be able to tunnel out of their virtual reality.

One of our biggest costs (aside from people) is producing plans & strategies. We commissioned a thorough independent piece of research into whether any of these documents make one jot of difference to levels of crime and fear of crime. The conclusion was stark: they are waste of everyone's time. So from the beginning of 2015 we are instituting a 'no plans' policy which in itself won't even be written down. So all those meetings where plans have been discussed in the past will no longer need to happen. This will save us many resources and mean that more people can be out on the front line delivering services to our local people.

All that it remains for me to do is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I am not sending out cards. Some chap called Jon Harvey has produced a video Christmas message on you tube which just about sums my sentiments too. You can watch it here.

See you in 2015!!


The Secret PCC Diary until now:

Legal disclaimer: just in case you thought this series of secret PCC blogs is based upon a real person or persons: it isn't. It really isn't. Any similarity to a living PCC is entirely coincidental.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Will the last police officer turn out the blue light when they leave the station?

We are now less than six months away from the general election. Given that parliament has just put out its Christmas stocking, and most of April will be consumed by campaigning, this leaves about 12 weeks for the Government to achieve anything. And of course, achieve things they must (appear to) so to provide the electoral boost that comes with being the incumbent party... on the case, doing lots of stuff but with major things yet to do!!! (yada yada).

How much exactly will be achieved by a coalition that is beginning to feel like two magnets held together at the north pole is anyone's guess. But this hasn't stopped the Home Office from making a few announcements.

Today for example we have heard in a written statement to parliament that the police services on the ground can expect some more draconian cuts. Here is a link to the statement in full. (I may not have been keeping up quite so much these days, but who is Mike Penning?) Anyway, here are the headline figures:
  • There is to be a "4.9 per cent real terms headline reduction to overall central government funding to the police announced at Spending Round 2013. Taking account of the latest inflationary forecast from HM Treasury published alongside the Chancellor’s 2014 Autumn Statement, this means a total cash reduction of £299m in the overall police funding envelope compared to 2014/15"
  • This amounts to a cash reduction in this funding of 5.1 per cent (in cash terms) compared to 2014/15
  • providing a further £30m for the Independent Police Complaints Commission
  • supporting HMIC’s PEEL inspection programme with £9.4m
  • offering £4.6m for the College of Policing’s direct entry schemes
So far less money for the front line and more money for inspection, complaints and direct entry.


Do you remember this headline: Cameron: 'No Cuts To Frontline Spending'  from 2 May 2010 just before the election. You might recall the PM-to-be saying "Any Cabinet minister, if we win the election, who comes to me and says 'here are my plans and they involve front line reductions' will be sent back to their department to go away and think again."

So long ago...

Anyway, more money to the IPCC but hang on, wasn't this headline only last week "PCCs to handle complaints against officers" The article includes: A statement from the Home Office says that low level complaints will be handled by PCCs. It does not state what extra funding they may receive in order to do so. (My added bold) So will PCCs be getting a slice of the £30m or not? 

And what disturbs me the most is the blithe belief that seems to underpin so much of this: since crime is going down, we can cut police officers on the front line. No! Police officers do so much more than just tackle crime... Demands on police assistance are as high as ever, if not higher.

But of course, these cuts pale into insignificance against the plans for the future, were there to be a Conservative led government in power after May 2015... If Mr Osborne's plans come to fruition, expect even harsher cuts in the future so that 1930's policing can return to our streets and workplaces. 

Will the last police officer turn out the blue light when they leave the station?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

With HOPE in your heart

Since discovering 'Adopt-a-word' (a way of supporting the 'I Can' charity which helps children and young people to communicate), I have chosen a word for the forthcoming year. You can read about my previous words here. For this coming year, I have chosen:

Why hope?

Because, quite simply, hope is what keeps me going. And I suspect I am not alone in that. When I wrestle with my own personal, professional and political challenges, it is my hope that things can and will get better, that keeps my chin up. If I did not have hope, I would give up now. Hope is the basis of my actions to build a better world, (and be the dad, husband, son, family member, friend... human being that I wish to be).

Sometimes, I feel daunted by just how much hope I have for my family, my friends and the wider world. I feel daunted because there is so much to hope for: a world in which everyone gets the opportunity to dream and to have the resources to realise those dreams and ambitions. And when bad things happen in the world that are taking us in the opposite direction, I have to ramp up my hope some more.

Every now and then, I come across shining examples of where other people are committing to hope as well: hope for a better, fairer and more peaceful world. And this feels good: my 'hope batteries' get a recharge.

