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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Nay cast a doubt until May is out

This is has been a somewhat interesting month. During this month, I have been:
So quite a month!

All feedback on my blogging always welcome.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pot holes!

Yes I know, not the usual content to this blog. But I wanted to document & record an idea I have had to solve the pothole crisis. Not being a road engineer, this idea may have been tried before and found to not be worthwhile... or maybe not!

So here is the idea in a nutshell: firms that dig up roads (or even repair them) should be financially incentivised to do an effective and long lasting job. They should be penalised if a pot hole forms around the work they did a few years previous.

All you have to do is look carefully at potholes. In my experience they rarely form out of nowhere. Almost always the small fissure that becomes a big hole starts at the seam between the original road surface and a new piece of tarmac. My view is that just like new houses and cars come with warranties, then so should repairs to / fillings in roads.

The scheme would work like this: any contractor who digs of roads would have to partake in an independent (actuarially based) warranty scheme. When their road repair / change is completed, they must inform the local road authority of the work they have done and each one would be allocated a special reference warranty number. If a pothole forms within (say) the next seven years, the warranty would kick in and would pay for the repair to the road at no cost to the local taxpayer. The new repair would be covered by the same warranty system, of course.

The contractors, individually and collectively, would have a financial interest in performing long lasting jobs as this would keep warranty costs down. They might even invest in new & better ways to repair roads!

What do you think? Is this a viable system? I am interested in your views...

For the record: secure access is NOT expensive

Although any intelligent and police savvy reader would know this anyway, I have just had it confirmed (via a FoI inquiry) that all members of Thames Valley Police chief officer team have been issued with secure laptops / computers.

As their reply says "Thames Valley Police can confirm that all Chief Officers have remote and secure access to emails and other appropriate Thames Valley systems." 

The cost per person is about £20 a year for "secure access". (Plus £582 for the laptop itself.)

You may like to recall that the interview with the Oxford Mail published on 13/5/13 said:
Yesterday he [PCC Anthony Stansfeld] said he needed to have the base at Hungerford to access the force’s computer system and store secure documents and that it would be “very expensive” to set up a secure computer at his home.
Later that week, Mr Stansfeld did not use that same reason (in bold above) as part of his explanation for why he needed the second base in Hungerford. Instead he said that he needed a place to download and print off confidential items. (His oral statement to the Police & Crime Panel on Friday 17 May is now online - I recommend that you read it.) Here is a quote from it:

Now, cross check this with the statement I received from his Office in response to another FoI inquiry shown below:
The PCC attends meetings at which confidential material is considered at various locations (e.g. Kidlington, London, etc).  Accordingly, he must take confidential material between and outside both of his offices (i.e. Kidlington and Hungerford) to discharge his functions effectively.
I have added the bold emphasis. As Mr Stansfeld is taking confidential material outside the perimeter of Hungerford police station (as I thought he would be, of course...) then it makes no difference where he prints off said material. He could almost go into his local branch of Tescos and print off the documents there. 

Now, of course, I do not know what advice Mr Stansfeld has been given in the past about how to handle confidential material. (Mr Stansfeld has cited his past experience in the Aerospace industry and was a police authority member for several years. His understanding of such matters should therefore, I imagine, be quite sophisticated.)

But the facts of the matter are now this: secure access is not expensive and printing documents off at home (carefully, of course, so as to avoid stray councillors, pets or children running off with such material..) is as secure (if not more so) than printing them off in a police station.

So with these two reasons out of the way... why is Mr Stansfeld still holding onto his base in Hungerford police station? Perhaps the independent auditor will be able to find out why...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fields of ponies: the Secret PCC does Income Generation!

Never one to be out done, I have decided I need to have an “Income Generation Strategy”. I see that one PCC is embarking on trying to get sponsorship to make up for a budget shortfall. Here in NorthFordWestshire (or NFW as we usually abbreviate it), we can go one better! We are not just a one trick pony. With my strategy we will have whole fields of ponies munching their way through our budget shortfall!

So, having tracked down this rather nifty article on how to structure such an approach – here is my plan:
  • Staff - Knowledge & Creativity: we will start making our own CSI series and sell it around the world. In fact I could play one of the lead roles in between my other tasks. Always been into AmDram a bit and I seem to have the time in between Police & Crime Panel meetings.
  • Staff - Staff time: police officers at courts will be empowered & equipped to sell ice creams like cinema ushers/usherettes to make money while they are waiting to go into the court.
  • Staff - As potential customers: all payslips will include adverts for personal protective equipment and late night pizzas: and we will take a cut on any sales made
  • Staff - Non work expertise: all staff will be required to register their skills on a large database so that we can ask them to use these skills whenever we have a need (such as mountain climbing or cupcake preparation or translating Icelandic etc)
  • Information - Patterns of performance & results: we will sell the most effective burglary methods to the highest bidder
  • Information - About individual clients / users etc.: we will sell crime data to estate agents rather than making it freely available on the net. And the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) will have to pay us for information in the future.
  • Physical Assets – Buildings: expect to see hoardings going up on the sides of all of our police stations and police cars. 
  • Physical Assets - General Equipment: we will be selling the boxes and boxes of smart phones (the ones that we never got round to using) off to local electrical shops and car boot sales.
  • Physical Assets - Specialist Equipment: All those Scenes of Crime onesies are only used once. I have a cunning plan to re-market them as fashion accessories: add a couple of strategically placed buttons, remove any stains, persuade my old private school chum who now works for Vogue and hey presto – we will have an income generation line of business that will rival Jean Paul Gautier!
  • Stakeholders - As potential customers: all those people we lock up on a Saturday night are clearly in need of better ways to spend their money than on cheap vodka and shoes. From now on, as they leave the cells and pick up their wallets & purses in the morning, they will be offered a free £10 gift voucher (sponsored by a local supermarket) to buy breakfast and fruit juice. We will take a cut of whatever else they spend there…
  • Stakeholders - As potential sponsors or supporters: we will be charging local legal aid solicitors for the privilege of a chair to sit down on. They will be able to stand for free, but if they want to sit down next to their clients, they will have to pay for it. Clearly the new legal aid changes are predicated on all these lawyers being fat cat leeches on the state. We will just tap them for a little more dosh.
  • Stakeholders - as potential partners: no longer will we stock information leaflets from (say) local health services or housing helplines without expecting something in return in cash or kind (we don’t mind which).
  • Profile - ‘Brand’ reputation: we will set up a department to secure fees to ‘approve’ the safety of local clubs and other late night venues. We won’t be offering ‘protection’ as such (they get that for ‘free’ on the local taxes) but we will be able to offer gold and platinum approval ratings for those clubs who want our response just that little bit quicker. 
  • Profile - Access to media and public: we have lots of lists of people who need our services who may well be interested in other services... we are looking into this once we can get over confidentiality and all that gubbins. We are talking to local Clinical Commissioning Groups who seem to have found ways around such concerns.
  • Systems and services – software: we have invested heavily in our new CRM (criminal relationship management) system. We think that it will work just as well as a means of keeping track of customers who don’t want to be tracked. This is potentially a very lucrative income stream.
  • Systems and services - expertise in how things are done: we are getting rather good at DNA testing and we will be marketing this to people who want to establish parentage etc.
  • Systems and services - ‘Piggy backing’ existing services: we are starting a new tie in with local car dealers to be put in touch with people who have had prangs on the public highway…
  • Waste someone else’s supply...? Of course in NorthFordWestshire, we don’t have any waste. We are a lean, mean, crime fighting machine!

