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.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

This blog in one place

I have just created an e-book of all the posts on this blog. I was prompted to do this in case the internet crashed today (yes that appears to be a slim possibility) and also a senses of 'why not?'

So here is a link to my google docs place where the (8Mb) file is located. You are welcome to download it if you wish. It is simply in date order. Rather frustratingly, the links embedded in the blog posts do not get transferred into the e-book edition (why not blog2print?) but I hope you find it useful nonetheless.

When I have time (whenever that will be!), I will create a more nuanced copy arranged by theme. Meanwhile, I hope you find this useful as it shows where this blog started and where it is now.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Secret Diary of a Police & Crime Commissioner: appointing the new Chief Constable

Well. Here we are. I can almost breathe out:
  • Plan, tick! 
  • Budget, tick! 
  • New desk, tick! 
  • Chain of office, tick! 
  • Appointed second deputy after the first one went all Bramshillified, tick! 
I think I deserve a well-earned Easter break. All I have left to do now is appoint a new Chief Constable. 

I have been holding back on this because a) I had a million other things to do (well, not quite a million but it seemed that way) b) it is going to be such a faff doing it and c) I rather like having an acting Chief Constable, he is rather, how can I put this… easy to manipulate. But I guess I am going to have to get on with the job, even if all the brightest candidates have found jobs already. Still, I can always appoint an assistant Chief Constable or even a Chief Superintendent if I want to – although there are a few people who would get rather sniffy about that. Perhaps I will appoint someone from abroad: cat pigeons what?!

Of course, with all the power that I have, I can more or less do as I please. There are times when I regret that the legislation to create PCCs was so poorly drafted and scrutinised but on many occasions I delight in the fact that you can drive a whole troop of police horses through it. Hah!

So what kind of Chief Constable do I want? Here is my initial stab at a person specification:

Must believe that the main job of police officers is to lock criminals up (despite that fact that many of them spend hour upon hour sorting out people with mental health problems that the other agencies have run away from, finding lost cats, sorting out road traffic incidents, recycling Socialist Worker Party placards on the force bonfire etc)

Must be willing to back me up no matter what I say (like any good politician, I have been known to speak from the hip and I therefore need an urbane civil servant who can interpret my words benignly)

Must believe in my policing plan (which is of course includes lots of guff, pomp and claptrap, but it’s my guff, pomp and claptrap, I will have him or her know)

Must be willing to make further cuts in policing without so much as a squeak or a whimper (this, of course, is called ‘living in the real world’ and whilst we are all doing our best to finagle the accounts and build in rosy assumptions about the future into the 3 year budget, there will need for more people to be ‘let go’)

Must be tough on social media and tough on the causes of anonymous tweeting and blogging (the police service of 2013 is no place for dissent, criticism or self-flagellation! All officers and staff must be on message and tweet only the most anodyne of statements)

Must be able to speak the Queen’s English (and not management lingo and no quoting from American authors in the Harvard Business Review)

Now, to start the search!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Policing & Crime Plans and frontline discretion

We are nearing the time when all 41 PCCs will have published their Police and Crime Plans. In the months running up to the election of the PCCs, many people expressed concerns that their introduction would lead to political control of what the police services and police officers do. Despite clear statements in the legislation that operational leadership would still rest with the Chief Constable, many people were and probably still remain concerned. 

The worry, I assume in part, comes from a belief that the objectives framed by the PCCs for their areas in these forthcoming plans will inevitably affect what police officers and staff do on the ground. There will be many of course, who will believe that such lofty strategic plans are a long way from the 'sharp end' and will make little difference.

With all this in mind, I dug out an extract from a proposal I submitted over a year ago to a police service which wanted to commission some research into how their officers and staff perceived their operational discretion and independence when balanced against their relationship with constabulary  policy, procedures and performance management regime. It looked to be a fascinating piece of work and I was fed up that I did not win it! But such is life!