And in the last 24 hours, we have had this in bucketfuls! The tragic events in Sydney have been broadcast around the world and three people have died. Others have been seriously wounded. (My thoughts are with them and their close ones.) It would have been all too easy for this news to be turned into hate for people who follow Islam. Instead, a random story of compassion (originally not posted for public consumption) has grabbed the headlines and the #Illridewithyou hashtag has taken over international social media. For me this represents a determined faith in the unity of all and solidarity with everyone: never say for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. The #Illridewithyou hashtag is a defiant act of love against those who would use the Sydney siege to foster hate & fragmentation.

The hashtag is also a act of hope: hope for a world in which peace, tolerance and humanity thrive and grow, (while violence, hate and bigotry wither away).

And so with hope in our hearts, none of us ever have to walk alone...

May I wish you abundant seasonal greetings, whatever faith or none that you have, and I hope that you will join me in hoping for an amazing 2015 for everyone in the world!

UPDATE 1055 | 161214: And now the world has to face this terrible event: Pakistan Taliban 'kill 100' in assault on Peshawar school. Words cannot express the deep sadness, distress and anger I feel about this. What possesses people to commit such crimes? It is almost irresistible to despair that people can hate this much. But I won't. I fully expect the world to rally again, and express their love and solidarity with all those affected by these terrible events. We MUST continue to hope for a better world and take actions based on love to make those hopes come true. Be strong.

My heart goes out to all the children, families & parents affected by this. This violence has got to stop! This hate has got to stop! This objectification and dehumanisation of 'others' has got to STOP!!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

125,000 seasonal greetings

Just a quick post to say thank you to all my readers - and may I wish you all peace, good cheer, health & prosperity at this time of year.

Pretty soon I will be announcing my chosen word for 2015, as I now do each year.

Meanwhile, page loads for this blog have now topped 125k. Thank you for reading what I write!!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Exploding the privatisation myth

Once upon a time, I will admit it, I was a supporter of the mixed supply of public services: some private, some charitable & some publicly funded. After all, as a pragmatist, led by evidence, I could see how some services could be more effectively and efficiently provided by different suppliers, and it didn't matter what governance structure those entities had. I was persuaded by Charles Handy's 'shamrock' organisational structure where outsourcing was the norm and commissioning was critical. I saw this model being increasingly applied to the NHS & local authorities & beyond. I went with the flow...

But my support has only ever been luke warm. And now it has disappeared altogether. For what I see is nothing short of a long term and careful plan to find more and more ways to siphon off public taxes into private corporations. And the result of all this is a fragmented set of public services, that struggle to provide anything near to a good quality service to those who are its users and beneficiaries. And I also observe politicians who are ideologically (and personally financially) deeply committed to 'liberalising' public sector provision. And they are so committed that they make stories up, invent data and generally dissemble about the real consequences of these policies.

So this creeping, often rampant, privatisation, now has to stop and be reversed. A report out this morning highlights the failings of social care for older people. The Ministry of Justice is about to throw probation services into a pit of privatisation that will leave the country less safe and poorer to boot.

Here are six reasons why privatisation has and always will fail:
  1. Chasing after profit will detract from providing good quality public services: you only have to be a sardine on a train once to know that.
  2. Profit driven companies cannot keep volunteers: why would anyone give their labour free to a company that then ships money off to a tax haven?
  3. Privatisation contracts are usually won on short and long term cost by governments hungry to shed long term pension commitments. But guess who picks up the tab when those workers retire with insufficient pensions in years to come?
  4. Under privatisation you either end of with huge corporations (like G4sercapita) which are too big to fail (and therefore know they will be bailed out) or a whole set of small providers scrabbling to survive or both... leading to an impossible-to-cordinate fragmentation of services which harms the user
  5. There is no evidence that privatised services in the long term are any cheaper to run and manage that carefully planned publicly provided ones.
  6. You don't get 'owt for nowt': if profit is being creamed off, someone is not getting the service or quality of care & help they need
There are many more reasons too.

It is time to stop this neo-liberal roller coaster. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

So what does AVDC do then?

I submitted a Freedom of Information inquiry to Aylesbury Vale District Council over the weekend. I just received their acknowledgment. It has this standard paragraph in the email:
Please note, AVDC is not responsible for Schools, School Transport, Social Services, Meals on Wheels, Child Services, Child Safety Orders, Care Homes, Mental Health Care, Fostering Services, Respite Care, Highways, Road Safety including Speed Enforcement, Street Furniture, Streetlights, Libraries and Trading Standards. If your request is about one of these areas please contact Buckinghamshire County Council directly. 
This seems curious to me, why not say what AVDC is responsible for...?