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.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Expenses & two offices: latest news regarding Mr Stansfeld

Following the meeting of the Thames Valley Police & Crime Panel, I sent the OPCC a series of questions under the Freedom of Information Act. They have replied speedily (indeed they always do). Here are my questions (in italics), and their answers (in bold):

1) Please can you confirm the precise contract on which you have appointed the Support Officer (PCC). Mr Stansfeld is saying that this person will be working 3 days per week but the job description on the TVP website ( states that it “is a full time role on annual hours basis (i.e. 37 x 52 = 1924 hours per year) including weekends (as necessary)”. Perhaps an easy way to clear this up (as I suspect some of the days the person is working may be quite long) is to confirm the number of hours on the contract. Is it 1924 as stated in the advert or 60% of this figure (1154) or indeed something else? 

The position was advertised as a full-time post.  The actual appointment was on a part-time basis, the precise terms of which are “Your contractual hours are 22.5 per week, which equates to 0.60 of a full-time equivalent” (i.e. equivalent to 1,170 hours per year). 

2) My attention was drawn this morning towards some guidance from the HMRC on chauffeur benefits in kind. (Here is the link, for your information: Please can you confirm that Mr Stansfeld has been appraised of this requirement by the Chief Executive (or other suitable officer)?

Mr Stansfeld has been appraised of the HMRC requirements by his Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer (subject to the confirmation of their correct interpretation and application by the independent audit process to be undertaken as part of the related complaint investigation by the TV Police and Crime Panel Complaints Sub-Committee).

3) Yesterday, Mr Stansfeld stated that the reason that he needed the office in Hungerford police station was so that he could print off confidential material which he said he could not do at his home. (Although, please tell me if I misheard this.) Please can you confirm that the Mr Stansfeld leaves all such material in a secure cabinet in his office at Hungerford police station and never takes any confidential material outside the police station?

The statement issued by the Office of the PCC on his behalf (available on the PCC’s website) clarifies the operational reasons for the use of the office at Hungerford Police Station, i.e. to provide local access to secure Force systems, equipment (including a printer) and facilities and to reduce the amount of avoidable, non-productive, time he would otherwise spend travelling to Kidlington.  The PCC stated that he does not wish to access confidential work-related information from, or store such information within, his home (which is not an appropriate secure environment).  1 
The PCC attends meetings at which confidential material is considered at various locations (e.g. Kidlington, London, etc).  Accordingly, he must take confidential material between and outside both of his offices (i.e. Kidlington and Hungerford) to discharge his functions effectively.

4) Please can you also provide me with a copy of the OPCC’s policy on the handling of confidential material and other security matters.

The OPCC does not have a separate policy on the handling of confidential material and other security matters; it abides by the Thames Valley Police ‘Information Security Policy’ which, in turn, is compliant with the Government’s Security Policy Framework and ACPO’s Information Systems Community Security Policy. 

5) I also believe I heard that Mr Stansfeld said he is (will be?) engaged in work of a national nature for between 1 and 1.5 days per week. Did I hear that correctly? If so, please can you clarify the nature of these national responsibilities: what is he doing for whom about what etc? 

Mr Stansfeld stated that when not in Kidlington he may be visiting places and people elsewhere in the Thames Valley, or in London or someplace elsewhere on national issues. Mr Stansfeld is a member of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) Board of Directors, and is a representative of the APCC on the following national Boards:
National Police Air Service (NPAS)
Joint Counter Terrorism Board

6) What process will you be going through to appoint an independent auditor as agreed yesterday? How will the appointment be announced once you have selected someone to carry out this task? Will the announcement be concurrent with the appointment?

The Complaints Sub-Committee of the Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel has requested an independent audit.  Accordingly, the responsibility for determining the process to be followed rests with the Complaints Sub-Committee, after consultation with the PCC.

The OPCC has also replied to some of my earlier questions (sent on 4 May):

please... send me the business case for the investment of public money in the second office in Hungerford Police Station, the options appraisal (where you might have considered an office in the populated Reading for example) and projected cost to the taxpayer for this second office (including the estimated expenses incurred by the PCC without the second office and with it in place and the ongoing rent/equipment/utilities etc).

This information has been well documented in the last few days.

please... confirm that the PCC is not using any transport other than his own vehicle and trains to get to his appointments (if he is using other transportation, please detail with costs)


please... point me towards the web page which shows the transparent csv files listing the expenditure of the office of the PCC, including salaries, expenses, office, grants, purchases and any other costs

On the OPCC website under the Transparency heading. You will find a link to spending and the office of the OPCC

So some interesting answers there which deserve more commentary. But time has run out on me for now. But if you have any observations, do please post them below. Thanks.

What next for PCC governance?

Frances Cook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform has written a provocative blog following up on the HASC report from yesterday. She highlights the apparent cronyism in lots of places. Do read her blog!

I added this comment:
I don't think local referendums are a way forward as it would lead to a patchwork of different governance structures across the country - making cross border collaboration even more difficult (and many problems). Also if one area voted against having a PCC, what would they be voting for in its place?
I think a far better approach would be to (almost) start again and decide what kind of local governance structure is really required for good joined up delivery of justice, confidence and community safety. There are several options, and much will depend upon the legislative schedule of an incoming administration. Even if a majority Labour government is elected in May 2015, organising a good replacement in time for the May 2016 PCC elections is tight, probably too tight.
So the options might include:
  • Boosting the powers of the Police & Crime Panels to moderate the activity of the PCCs
  • Adding in some more non execs to the PCPs in parallel (these people added much diversity in all senses of the word to the previous Police Authorities)
  • Create 'mini' PCC style governance structures based upon some degree of proportionality of the votes caste - so you might end up with 3 Police & Crime 'Senators' - one Indie, one Labour and one Tory in charge.
  • Shift control of policing over to the Health & Well Being boards
  • Create elected police authorities
There are lots of possibilities. But almost anything has got to be better that what we have at present!
It all comes down to what do we need from policing & crime governance: what design principles can we agree upon and then let's create a structure that matches them.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Breaking news: Thames Valley to be renamed!