As part of my submission, I devised a set of questions that could be asked of front line officers to get inside how much their felt their professional discretion and responsibility was compromised and/or supported and/or unaffected by wider policies, objectives and plans etc. Here are those questions:
  1. How much individual responsibility do you consider you currently have on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means “I only do what I am instructed to do” and 10 means “I am 100% in control of what decisions I take at work”?
  2. Using the same scale, where do you think you ought to be (and it may be the same)?
  3. How much accountability do you consider you currently have on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means “I am not held to account for anything that I do or achieve” and 10 means “I am held to account for everything that I do or achieve”?
  4. Using the same scale, where do you think you ought to be (and it may be the same)?
  5. In your view, how is the fit between what you are responsible for and what you are held to account for? For this the scale is 1 “no fit at all, I am often held to account for that which I am not responsible” through to 10 “I am only held to account for that which I am responsible for”?
  6. Using the same scale, where do you think you ought to be (and it may be the same)?
  7. Given all of these questions above, what would you say that would add depth and colour to your answers? What evidence, examples or stories do you have to illustrate your views?
  8. One summary interpretation of the ‘Oath of Allegiance’ is that you have (within its scope) total independence to do all that you consider necessary to support and maintain the Queen’s Peace. If you think the reality is somewhat different, please tell me how it is different? 
  9. Do you have any examples of where you acted in accord with the Oath but independently of force policy and procedures? What are those examples?
  10. Are there other examples where you acted dependently upon force procedures but in your view, not in accord with the Oath? What are those examples?
  11. What is the difference that makes the difference between those two extremes? How do you determine how much independence (of policy and procedures) you can exercise?
  12. On the basis that it is the job of everyone working for the Police to make effective and efficient decisions, what helps you make those kind of decisions?
  13. And what gets in the way of making decisions that serve greater effectiveness and efficiency?
  14. In your view, what needs to happen so that you can be more confident in your own decision making – and that of your colleagues as well?
So if anyone wants to some more research now - especially into how the new Police and Crime Plans may impact frontline decision making - you are welcome to use these questions as a starter for ten (although an attribution would be lovely).

And if you are a frontline officer / member of staff - and you would like to answer these questions anonymously - please do get in touch. ( I would be interested in your answers!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The shape of things to come?

Some people are getting in a froth about the expanding teams supporting the Police & Crime Commissioners around the country:
New police chiefs (who you didn't vote for) pay cronies thousands: Crime tsars give friends and allies jobs worth up to £73,000
Apart from the fact that this should be 'whom you didn't vote for'... I am wondering what people honestly expected? Certainly, the suggestion that cronyism is alive and well in some offices of the PCC is an accusation that might stick in some places. (A subject I have blogged about before.) However the idea that a single individual could ever really cover the job of PCC without some significant and close support is laughable.

By means of comparison, I am merely a lowly town councillor. I get about 200 emails a month and just yesterday I despatched a stack of one year's worth of council agendas and other papers 18 inches high to the recycling bin. I am one of 17 councillors and between us, with half a dozen staff, we just about manage to stay on top of all the issues. We hope. I spend about a day per week on council related business. And I admit, I do not read every document in depth that comes my way. But we are a team, and I know that my councillor colleagues will read some of the pieces I miss and together we cover all the bases.

Now transpose this to a PCC. My local PCC has a population of 2.3 million people to cover with 17 local authorities. The budget of course is much bigger than my town council. The buck stops with him and therefore he must stay on top of a very wide range of issues. As I mentioned before, even if only 1% of the people resident in the Thames Valley Police Area write to their PCC once every year, that equates to over 400 letters and emails every week which require investigation and a response.

So I am none too surprised that many PCCs are creating bigger teams. Frankly, in my opinion, they have little choice unless they want to treat the job as something of a part time jolly.

So please read more about one example: the team that Bob Jones is creating in West Midlands. I know Bob and he is not sort of man to spend taxpayers' money without very good cause. Given the size of his 'constituency' and the need to liaise with a significant set of local authorities & other partners, he is creating a Board that has the capability and capacity to do the job.