I am hearing reports that PCC Anthony Stansfeld wants to rename his area as

Thames Valet Police

He feels it would be more fitting to the challenges that lie ahead...

Legal disclaimer: this is a spoof report!!

Register of Interests, PCCs & PCPs (HASC report)

The Home Affairs Select Committee has published its first report into PCCs and has focused upon their declared interests. I have not yet had time to read the full report, but I thought it would be interesting to note which PCCs had responded to the HASC inquiries and which ones had not.

First by political allegiance (X/Y = number who did respond against those who did not):
  • Labour: 11/2
  • Conservative: 15/1
  • Independent: 7/4
So in total, 7 PCCs did not respond. Here is the list of the non responders:
  • Sue Mountstevens (Avon & Somerset)
  • Barry Coppinger (Cleveland)
  • Jane Kennedy (Merseyside)
  • Winston Roddick (North Wales)
  • Anthony Stansfeld (Thames Valley)
  • Ron Ball (Warwickshire)
  • Bill Longmore (West Mercia)
    So, all Conservatives (bar the 'gift that keeps giving'...) responded and all but two Labour PCCs. But more than a third of the independent PCCs did not respond.


    In the light of my investigations into the Thames Valley PCP not really 'getting' its role, it seems as if this is not unusual. The report concludes (with my highlighting):
    4. In between elections, the Police and Crime Panel is, in all but the most extreme circumstance, the only check on a PCC's power over local policing. All three of the PCP chairs we heard from believed that their Panels did not have strong powers to hold a PCC to account. Parliament has defined the power of PCPs and it is the responsibility of the PCPs to exercise their powers. We are concerned that incompetent legal advisers appear to have sought to prevent PCPs from even meeting to scrutinise key and highly questionable decisions by PCCs, for instance the suspension of the chief constable in Lincolnshire and the fiasco concerning the appointment of a "Youth Commissioner" in Kent. It is in such circumstances that a PCP chair needs to ensure that the PCP meets urgently. If they fail to do so, on the basis of wholly inappropriate legal advice or otherwise, the process of local scrutiny of the PCP role falls into disrepute. (Paragraph 11)
    So the challenge is on for PCPs to grasp the nettle it seems to me, albeit with their limited powers.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    Are you 'frit', Mr Stansfeld?

    I am angry. So let me calm down, before I write the rest of this blog.... otherwise I might say something I may regret.

    >and relax<

    Back in 2007, I took on the job of being the Director of Organisation Development (Collaboration) for the six police services of the Eastern region (comprising Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex). At the time I was living in Oxford but knowing that I would soon be moving to Buckingham. The job was based in Huntingdon at Cambridgeshire Police HQ but with, obviously, a very wide patch to cover. The post was paid at Assistant Chief Constable grade: a very good salary.
    • When I took on the job, did I ever consider having someone drive me around? No.
    • Did I consider asking for the job to be based in Bedford (a lot closer to me)? No.
    • Was I focused upon doing everything I could to improve social outcomes and value for money for other people? Yes.
    • Did I pay for my own commuting to Huntingdon? Yes.
    • Did I arrange for an encrypted laptop so that I could access emails and documents securely from home or indeed anywhere? Yes.
    • Did I accept it was my responsibility to make the new arrangements (including all the logistics) work? Yes.
    • Did I think what I was doing was in any way unusual? No.... (thousands of people commute long distances to work and find ways to function remotely). 
    Now there are some people who are far more disturbed by the Thames Valley PCC's statements surrounding the 'Bullfinch' trial. Whilst I have my deep concerns, I am also very upset about the statements that he is now issuing around his reasons for having a second office and signing off his own expenses in the way that he has. As I have said, I am glad that there will now be an independent audit of these matters where all the details and intents can be properly scrutinised. I look forward to seeing more of the facts, although there are many out there already

    But I have been wondering why I feel so angry. I think it is because it seems to me that Mr Stansfeld has all but said that commuting and driving around for work purposes, "are for the little people". As a local taxpayer, it doesn't feel to me that he is serving us, but that we are serving him...

    Now I know I am not along in feeling like this. You only have to read to the comments on the local newspaper websites to know that. I have also had several emails from people thanking me for raising all these issues. And while I wonder whether I have become an unwitting supporter of the view that all politicians are untrustworthy (which I do not believe!), I know I had to expose to all this. But maybe I am in a small grumpy minority of people who are concerned about all this?

    So this got me wondering whether Mr Stansfeld would be prepared to face and listen to his constituents in a series of public meetings. Or even just one public meeting would be good. 

    So I looked through his expense claims for February and March. (You can see them all here although why April's is yet to show intrigues me.) There are meetings listed with High Sheriffs, council leaders, local police commanders and various partnership forums. As far as I can see (and I am happy to be corrected) there is only one public meeting shown: on the 28 March in Bracknell. You can read details about the meeting here. "Visitors to the meeting can table a question for the commissioner in advance" says the website. You can read the minutes of the item here and overall here. As far as I can see, there no were no members of the public present nor were any questions tabled beforehand. 

    So I am thinking it is about time that Mr Stansfeld held a truly open public meeting where he can respond to unscripted questions from the floor from the people who elected him... We are now six months in to PCCs, it would seem about right time to do this. 

    So how about it Mr Stansfeld? At least one public meeting would be good, more would be even better! 

    Or are you 'frit' of being directly accountable to the people who elected you?

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    Indexing governance

    I have been blogging lots about the Thames Valley PCC and the Police & Crime Panel in recent days and weeks. I thought it might be helpful to have a blog that could act as an index to these blog postings.
    • This is the first blog where I highlighted the facts around Mr Stansfeld's two offices and his expense claims is here. It was this blog that sparked national interest in this whole story.
    • Then the Mail on Sunday picked up the story and broadcast the appointment of a support worker (aka driver /chauffeur). This is my blog that discussed the MoS article.
    • The following day, Mr Stansfeld responded with an interview in the Oxford Mail. In this blog post, I discussed his response.
    • Meanwhile the 'Bullfinch' trial reaches a conclusion. Mr Stansfeld issued a statement. In this blog I explained my misgivings about his statement.
    • And I decided to dress up as a chauffeur and attend the meeting of the Police & Crime Panel last Friday. This blog explains my reasons for doing so and a little of what happened.
    • During the meeting, Mr Stansfeld said more as to how this whole situation arose and his reasoning behind it. This blog was my unpicking of his reasoning.
    • But the meeting (thankfully!) is about far more than this issue. In this blog I critiqued the role of the PCP and how well it is fulfilling its function of holding the PCC to account.
    • The PCP also discussed the 'Bullfinch' trial. This blog was my view on their discussion.
    I suspect that Mr Stansfeld would prefer to paint all my postings as politically motivated and seek to dismiss them on this basis. My critique of the mostly Conservative members of the PCP may think likewise. I will concede that political tribalism is part of this and I would not be pursing these matters quite so assiduously if Mr Stansfeld represented the Labour Party. (I am sure others would of course...) However, I would still be writing about these matters and indeed I would be using Labour party mechanisms to challenge his actions and hold him to account. 

    Indeed, my blogging in defence of the appointment of Paris Brown as the Kent Youth Commissioner is evidence, I hope, of my capacity not to be politically myopic. (And yes, the irony of my comments about the Daily Mail /Mail on Sunday is not lost on me!)

    Because in the end this is all about good governance (a standard that I had a small hand in helping to form in my role at the Office for Public Management). I would contend that we are not seeing much of that at the moment here in Thames Valley (in the way that we are in other places).

    Finally, out of interest I dug out my figures on 'approval ratings' of the 41 PCCs which I calculated as the % of the population that voted multiplied by the % of first preference votes that the PCC received. Mr Stansfeld got a rating of 4.5%. It was one of the lowest. 

    Saturday, May 18, 2013

    We must be careful not to tread on any issues that the serious case review will be looking into

    Thus said the Chair of the Police & Crime Panel yesterday as he opened the agenda item on the 'Bullfinch' trial. (The Oxford Mail has done an excellent & detailed summary of the case: link here)

    I was struck by these wise words from the Chair. I still have huge misgivings about the statement put out by Mr Stansfeld (click here) as it seems to me to do precisely the opposite of what the PCP Chair was suggesting was appropriate. What do you think?

    The discussion that ensued was greatly enhanced by information and wisdom from the Chief Constable on how the police service has begun the process of radically reshaping how child abuse is tackled. If I have this correct, they have gone from being mostly reactive to being mostly proactive. (But please correct me if I have this wrong.)  The CC said at one point: "if you look for this kind of crime, you can often find it." The CC also said that whatever arrangements are put in place "we mustn't make young people scared of all adults". Simple but profound words. (She may even have been quoting one of the young women involved at this point... my notes are not clear.)

    Contrast this with Mr Stansfeld who said (if my hearing was accurate - again happy to be corrected) "one of the difficult matters in this case is that the children who were being abused and raped did not see it as a problem at first". On the one hand, I kind of know where he is coming from (trying to explain why these are crimes are difficult to establish and investigate -  I would interpret) but on the other hand such a statement is very close to suggesting that the children were complicit in the crimes perpetrated against them.

    These are very complex matters and I am certainly no expert. But it feels to me that some of the statements made by Mr Stansfeld are in a similar domain to suggesting that young women should not go out dressed in minimal clothes as they would only have themselves to blame if they get raped... I do not know what Mr Stansfeld's intentions are behind some of the words he used yesterday and in his published statement, or what he really thinks about all this. I just know I feel uncomfortable with some of his language, as I have blogged before. Although I did note what I interpret as some rowing backwards yesterday. When asked by Cllr Dee Sinclair whether he really thought that Human Rights Laws were part of the cause of the abuse of these young girls, Mr Stansfeld did say (I think) that it was the rules which allowed the girls to abscond which needed review rather than the laws on Human Rights.

    However, that statement is still getting close to making comments on a case that is now under review...

    As I mentioned below, I found it difficult to detect any coherence in comments by Cllr Kieron Mallon about quangos being part of the causes of all this. It was probably the poor acoustics in the room that prevented my full understanding of the points he was making.

    At another point, Mr Stansfeld revealed that when he was a boy he had once been on an exchange visit to a Banardos home. He explained pointedly that the children there were not allowed out in the evenings. I think the implication of this is that Mr Stansfeld may believe that care homes for looked after children should operate rigid curfews and keep children locked up... Or does he? Clarification would be helpful here.

    ... but not until after the serious case review...!

    Anyway, enough said. This is a very tragic case. I can only hope that the girls / young women involved will be able to make the most of their lives. Perhaps that fact that several men have now been convicted and will spend many years in gaol, will help. I also hope that all the agencies involved, including the police, really learn and apply the lessons from this case.

    Scrutiny: it's not about the hat!

    One of my regrets about yesterday's stunt (now also reported on you tube by the way) is that whilst it highlighted the story about the expenses, two offices and the new chauffeur, it meant that other matters were not so well reported. I guess that is the nature of news coverage.

    But this is why we have blogs...!

    So I now get to cover the aspects of yesterday's Police & Crime Panel meeting which I think deserve further discussion. So here is some more news:

    Public meeting is attended by members of the public!

    I did not count, nor did I ask them who they were, but there were about twenty people sitting and observing the meeting yesterday. As a fraction of the Thames Valley public, this number is very small. But people were there. Certainly this is more than ever attended meetings of the police authority, I reckon. So in this respect the PCC model of governance is working (a little).

    Rural crime is up... or is it down? (good scrutiny)

    I am afraid that I cannot recall who asked this question of the PCC but he was challenged to say whether he had found a way to measure rural crime yet (one of the PCC's priorities). There is a problem in defining rural crime and then accurately recording it, apparently. How small does a conurbation have to be to defined as rural, for example? I live in a largish village on edge of Buckingham. Is all crime locally rural (as, say, compared to Oxford or Reading)? Or does the PCC really mean crimes such as thefts of tractors, misuse of red diesel or sheep rustling?

    The public have a right to know.

    It was difficult to hear all the PCC's answer but I think in summary it was 'I am still working on this' (six months after his election where one of his pledges was about tackling rural crime).

    This was scrutiny in action. Tick! Perhaps the PCC will now go away and work this out.

    Whereas on the other hand...

    Breaking news: Thames Valley Police is selling the family copper (not so good scrutiny)

    The Deputy Chief Constable gave an extensive presentation about the plans to sell off approximately £22m worth of local police stations which will also reduce revenue costs by approximately £2.1m every year.  As you would expect, the DCC was asked several questions by the panel about what fixed police presence will be left in town centres once all the police stations have been "replaced locally", and just what "replaced locally" might actually mean in practice.

    However, remember, the PCP is there to scrutinise the PCC, not the police service. The job of holding the police service to public account is for the PCC to do now... So instead, these are the questions from the panel to the PCC that I would have liked to have heard, but did not:

    • Please tell us Mr Stansfeld, how will you and the OPCC monitor the impact of these changes on local crime levels and more critically local levels of confidence and fear of crime?
    • What have you done so far to investigate and challenge these plans being put forward by the Chief Constable and her team?
    • Since you are the voice of the public in these matters, Mr Stansfeld, please tell us how you will be engaging with the publics in the places about to lose their local police station (hint: they won't be happy!)
    • The presentation given by the DCC was focused mostly on saving money, unsurprisingly. How will you introduce a bit more value and values to the discussions?
    • The broad thrust of these plans will be to take police stations from being in the centres of towns to being on the edges. How happy are you with this, commissioner? 
    • How do you think people might vote in three years time if they judge you to have been complicit in making their towns feel less safe and little less like a traditional English town?
    • What do you think your role as PCC should be in examining these plans.... what questions have you been asking? What plans do you have to hold he CC to account for these proposed changes?
    • Will you commit to a 24/7 police facility in Reading town centre once the main police station is closed? (Oh hang one - the PCC was asked that question by Cllr Page... and for the record the PCC said he would not, by the way).