I would also suggest that Bob is creating the shape of things to come. I am guessing here, but I would imagine that he would favour having an elected board of assistant commissioners as one way of spreading accountability and democracy.

Could this be the model for a policing governance structure that a future government might install? 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Association of PCCs

Yesterday it was announced "Police Commissioners agree to form national representative body" along with details of the new Board that will be steering the APCC from here onwards. Here they are:

New APCC board of Directors
  • Tony Lloyd PCC (Labour - Greater Manchester) and Chairman of the APCC and Directors:
  • Sir Graham Bright PCC (Conservative - Cambridgeshire)
  • Anthony Stansfeld PCC (Conservative - Thames Valley)
  • Vera Baird PCC (Labour - Northumbria)
  • Ron Ball PCC (Independent - Warwickshire)
  • Simon Hayes PCC (Independent - Hampshire)
  • Cllr Simon Duckworth (Chair of Police Committee - City of London)
I wish them well - along with the secretariat (Mark Castle OBE: Chief Executive, Joel Charles: Communications Officer and Tania Eagle: Programme Manager) on their journey to support PCCs having due influence over the future of policing and action to tackle crime in England & Wales.

As regular readers know, I was part of a small group of people who made a parallel offer to PCCs to support them on this journey. (See details of CoPaCC here.) As the offspring of the Association of Police Authority, the APCC always had the cards stacked in their favour of course. Us 'CoPaCCers' knew this. Nonetheless, it is my hope that, perhaps, we influenced the debate around the formation and establishment of the APCC.

It is also my hope that being on the 'other side' as it were, will not mean that either the APCC or PCCs in general see us people they would not want to do business with. I became involved in CoPaCC because I want to help PCCs to do all that they can do to improve police and crime services around the country. We remain on that same page.

Also CoPaCC has not gone away. Please keep an eye on the website and watch out for services as they develop. We remain a confederation of associates who will continue to offer help and support to Police and Crime governance in England and Wales.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

They seek him here...

Here are some words from the Conservative Manifesto of 2010 on police and crime commissioners:
Policing relies on consent. People want to know that the police are listening to them, and the police want to be able to focus on community priorities, not ticking boxes. We will replace the existing, invisible and unaccountable police authorities and make the police accountable to a directly-elected individual who will set policing priorities for local communities. They will be responsible for setting the budget and the strategy for local police forces, with the police retaining their operational independence. Giving people democratic control over policing priorities is a huge step forward in the empowerment of local communities, and we will go further by giving people the information they need to challenge their neighbourhood police teams to cut crime. (Thanks to the 2020UK blog for this extract)
Members of the public would probably expect to get to know their PCC, who should be anything other than 'invisible'. Indeed, the public would expect to have some say in the shaping of local policing and crime plans. You would expect a PCC to be engaged in dialogue and discussion with his/her electorate, would you not?

So what is happening here in Thames Valley? First, out of curiosity, I put in thames valley police crime commissioner news into a google search - this is what came up:

Not much current stuff there. Compare this to (say) Northamptonshire (Conservative) or West Midlands (Labour):

Not all the reports in these two other searches are positive of course, but at least the PCCs are visible and raising their profile.

Perhaps the clue can found in how much Anthony Stansfeld is getting out and about. I have blogged about this before (here and here) and I have been tracking down, just who he met between coming into office (22/11/12) and the moment he uploaded his draft plan. It took a while to get the information I was seeking, but here is the list I was sent a few days ago. (I have added categories):

People within the police service

Meetings with Head of Force Departments
Meetings with Local Commanders
Chief Constable

Local partnership bodies

Oxfordshire CSP (Community Safety Partnership)
Representative from DAAT (Drug and Alcohol Action Team)
Meeting with the Thames Valley Criminal Justice Board


Chairman of the Police and Crime Panel
Met with Thames Valley MPs

Voluntary / third sector bodies

Meeting with the Countryside Local and Business Association
OCVA – Safer Future Communities
Representative from OCVA (Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action)
Visit to Ley Community – Yarnton

Members of the public & community representative organisations


Yep. That is it.