    This was not scrutiny in action! This was the PCP defaulting into being a quasi (and fairly toothless) police authority. In my view, the PCP needs to get more of a grip of their role.

    For example when is second transfer going to appear on the agenda of the PCP? I assume the PCC and CC have begun discussions about this? Is the panel going to scrutinise the PCC on this?

    New ASB Legislation... huh?

    Councillor Tony Page (who was on top form yesterday by the way and is one of the few members of the panel to get its scrutiny role) asked a question about the item on page 27 of the agenda documents entitled Managing the introduction of the new ASB Legislation. He inquired as to the views of the PCC on this legislation and how he might seek to influence it (I think). He highlighted how people are telling him that the new laws will lead to a 'bun fight' in the courts.

    Just a reminder again, this was in the agenda papers. Indeed the legislation has been widely trailed in Government announcements and (I think) is in the coalition agreement.

    What did the PCC have to say about this? Not a lot. Indeed, I would contend, he gave a very good impression of not having read the agenda papers. How did the panel react? With muted acquiescence. If I had been in the chair, I would have asked the PCC if he had actually read the papers as far as page 27...

    Stop press: PCP member asks an unscripted question!

    It would seem that the PCP has to submit all their questions in advance which makes for, shall we say, a less than dynamic and gripping dialogue with the PCC. Why?

    Yes, occasionally one or another of the PCP goes a bit 'off piste' such as Councillor Kieron Mallon (of Cherwell District Council who is something of the Boris Johnson of the PCP) who seemed to suggest, at one point I think, that quangos were to blame for the "Bullfinch" girls being abused in Oxford...

    However, overall, the process felt more like a school debating club than (say) a parliamentary select committee. So my suggestion to the PCP is that the questioning should be more fluid, tenacious and challenging to the PCC!


    I will leave things here.

    The one main topic yet to cover is the recent "Bullfinch" trial and conviction of Oxford men found guilty of abusing and raping young girls. This was also discussed yesterday and I have some comments to make about the role of the PCP and PCC in this matter. So please watch this space.

    Friday, May 17, 2013

    More light, less heat

    The Police & Crime Panel today decided that there should be an independent audit of the two offices / expenses matters that has been "distracting" the PCC over recent days. This is a good decision, and I look forward to the outcome. (For the record, if you are the auditor hired to carry out this task reading this, I would be happy to help!)

    But what emerged today from the meeting makes interesting reading, I think.

    (I qualify what I am about to report with a warning note: it may not be 100% accurate. Unfortunately the meeting was held in a committee room without a public address system or induction loop. So my colleague Roy and I found it pretty hard to hear all of what was being said. I would add that the only two people who we could hear crystal clearly were the Chief and Deputy Chief Constables who spoke clearly and with great, wise authority. I hope the next time the PCP meets in public session they do so in a place with a proper sound system.)

    Mr Stansfeld justified his need for a second office on the basis that he needed to access confidential documents and emails easily. He said he could have done this on a secure laptop as he judged it would not be wise to print them to read at home. Hence he needed the office at Hungerford in order to be able to print off and read confidential documents securely.

    I say
    1. It is possible to read documents on screen. He could even have a large screen installed. 
    2. Moreover (and this is critical) if he only prints, reads and then leaves the documents behind in the Hungerford police station office then that is more secure than doing the same at home. (Although the most secure arrangement is to leave documents on an encrypted laptop, as even a police station can be burgled or someone else might access the documents in hard copy.) But if he takes the printed documents out of the police station then that is no more secure than printing them off at home. At which point the need for the second office, on this basis, evaporates.
    3. This is a different reason to the one he gave to the Oxford Mail interview just a few days ago where he is reported to have said "he needed to have the base at Hungerford to access the force’s computer system and store secure documents and that it would be “very expensive” to set up a secure computer at his home". There was no mention of a secure laptop being very expensive today. Could this be in reaction to a FoI inquiry I submitted two days ago asking about whether he had ever been offered or supplied with a secure laptop? The grounds for the second office appear to be shifting sands. What do you think?
    4. If it is established that Mr Stansfeld does not leave all the documents in Hungerford police station, what will his reason be then?
    Mr Stansfeld said that he was not a young man and getting around Thames Valley, locating car parks in strange places and doing over 600 miles in a week meant he was getting very tired. His driver will help with all that and take notes at meetings for him too. And Thames Valley is the biggest non metropolitan police force, he said.

    I say
    1. He knew the territory before he applied to become a candidate. After all he sat on the police authority for several years. 
    2. He is not the only person who needs to cover the patch. What would Mr Stansfeld say if (for example) the Chief Executive of the Thames Valley Probation Service made the same case? Would he back him having a driver for three days a week? He can say so here...
    3. Thames Valley is the biggest non met force by numbers of officers NOT by geography. Thames Valley (as the meeting mentioned) is 2200 square miles. Dyfed Powys, for example, is 4188 square miles (almost twice the size and with slow road links). To my knowledge, the Dyfed Powys PCC has not sought to have a driver.
    4. I would estimate that nowhere in Thames Valley is much further than about one hour's drive from police HQ in Kidlington, Oxford.
    5. In the 20 working days in March he claimed for 1334 miles. That is under 70 miles a day, or on average 334 miles per week. How does that compare to your mileage, dear reader?
    6. If his driver is only employed for three days a week, what happens on the other two days? Will Mr Stansfeld have to arrange his schedule around his driver?
    7. If Mr Stansfeld needs more time to do the job (and I do sympathise with the scale of the task - really I do), why not stop being a councillor in West Berkshire?
    The Chief Executive of the Office of the Police Commissioner reported that on investigation and with assistance from specialist advisers, they have now discovered that the expenses being charged did not quite comply with HMRC rules. (Avid readers will know that I specifically raised this before and was told that the expenses regime did comply.) Mr Stansfeld also stated (and the Chief Exec concurred) that he delegated the task of doing his expenses to his staff. On questioning, he was not sure how many times he had visited the Hungerford office.

    I say
    1. If staff at the OPCC were just following existing procedures, how many other people may have been submitting erroneous claims? Is the PCC and/or the CEO on the case?
    2. Did they read the guidelines I sent them (via a link) before they replied to me?
    3. I understand that the expenses form filling can be delegated, but the act of signing the form cannot be. He could easily have said, "don't bother with those miles from Home to Kidlington, I won't be putting those against expenses". Could he not?
    4. After all this, will the PCC be keeping a closer record of his whereabouts. I presume the driver at least will keep a log?
    5. Does Hungerford police station have an electronic access system? In which case it will be possible to ascertain when he visited, I would imagine. 
    There is more to say about the meeting this morning but this blog is already long enough. And wine calls! Although as a Chauffeur, I suppose I ought to be drinking whisky with my driving gloves on...