Now I am hoping that the PCC will now get out and meet more people, especially community groups and ordinary members of the public (this is a public office, after all). I will be asking the same question in a few months time. I hope I will be able to report a wider set of people.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A systemic conflict of interest? (CCGs)

On April 1st, all around England, the new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will formally come into being and will henceforth be spending millions of pounds of public money on health care services. This role was fulfilled by Primary Care Trusts before. CCGs are a big part of the Government's NHS reforms. The stated purpose of the CCGs is to put General Practitioners in the driving seat of shaping health services to meet the health care needs and wishes of local people and patients.

However, a recent article (Many GPs have interests in private firms in begins with this paragraph:

Marketisation' and privatisation of the NHS are back in the spotlight after a study has claimed to have revealed potential conflicts of interest because 36 per cent of GPs running clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have connections with private companies.

And so I got to wondering what the situation was in my locality...

In our locality, this role will be fulfilled by the Aylesbury Vale CCG, details of which can be found here: Eight members of the Board of this new body have declared interests in a variety of other organisations and property. Two of these eight people (Dr Karen West, Executive Clinical Lead and Dr Graham Jackson, Chairman of the CCG) have declared that they have shareholdings in a company called Vale Health.

What is Vale Health? On the website of Vale Health (, it states that "Vale Health Limited was established in 2006 as a for-profit, limited company to exploit the very real, significant and arguably unique business opportunity created by practice based commissioning conferring great advantage on general practice" and "since 2007 Vale Health Limited has been providing a range of NHS clinical services for the people of Buckinghamshire".

The website also goes onto say that "Vale Health intends to work with the General Practice Commissioners and position itself at the heart of the effort to change the way services have hitherto been delivered"

I have added some highlighting there.

So, two main board members of the new NHS commissioning body for our area have shareholdings in a profit making company that will (almost certainly) be bidding for contracts from the same body.

Now, there are published arrangements around handling conflicts of interest: there is a 14 page policy accessible here. This policy states, for example:

At meetings – at the start of each meeting, all attendees will be asked to declare any interest they have in any agenda item before it is discussed or as soon as it becomes apparent. Even if an interest has already been declared in the Register of Interests, it should be declared in meetings where matters relating to that interest are discussed. Declarations of interest will be recorded in the minutes of the meeting as well as being included on the register. If the withdrawal of a CCG member has the effect of rendering the meeting in question inquorate, the chair reserves the right to adjourn and reconvene the meeting when appropriate membership can be ensured.

If 'the chair reserves the right...' (and I have already established that the Chairman has a shareholding in what could be a key bidder in a procurement process) will the Chair always exercise this right? I would contend that the policy should say "If the withdrawal of a CCG member has the effect of rendering the meeting in question inquorate, the chair must adjourn and reconvene the meeting when appropriate membership can be ensured and quorum established"

The policy goes on:

7. Declaration of Interests in relation to procurement

Where a relevant and material interest or position of influence exists in the context of the specification for, or award of, a contract the Committee member will be expected to:

Declare the interest;
Ensure that the interest is recorded in the register;
Withdraw from all discussion on the specification or award;
Not have a vote in relation to the specification or award.

Members will be expected to declare any interest early in any procurement process if they are to be a potential bidder in that process. Failure to do this could result in the procurement process being declared invalid and possible suspension of the relevant member from the CCG.

So it would seem that two of the eight main board members may well have to absent themselves from all discussions (assuming that is what 'withdraw from all discussion' means rather than just stay quietly in the room) in many of the procurement processes (which is huge part of the work of CCGs, I would add).

Is that good governance when a quarter of your decision making capacity, including the Chairman has, to 'step outside the room' on a regular basis? Since agendas may not be that linear, I can also imagine some meetings of the board involving people hopping in and out of the meeting on several occasions and chairing of the discussions swapping back and forward. I do not envy the minute taker!