    Meanwhile, please enjoy my few minutes of fame on the local news tonight! Click here. 3 minutes and 16 seconds in... yours truly!


    I hardly know where to begin to report on my day out to the Thames Valley Police & Crime Panel which met at West Oxfordshire District Council Offices in Witney this morning. I went in character:

    (Due thanks to my friend, colleague and fellow councillor @RoyBailey who took the picture.) And also I would like very much like to thank the staff of the council who offered me cups of tea and somewhere more comfortable to wait. I was too focused on my method acting to be able to say I wasn't really a proper chauffeur... (So, my apologies for fooling you, if you are reading this. You were not the subject of my asymmetric campaigning.)

    Various other people arrived of course, I wished them good morning and directed them towards the meeting rooms, as a chauffeur would, of course. It was good to be able to welcome Councillor Pam Pearce from Aylesbury Vale District Council although I don't think she recognised me. I know that the Chief Constable did not when she arrived.

    However, Mr Stansfeld looked at me closely, as I wished him good morning, and said "pathetic!" I smiled and wished him good morning once more. He then growled something like "I will be following all this up, you know". My pulse quickened and I felt a little threatened. I don't know exactly what he did say as a consequence, but the BBC Radio Oxford reporter who standing behind him at the time made a note of his precise words, however. My colleague Roy was also present, of course.

    Indeed the reporter has already filed one story. I believe there will be more on BBC Oxford this evening at around 1830. Please watch that space... (I was interviewed on camera as well).

    This is the first of a couple of blogs based on today. I will end this one with the press statement I gave out to the BBC reporter and the Oxford Mail reporter who attended the meeting. (I took a few copies along)

    Statement from Jon Harvey, Buckingham Town Councillor

    I am attending this meeting today in the hope that I will witness the PCP holding the Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner to robust public account.

    In the last few weeks it has become very apparent that the PCC has been exploring novel ways to increase his productivity which include setting up a second office in Hungerford Police Station and hiring a chauffeur. News of these new arrangements has been covered in the national papers. I first blogged about his Hungerford office on Saturday May 4th (

    Less well known is the statement the PCC issued on Tuesday 14th May about the Bullfinch trial where he says “The system was looking the other way while these young girls were being exploited and abused. We have a rulebook in which apparently the human rights of these young children are considered more important than safe guarding them. Under the current rules it is almost impossible to safeguard these children whose human rights allow them to go endlessly missing or absent from their care homes.” The implication is that human rights were one of the causes of the young girls getting abused. This is very controversial and highly questionable. Arguably, I would also contend that the whole statement comes very close (if not actually) to blaming the victims for bringing this on themselves by running away so much… These are matters worthy of investigation by the PCP.

    In this whole context, the PCC governance model is under great scrutiny. The job of the PCP is to hold the PCC to account. Will they ask such questions as:
    • Have you ever been offered or indeed been issued with a secure laptop?
    • If you are concerned to increase your productivity, how low was it before, and how will we measure it in the future?
    • Have you considered freeing up more of your time by relinquishing your role in West Berkshire Council?
    • You are on record for saying “I am extremely good value for money. If I could hire myself I would charge a lot more.” What would be your day rate?
    • When you established the Hungerford Office, why did you decide to start charging expenses for journeys to your main office in Kidlington as you were not required to? (Or, for example, did you consider taking advantage of the second office near your home but not otherwise increasing your cost to the taxpayer by taking those expenses, given your various incomes?)
    • In your position, how wise do you think it is to issue a provocative statement on the Bullfinch trial before a considered serious case review has hardly even begun?

    Jon is a local Town Councillor who takes both a political and professional interest in all matters relating to policing and community safety

    He runs a blog which has been visited over 45,000 times in the last year or so ( The blog exists to provoke debate about PCCs and provide ideas on how to make the governance model work best in the interest of the public.

    He has come dressed as a mock chauffeur to raise wry smiles and draw attention to the amount of money the PCC is spending on his own driver in these very austere times.

    The crest on his hat, shown above, is designed to highlight:
    • The commitment of the PCC to value for money (£)
    • The two offices that the PCC works from (the two desk lamps)
    • The interest that the PCC has in public accountability (the ballot box)
    • The concern that the PCC has for Human Rights (the chains)
    • The PCCs focus on rural crime (the tractor)
    (Perhaps the PCC may wish to adopt this crest: it is not copyrighted.)

    Thursday, May 16, 2013

    A little more circumspection

    Notwithstanding the many excellent people who were elected to become PCCs six months ago today, I believe this model of governance is worryingly flawed and will need to be reformed at some point in the future.

    I am committed, like many who opposed its introduction, to making the best of the current arrangement. As I have said before on this blog, I am really not interested in carping on about the low turnouts or the danger of bringing divisive politics into policing, let alone the cost of conducting the elections in November last year. But that does not stop me from wondering about how this framework will need to be developed.

    Whilst I get a wry but grim satisfaction from seeing the Thames Valley PCC becoming something of a laughing stock (see the posts below), the situation worries me far more. And I now that people will think this is all about politics but it is not. I know of many Conservatives both in Thames Valley and beyond are very upset, astounded and dismayed at what appears to have happened.

    Frankly, I would far rather Mr Stansfeld was focused on demonstrating wise leadership for a police service now reacting to the implications of the Bullfinch trial of men found guilty of sexually abusing young girls in Oxford. Perhaps in part because he has been on the ropes this week about his expenses claims and his use of a dedicated driver, it seems he has rushed out a statement which includes the words
    We have a rulebook in which apparently the human rights of these young children are considered more important than safe guarding them. Under the current rules it is almost impossible to safeguard these children whose human rights allow them to go endlessly missing or absent from their care homes.
    Huh? Is he really saying that Human Rights somehow allowed this abuse to happen? Has he any evidence for that? Moreover, he has published these comments in advance of the Serious Case Review now being undertaken. So, one of the most senior leaders in the Oxfordshire criminal justice and safeguarding systems has judged it OK to publish his polemical views at this stage. I know that people far more knowledgeable about such matters than I am, are horrified and angry about these comments.

    It seems to me that Mr Stansfeld is in serious danger of using these appalling crimes to young girls as an excuse to make pre emptive political points about the Human Rights Act.Shall we have a proper review first, Mr Stansfeld?