The policy goes onto to cite extracts from Guidance within the GMC’s core guidance Good Medical Practice (2006) and reiterated in its document Conflicts of Interest (2008) Indicates, in such cases, that:
  • “You must act in your patients best interests when making referrals and when providing or arranging treatment of care. You must not ask for or accept any inducement, gift or hospitality which may affect or be seen to affect the way you prescribe, treat or refer patients. You must not offer such inducements to colleagues. 
  • if you have financial or commercial interest in organisations providing healthcare or in pharmaceutical or other biomedical companies, these interests must not affect the way you prescribe for, treat or refer patients.
  • if you have a financial or commercial interest in an organisation to which you plan to refer a patient for treatment or investigation, you must also tell the patient about your interest. When treating NHS patients you must also tell the healthcare provider.”

The GMC also provides the following general guidance:
  • you may wish to note on the patient’s record when an unavoidable conflict of interest arises; and
  • if you have a financial interest in an institution and are working under an NHS employers’ policy you should satisfy yourself, or seek other assurance from your employing or contracting body, that systems are in place to ensure transparency and to avoid, or minimise the effects of, conflicts interest. You must follow the procedures governing the schemes.
This is all very well, but it does not mention commissioning as such. This General Medical Council guidance relates to the specific treatment of individual patients. The broader role of commissioning which includes market making, slicing & dicing services to create tendering opportunities, deciding on overall priorities and strategic plans (as well as the practice of procurement itself) is not really covered by this GMC Guidance, I would argue. 

Within the new NHS commissioning arrangements, the commercial suppliers who will succeed and make healthy profits will be the ones who understand the market place in detail and/or may have had influence over the shape of that market place. The published policy on conflicts of interest for AVCCG covers mostly arrangements for declaring interests and withdrawing from specific discussions within CCG meetings where there is a conflict of interest. I do not see anything in this policy paper which relates to the passing of information / intelligence / insight out to other bodies, or the setting up of blind trusts (such as happens with Government ministers where their financial interests could be seen to be in conflict), or indeed the creation of robust firewalls between the CCG and potential providers. 

Now (for the sake of loud public record), I am not, of course accusing any of the CCG board members of any impropriety, corruption or exploitation of interests. Nor am I suggesting that Vale Health have done anything unethical or illegal.

The policy states (with added emphasis from me) "All CCG members are required to declare any relevant and material personal or business interests and any relevant and material personal or business interests of their spouse; civil partner; cohabite; family member or any other relationship which may influence or may be perceived to influence their judgement" and that the "principles and aims of the policy" are to "avoid potential conflicts of interest, manage conflicts of interest where unavoidable, ensure equity, support openness and transparency, [and] adopt appropriate and proportionate safeguards".
  • Is the fact that two members of main board have financial interests in a likely local supplier an 'avoidable' conflict of interest? (They could easily sell their shareholdings, for example.) 
  • Given the current circumstances, might the people of Aylesbury Vale 'perceive' an influential conflict of interest?
  • Are the current arrangements, which only really cover decision making within CCG meetings and the declaration of interests, adequately providing 'appropriate and proportionate safeguards'?
  • Are there any systemic conflicts of interest here? (By systemic I mean inherent in the current system no matter what mitigating procedures are put in place.)
  • Given that the policy says that declarations of interest should include "Any role or relationship which the public could perceive would impair or otherwise influence the individual’s judgement or actions in their role within the CCG", the highly political nature of these new arrangements are there any memberships or relationships which might have been overlooked (political parties, professional associations, free masonry etc)?
  • What do you think should happen now?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Housing allocation in Buckinghamshire

The local housing allocation policies are under review - here are details I have just received:
Bucks Home Choice Review – Consultation
The Bucks Home Choice Partnership are reviewing the way social housing is allocated in Buckinghamshire, including who will qualify to join the housing register. Our current policy has been in place since May 2009 and we’ve had to consider these changes in response to freedoms granted to local authorities by the Localism Act (2011).
We’ve thought very carefully about the changes we’d like to make in response to Localism and recent and planned welfare benefit changes and the very high level of demand for social housing in Buckinghamshire. We’re also considering a proposal to ring fence some allocations to applicants with a strong connection to that area.
We are shortly to embark on a public consultation exercise about our proposals for six weeks in the spring and will shortly be publicising further details of the consultation process.
For more information, please contact Peter Brown (Senior Housing Options Officer) on 01296 585650 (Email
If you want to have a voice in this critical consultation, I would suggest that you email Mr Brown.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How will the police service enable the ‘frontline professional’ to fight crime and protect the public?