    But there is a pattern here and it comes back to good governance. Whilst the Government introduced PCCs as a mechanism to boost local accountability and a greater focus on victims & what communities want, the checks and balances seem extraordinarily weak. I would contend that the Thames Valley PCC appears to be acting as if he does not really need to worry about what his public / electorate think, want or need. (Perhaps he might 3 years from now.) The Police & Crime Panel seems more like a fan club or a toothless pussy cat, than a gritty scrutinising body. (Although I live in hope that Friday's meeting might show otherwise... we shall see.)

    Good PCCs will use their position to listen to and learn from their electorates between elections and will take their public accountability seriously. Good PCCs are doing this... But the system of governance should not have to depend upon the calibre and integrity of the PCCs elected.

    Which is why this system of governance will need to change. I will return to this subject and how it needs to change in later posts.

    Meanwhile, may I humbly request the Thames Valley PCC to reflect upon his leadership in recent days & weeks. A little more circumspection would be a good thing, in my opinion...

    UPDATE: As it was a direct message, I will not name him, but I will thank the Conservative tweeter who wrote to me this morning saying:
    Saw your piece. I wish your PCC would put away his spade.... "Human Rights" my ....! Blaming the victims too.
    Of course he is right, Mr Stansfeld's statement is peppered with implicit victim blaming, in my view:
    Some of these children were often absent from school.
     ... so their absconding was a factor?
    Most of these children were meant to be looked after by Social Services. They were obviously not being looked after properly
    ... because had they been 'looked after properly' they would not have put themselves in danger...?
    Under the current rules it is almost impossible to safeguard these children whose human rights allow them to go endlessly missing or absent from their care homes.
    ... so it was them going endless missing that was a contributory factor?

    I could go on. The implications are deeply embedded, but my fellow tweeter is absolutely correct, in my view: in part, the PCC is blaming the victims. He should stop digging.

    Monday, May 13, 2013

    If I could hire myself I would charge a lot more

    The title is a memorable quote from The Oxford Mail's interview with Anthony Stansfeld, published today entitled:

    I'm not fiddling expenses says police and crime commissioner

    The full quote is:
    “I am extremely good value for money. If I could hire myself I would charge a lot more.”
    You must read the whole article. Well done to Tom Jennings for scooping this interview after yesterday's Mail on Sunday article. You, dear reader. will judge whether PCC Stansfeld's response is one that convinces you of his unimpeachable intentions. The commentators at the bottom of the page of Oxford Mail's article seem less than persuaded it seems. But perhaps you will be.

    However, before you make up your mind, please ask yourself these questions:
    1. If PCC Stansfeld wants to up his productivity, has he considered relinquishing his role as a local councillor for West Berkshire?
    2. How expensive do you think it now is to encrypt a laptop and so give him access to TVP files at home?
    3. Could he use public transport more instead of hiring an expensive support / driver / chauffeur / bag carrier / batman?
    4. Did he know the impact on his own purse when he decided to create a second office?
    5. Is there a business case document which sets out the costed options between a) a second office b) hiring a driver c) working from home? If not, why not? 
    6. What fee would you pay for a day of PCC Stansfeld's extensive experience (honed, in part, in the jungles of Borneo in late sixties)?
    7. Has PCC Stansfeld ever watched the Monty Python sketch "is this the right room for an argument?" (this isn't argument, it's just contradiction... no it isn't...)
    8. What has the Deputy PCC done in the last few months for his £35k pa salary such that he has not claimed any expenses? (Or maybe that is another story...)
    9. In his statement issued today (see here for the full text) he states that the support officer is employed for only three days a week. Why does the job description say otherwise? 
    10. If the post is now indeed part time, when was this decision taken and why?
    11. Why is no mention made of remote working from home in his public statement? If this option was rejected, why is that? Really?
    12. No mention is made in the public statement about the change in expenses before and after the office switch. Why not?
    I could go on... as indeed I think this story is set to....

    PS: forgot to add - I spotted this on the Oxford Mail website earlier ...did they choose the advert...?!

    Sunday, May 12, 2013


    Today, I have experienced an accolade I did not anticipate: being favourably quoted in the Mail on Sunday juxtaposed to a quote from Chief Executive of the Tax Payers Alliance. Martin Beckford has written an article, which has drawn, in part, upon my earlier blog about the 'two offices' of the Thames Valley PCC, one Cllr Anthony Stansfeld.

    Here is the headline to Martin's piece, where it is alleged:
    "£85,000 crime tsar used sham office to hike expenses 6,000% (and he's the first Police Commissioner to hire a chauffeur as well)"
    I suggest that you read the article, naturally. I am quoted as:
    Jon Harvey, a Buckingham town councillor, added: ‘I am very curious as to how him having these two offices benefits the Thames Valley public.’
    The article goes on to expose the fact that the PCC now has his own chauffeur. Sadly the closing date for the new job to be the "Support Officer (PCC)" has now passed. Otherwise, I might have applied... However I find it interesting that the OPCC is quoted in Martin's article as saying "The PCC has recently employed a support officer whose role includes administrative support for the PCC. The decision was also taken to make driving duties one of the responsibilities of this post."

    "One of the responsibilities... also taken"....?! Seriously?!

    Here is the quote from the job advert (with some bits highlighted by me):
    In this role you will provide a driving and practical support service for the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and/or his Deputy (DPCC) to enable them to attend engagements and statutory functions throughout the Force area and the country whilst keeping to diary times and commitments. You will also provide administrative and research support to the PCC/DPCC and deal with the general day-to-day maintenance of the vehicle. The successful candidate will hold a full driving licence and have proven advanced driving qualifications and or professional driving experience. Geographical knowledge of the Thames Valley Force area and in particular the South-East region is essential. An understanding of vehicle mechanics and emergency procedures is required
    I don't know about you, but that does not sound much like driving to be "one of the responsibilities". It sounds to me to be majority of the job!

    Also I note that the advert also says:
    The Office of the PCC is based at Force HQ, Kidlington, but as the current PCC is Newbury-based, the successful candidate will be required to operate out of the Newbury area on a day-to-day basis.
    "but... Newbury based"... So will the PCC have to maintain the second office in Hungerford for this to remain true? But there again, I know very little about how chauffeur contracts work these days. I guess it is not like Downton Abbey anymore?

    But to return to the second office matter. I note that there is only one reason given by the OPCC in The Mail on Sunday article to justify this arrangement (again I have added some emphasis): 
    A spokesman for Mr Stansfeld said: ‘Thames Valley is a large area to cover and the Hungerford office was made available to the Police and Crime Commissioner to increase his productivity
    This prompts me to ask several questions:
    1. How productive was the PCC before he had a second office?
    2. How much did his productivity increase when he did (and how was this measured)?
    3. Precisely how did having a second office in Hungerford increase his productivity (given that he could easily work from home)?
    4. Will his productivity now increase or decrease as a result of gaining a chauffeur?
    5. How will this be measured?
    6. When the second office was instituted, did the PCC know this would affect the amount of personal mileage he could claim?
    7. Was this a factor that he took into account when making this decision?
    8. Where is the documentation around this decision?
    9. What did he think would happen when these two arrangements (second office and chauffeur) became public knowledge? How did he think people would react?
    10. Will the Police & Crime Panel ask him any of these questions when they meet this coming Friday morning?
    11. If they do not... who else should?
    12. What are the other questions that I hesitate to ask?