On Wednesday 13 March between 10am and 12 midday there will be a live debate on Twitter using the hashtag #futurecop (from gavthecop)

So I thought I would add my two pennyworth as I will be travelling for much of this time. Here are some ideas:
  • The office of constable is possibly one of the most legally empowered frontline roles in the country but the impression I get is that not many PCs feel this way. How come? Perhaps a start to answering the overall question would be found in understanding why...
  • I have already blogged about the value to be found from not only empowering / enabling the frontline officers (PCs, PCSOs and other staff) but also empowering / enabling citizens and communities to take (evidence based) action to prevent and tackle crime & disorder. (Blog is here) Our aim should be to create 'barefoot crime preventers'
  • Speaking as a socialist of course, I cannot help but notice that socio-economic class features highly in the analysis of where crime happens, which communities are most at risk etc. So perhaps a good dose of sociology and/or socialism as part of police training would be a good thing... While all frontline officers are well versed in addressing racism, sexism, ageism etc... what about a little more about tackling classism?
  • Also as I have blogged before, policing resources should be deployed into areas where there is most risk of harm / actual harm. This might mean that there is sufficient resource to take a long term view of crime and disorder in those areas and engage in some solid prevention. This would be an alternative to constant 'fire fighting' and reactive policing which often arises in places where resources are severely stretched.
  • Perhaps every Neighbourhood Action Group or Community Safety Committee should be required to have a random five members of the ordinary public present each time they meet. These people may give a greater voice to their concerns and help frontline officers know more about what they should be tackling. Equally if any of these five people fall asleep during the course of the meetings, the meeting would have to stop!
  • I have also blogged before about the role of the PCC in crime prevention with a strong focus on the work of Paul Ekblom and his conjunction of criminal opportunity model. Much of this is applicable to frontline officers also.
  • Section 17 of the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act imposes "…. a general duty on each local authority to take account of the community safety dimension in all of its work. All policies, strategies, plans and budgets will need to be considered from the standpoint of their potential contribution to the reduction of crime and disorder". (Source here) Has this law ever been fully enacted? Could frontline officers, perhaps with the back up of the PCC, now be using this more?
What are your ideas?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Engagement Engagement Engagement

Good article by my old colleague Robin Clarke in the Guardian yesterday: Police commissioners need to change, and councils can show them how

He makes some excellent points about the need for PCCs to move beyond merely having a series of public meetings into diverse engagement with diverse communities. He is absolutely correct. I added this comment:

Well said Robin. We are beginning to see some emergent good practice in the shape of the PCC for West Midlands who has been running a series of Summits in order to have conversations with a wide diversity of different stakeholder groups. Contrast this with my own PCC in Thames Valley - who is at last promising to get out more... We have a long way to go.

We need PCCs to be practising community engagement that:
  • doesn't just seek opinions but also seeks the informed judgement of people
  • does not happen too late but instead happens early on the formation of policies and plans
  • ask for views about desired outputs (eg number of police on the beat) and critically outcomes too (how and what crime to focus on - and reduce)
  • does not just use a single method but, as you say, multiple methods
  • moves from merely consulting communities but engaging them in decision making and taking action themselves
  • is not only about past experiences but also people's ambitions and hopes for the future
  • is not fragmented (between different public agencies) but joined - up with other organisations such as local authorities or the Courts Service
These are the challenges.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Political correctness

Two stories have come my way in recent days:

Oxford Lord Mayor resigns over 'sexy' comment (... witnesses reported hearing a combination of words including: "Bending is very sexy isn't it?", "Ooh, that's a bit sexy" and "It's sexy when you bend down like that" to an under 13 girl gymnast)

Resign call after Weymouth councillor's Facebook outburst (... “Terminally slow (and bad) service from the bone idle bitches at Costa Dorchester today, they all need a good beating.”)

Are these both cases of 'political correctness gone mad' (as some people would have you believe, including it would appear some of the Weymouth councillor's colleagues from their quoted remarks) or something a little more sinister...?

Several things I would like say:
  • Councillors are in leadership positions: the same rules do not apply to us. What we say deserves greater scrutiny as we seek to make decisions for the public good.
  • There is no such thing as private social media: that is a contradiction in terms. People in leadership positions need to learn this fast (if they have not learnt it already)
  • It is not the words that matter: it is what the words indicate that matters! If under 13 girls are 'sexy' to you or women in coffee shop are 'bitches': this says something about you and your attitudes to women and girls.
  • If you have such attitudes, do not expect people to ignore or laugh off your politically incorrect words that naturally come from you, because we will be wondering what else your beliefs lead you to do (and not just say)
  • Words can really hurt and upset people: it is called bullying
  • Apologies, real apologies, can make a difference (but not always).
  • And... service is always slow in Costa coffee shops (and others like): isn't that what people are paying for? If you want instant service, buy a jar of the instant stuff!

Even though I know that some people still think that political correctness is all about using the 'right' words (and avoiding the 'wrong' ones)... it really isn't! It is about deeply respecting people, treating fellow human beings as individuals not objects to be categorised and plain ordinary courtesy.

Update: Cllr Rachel Rogers has sent me a link to her blog on the affair. We share some common thoughts!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

X444: the Bucks / Northants economic express

Not the usual blog for this website I know, but I wanted a place to promote this idea which is gradually gaining support. So far Buckingham Town Council, the Aylesbury Vale Association of Local Councils and (just yesterday) the Aylesbury Vale Transport Users Group are backing this idea... so how can we make this a reality? Ideas & support please...

I am seeking support for conducting a feasibility study into establishing a new express coach service between High Wycombe and Northampton. All support is welcome especially from the educational and business development institutions connected to the route - as well as the various local authorities (at all levels) and of course the public who might wish to use such a coach service.

The overall aim is to boost the economic & educational development along this corridor. There are a number of factors that make the strategic case for the creation of this new service:

  • In these current economic times, all steps must be taken to boost local skills development and business growth (the two often go hand in hand)
  • We need to facilitate less car travel and more travel by public transport to aid congestion and reduce the use of scarce and expensive fuel
  • With the future likelihood that more students will wish to commute to study from home, it is vital to connect residents with the growing universities & further educational establishments along the route (including the new University Training College being created at Silverstone on the Bucks/Northants boundary)
  • A new transport hub will be opening at Winslow & Buckingham Parkway which will create a demand for commuter routes to and from this new station (and beyond to London, MK and Oxford etc.)
  • Existing public transport routes tend to a) cut East/West across the High Wycombe to Northampton corridor or b) focus on transport into London and c) tend to stop at county boundaries
  • There are significant housing developments that have and will happen along the route that would benefit from easy links to retail and job locations along the route

Any advice as to what the best next steps should be to arrange for a feasibility study to be conducted by appropriate body/bodies is more than welcome. Any expressions of support also welcome.

And if you have any new ideas - those would also be welcome. At the meeting yesterday, one person suggested making the service link in with coach services to Heathrow from High Wycombe for example.

So what do you think?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Police commissioner pledges to get out and about

Great article in the Oxford Mail - well worth a read. Here are some choice extracts:
Mr Stansfeld has spent his first 100 days learning about the workings of the force and has now pledged to go out and meet members of the public. He said: “I was elected to represent the people on policing and crime and I am keen to talk to and meet as many people as possible.
“Now that my internal meetings are nearly complete, I will be spending a lot more time visiting the public and attending events and I’m looking forward to meeting as many people as possible.”
The Oxford Mail asked 100 people from across Oxfordshire, including Oxford, Witney, Abingdon, Wantage and Bicester, if they recognised Mr Stansfeld from a picture and if they voted in the PCC elections in November.
Only six people said the picture was of the Police and Crime Commissioner. No one could name him and only 14 voted in the election.
So that is 6% could identify the picture and no one could name him...