    Saturday, May 4, 2013

    Anthony Stansfeld: a tale of two offices

    Back at the end of February, I wrote to the office of the Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley to ask when the ‘Allowances & expenses’ part of the website would be updated. (This page stated that it would “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”. ) 

    The reply I received said 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.”

    I wrote again recently, idly wondering how PCC Stansfeld’s expenses were now working out. I was also prompted by the interesting case of the Cumbria PCC

    Specifically I asked:
    Please could you let me have a copy of all of the travel costs incurred by PCC since he was appointed (specifically for the period from 22/11/12 to the end of the financial year 31/3/13). In particular I would like to know

    1) Train fares: dates, cost, journey, class of travel etc.
    2) Car travel where the PCC was at the steering wheel and he was claiming back mileage allowance: a total ££ sum & miles travelled for each month will suffice
    3) Car travel where the PCC was being driven by an employee of the OPCC/constabulary: schedule of journeys made, purpose of the trip and cost to the taxpayer for each one.
    Please can you also confirm that the PCC is not incurring any expense to the taxpayer for his travel between his home in West Berkshire and his main place of work in Kidlington, and that his commuting expenses reflect the policy of the HMRC (

    I received a reply yesterday:
    I refer to your FOI request I have set out the following details:
    1) Attached is the details on train costs etc
    2) Vehicle travel costs can be found on the PCC website
    3) There were no journeys where the PCC was driven by employee of the OPCC/Force
    Please note that from 7 February 2013 the PCC has two offices and designated places of work, one in Hungerford Police Station and the other at Police Headquarters, Kidlington. This is in accordance with HMRC guidelines and policy.
    I won’t bother to reproduce the train costs, but these seem all entirely as I would expect: a series of standard rail fares up and down to London etc. (But if you want a copy, just email me.) There is also not much to say about the journeys where PCC Stansfeld was being driven: there appear to be none of these. This is interesting given the efforts he went to before the election. I guess life is not always what you plan it to be…

    But the expenses and the extra office did catch my eye. I am left wondering what business case was deployed to justify the public expense of creating an extra office for the PCC a few miles from where he lives? The office may or may not be staffed but it will certainly have some costs attached to it not least a desk, phone and heating of some sort. Could the PCC not have worked from home on the days when he did not need to go into his main base in Kidlington? (I know that email security is not a problem etc.)

    Perhaps a clue can be found in his expenses? These can now be found on the same website (albeit a different page now…?) I referred to earlier. You know, the one where there were no expenses showing three months ago… They are showing now:

    Miles claimed
    • November: 0
    • December: 34
    • January: 16
    • February: 1005
    • March: 1334
    On the February spread sheet it says “From 22nd November 2012 to 7th January 2013 the PCCs main place of work was Police HQ in Kidlington but, from 8th February 2013, he now has two offices, one in Hungerford and another at Police HQ. Therefore his main place of work is now Hungerford with a home to work mileage of 9” [did they mean 7th February here by the way? Would make more sense..]

    Here is an example week’s worth of mileage for Mr Stansfeld:

    And here is a map of Thames Valley with ‘H’ showing you where Hungerford police station is…

    I leave these facts here for you to consider. I ask you just one question:

    What interest is served by the PCC now having two offices rather than one?

    Election turnout is dropping like a stone!

    Today is the day after the day after the local elections. I just googled ‘turnout news’ and a whole bunch of stories came up. Here are just three:
    I wondered if there was a national trend similar to what happened here in Buckinghamshire. It would seem there was. Here is my local county council elections the turnout was 30.3%. Four years ago it was 40.1%.

    That is a drop of 10 points! 25% fewer people voted. I think that is significant. Really significant.

    Up and down the country, there are many thousands of local and national politicians & activists (of all hues) getting on with getting on: using their spare time to help make their communities good places to live. Most of this work is unsung, often tedious and, I would argue, part of the real fabric of British society. Long may it continue.

    But what is happening when in the course of just a few years, the numbers of people bothering to vote has gone down from 4 to 3 in 10? I know there is a long term trend downwards in voting numbers, but this drop seems to be a real step change. It coincides, of course, with the (irresistible?) rise of UKIP who appear to have cornered the “ordinary bloke down the pub who is fed up with all these fancy politicians feathering their own nest” section of the electorate.

    This is a real challenge for politicians both local and national. It is not often I say this but I think Dan Hannen is partly right when he said in his blog last night:
    UKIP is a reaction to the lack of authenticity amongst the smug, politics-as-usual elite who rule Westminster. If UKIP are the insurgency, we need a counter insurgency. Attacking UKIP as clowns, or sneering because their fiscal plans might not add up, will not do
    So we have a challenge. Just how should ‘main stream’ politicians and activists react? The short answer to that is I am not sure. It is difficult, especially when some politicians still seem to insist upon doing things that play into the hands of the cynics. (Sub editors the length and breadth of this country just love the “another politician messes up” or “here’s another politician with their snout in the trough” stories. They make such good copy.)

    But I think part of the solution happened here in Buckingham on Thursday. Against most national trends, a Labour county councillor was elected. Robin Stuchbury is going to be the only Labour councillor in Buckinghamshire. This feat was noted by Tom Watson, the Labour Party’s national campaign coordinator when he wrote last night:
    Let’s be honest, we were never going to take control of many of the County Councils holding elections. So step forward Robin Stuchbury – the first Labour councillor elected in Buckinghamshire since 2005. I’ve never met you Robin but I could have kissed you this afternoon.
    I am proud to say that Robin is a good friend and political colleague of mine. As party agent, I coordinated his and all the other campaigns in the Buckingham constituency area. We worked hard and shrewdly, and Robin was elected. His success, however, comes down to years of good local political work by him, the fact that he always speaks his mind and that he is (and is seen to be) completely loyal to the people of Buckingham. Robin became a town councillor in 1999 and fourteen years later, Buckingham rewarded him by choosing him to be their county councillor. I met one woman in the street a couple of nights ago who said to me
    I am a right wing Conservative, but Robin has my vote because he has done more for this town than anyone else
    That is a local politics. And let’s be clear, Robin does not hide his political colours behind a mask of independence (and nor do any of the other 7 Labour town councillors in Buckingham). He just works hard and people know it. He is a ‘Ronseal’ local councillor…

    This is not the whole answer to the problem of declining electoral turnout (digital voting would be a start too), but I think we need many more honest, hardworking mavericks like Robin.

    There are many already, but we need even more!