And he has spent his first 100 days learning about the workings of the force...?! This is the man who sat on the Police Authority for several years! This is also the man who claimed he has personally had an impact on police performance. And he knew so little about the force, he had to spend most of the first 100 days finding out about its workings?!?

Well. At least he has pledged to get out more. As it happens he is giving a lecture tomorrow in Buckingham University. (Details here)

But do read the Oxford Mail article - they asked him some cracking questions...

Digital divide

One of the criticisms of the PCC election last November was the lack of information made available to members of the public. You will recall, that the only way that people were able to access information about the candidates was via the internet.

This was discriminatory in that there are many people who do not have easy access to the web and even those who do, are often unsure of how to use many of the facilities on the internet. This website lists some of the facts about the 'digital divide'. For example:
  • 1 in 4 UK adults have never used the internet
  • A third of uk households do not have the internet
  • There are still 10 million  people who do not have access to the internet
  • 4 million of these are the most socially and economically disadvantaged
  • 70% of people who live in social housing are not online
A few weeks ago, I asked the Thames Valley Office of the PCC as to how they might address the digital divide when engaging the public in reviewing the draft plan. I was told that hard copies could be made available in local libraries. Whilst this is not a perfect solution, it is better than having everything online.

So therefore, I wondered if when the press release went out, whether members of the public would be told that hard copies could be made available near to where they lived. Here is a copy of the press release that went out (obtained by FoI request):
Police and Crime Commissioner releases draft Police and Crime Plan

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld, will be releasing his draft Police and Crime Plan for public consultation tomorrow (17/01)
The Plan sets out his priorities and objectives and how he intends to deliver on them during his time in office.

As his role covers both policing and crime he has worked closely with the Chief Constable and community safety partners to ensure the Plan reflects not only his election promises but how they will all work together to prevent and reduce crime, making Thames Valley a safer place to live and work.

This is a draft Plan; the final version will be published by the end of March following a public consultation period which will begin on Thursday 17th January and end on Friday 8th February.

Anthony Stansfeld, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley said: “This plan sets out my objectives for policing and crime in Thames Valley and brings together both the police and other partner responsible for crime reduction.

It is important to me that the plan reflects the real issues and concerns of the people of Thames Valley which is why I would urge you to have your say by taking part in our consultation.”

A copy of the draft Plan can be found here - Police and Crime Plan

Details of the consultation, which will ask the public’s opinion on the plan, will be released tomorrow on the website

Editors Notes 
Please contact Candy Stallard on with any questions
So, no mention of local libraries then. Also no mention in the press release that hard copies could be requested and giving details. In fact nothing for people who are not online. They might have read this in their local newspaper and concluded there was nothing here for them.

This approach is not about community engagement and it is not about raising awareness of the PCC role and plan with all members of Thames Valley Communities. I would also argue it is not much about democracy either.

But what do you think? 

What happened in your policing and crime area? Was it any better? Have PCCs 'got' the digital divide yet?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Budget PCC

The Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner website has this page:
This page will hold information on the allowances and expenses paid to each relevant office holder (the Police and Crime Commissioner and his Deputy). This will be updated on a quarterly basis 
So a few days ago I wrote and asked: Please can you say when you will be updating this part of your website. It is now over three months since the PCC was installed.

I received an intriguing reply:
In answer to your question please note that no expenses and allowances have been claimed by the Police and Crime Commissioner or his Deputy in the first quarter.
Does this mean that the PCC has simply not yet got around to submitting an expenses claim for travel around Thames Valley & train journeys to London etc yet? Or is it that he & deputy do not intend to claim any expenses? Or perhaps he has simply not left his office in the last three months and so no expenses have been incurred? Or what?

I will watch this space. You may like to as well.