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, June 28, 2013

The new NHS: in one easy to understand vid

Twitter is awash with links to this video on the Kings Fund website explaining how the new NHS will be working.

You can access the video here.

I am posting this for a couple of reasons. Firstly it is a very helpful video and it will explain to you how the new NHS will be working. (It is still complex by the way!) Anyone who wants to know about such matters... go watch the video!

Secondly, and probably most importantly for me right now: my daughter, Jess Harvey, project managed the video! She works with an extraordinary outfit called Creative Connection who make lots of these kinds of videos for a whole range of people. 

So congrats to The Kings Fund for commissioning this piece, Creative Connection for having such a fab team of people and, of course, my daughter Jess who brought the video all together.

Yey! (From a very proud Dad)

Evidence based practice (not)

I have blogged about this before (the Society of Evidence Based Policing) but I felt moved to blog again because I think some people are using the phrase 'evidence based practice' unwisely (I say generously).

What Evidence Based Practice is NOT:
  • Scanning a few pages of Wikipedia, finding a few that seem to link to what you are doing and then claiming it is 'evidence based'
  • Doing a quick, after the event, 'back of a fag packet' evaluation of a single intervention and then claiming it worked and provides an evidence base for all future similar initiatives (commonly called 'projects'...)
  • Doing a serious and well thought through evaluation of an intervention but overlooking the need for any kind of control group - ideally a randomised one (commonly called 'pilots'...)
  • Not knowing what a control group is... (or what 'randomised' means)
  • Conflating correlation with causation
  • Lurching to conclusions without any peer challenge on the methods you have used and the analysis you have drawn
  • Confusing evidence (from scientific study) with (forensic) evidence
  • Avoiding statistical analysis because the 'numbers are so small' and/or not knowing what role probability takes in all this
  • Just putting a lot of spurious references at the end of your report
  • Art, rhetoric, flimflam or politics 
  • Justifying what you feel like doing anyway and trying to pretend it is scientific!!!

Am I shouting loudly enough yet?

I was fortunate to spend three years of my life studying psychology. During that time, I learnt a great deal about science, method and just what conclusions can be reasonably drawn from experiments. Because psychologists are generally scorned by 'proper' scientists (like physicists or geologists), and we are surrounded by the 'pop' psychology of journalism and gossip, we have to have methods of inquiry and analysis that are really 'hot' when it comes to making definitive conclusions.

Whilst I do not claim to be an expert on 'evidence based practice', I think I know what it isn't! 

So please (please!) do not claim some new initiative or practice is 'evidence based' without it really being so!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Agricultural crime

The Thames Valley PCC was elected to power with several pledges including one to "maintain the balance between urban and rural policing". At the Police & Crime Panel meeting I attended a few weeks ago (in fancy dress), regular readers will recall that this issue was raised. (See this link here for the full information) He was asked whether rural crime was up or down. My recollection is that he said he was still working on an accurate and agreed measure and therefore could not give an answer.

Well, I have been in correspondence with Chief Constable Sara Thornton over this issue. She tells me that "as you know the PCC set rural crime as an objective and so the force has worked on a definition so that we can both measure performance but also give clear guidance to staff".

So, I am guessing, you will be interested to know what the definition is. Here it is:

Rural Crime will include hare coursing and poaching. In addition it will include cases where the offence occurred at: (Scene) 
  • Farm Barn
  • Farm Shop
  • Farm Building
  • Farm Yard
  • Farmhouse
  • Farm Field
  • Fish Farm
OR, the property is: (Property stolen/damaged)
  • Agricultural Machinery
  • Agricultural Tools
  • Fencing
  • Hay/Straw
  • Heating Oil
  • Horses
  • Horse Boxes
  • Livestock
  • Red Diesel
AND, the offence type is: (Offence Type)
  • Burglary
  • Robbery
  • Theft (excluding bilking)
  • Criminal damage
  • Public health offences (Fly-tipping)

Now you can probably see why I titled this blog the way I did...

Interesting, the Chief Constable goes onto to say "This definition covers acquisitive crime and damage but specifically mentions hare coursing and poaching as well.  We felt that this focus on crimes targeting and affecting the agricultural rural economy would be better than considering rural crime in terms of particular geographical areas, which are hard to define."

She also says that "interestingly, rural crime has fallen over the last few years, whichever definition is applied"

This definition will now be guiding the speed of response to these types of crime and will be supplemented by some targeted operations in rural areas, including "twenty rural crime enforcement and prevention operations across the force area in 2013/14" consisting of "hotspot patrol, targeting of offenders, property marking, crime prevention advice and community engagement" and making use of  "information captured by our new Automatic Number Plate Recognition Cameras that we are deploying in rural areas to help us combat rural crime".

I post this information to inquire of the people living in the rural areas of Thames Valley who voted for Mr Stansfeld in part because of his commitment to 'rural crime' whether this is what you thought you were voting for? There may be others who did not vote for him who have some thoughts as well. 

Whether you are a farmer, a farm worker, a resident of one of the innumerable pretty villages & market towns of Thames Valley, or a parish/town councillor perhaps... what do you think? Is this a good and workable definition of 'rural crime' from your perspective? Are there some things you would like to say to your PCC? 

Whatever your thoughts, I would be interested to know and so do please post them below. Of course you may prefer to contact your PCC directly and offer him your views....

Here is his email address: (other contact details are here)

Police, trust and young people

The Cheshire PCC has appointed a Youth Police & Crime Commissioner.


This is a bold move and one that I fully support. John Dwyer, the PCC, rightly highlights the significant challenges facing young people and why a dedicated person is required to work on behalf of the young people of Cheshire. (Official statement here.)

I also hope that Ann Barnes after the Paris Brown affair does still follow through on her election promise to appoint a Youth Police & Crime Commissioner too.

Here are my reasons as to why I think these appointments make good sense:
  • Young people probably trust the police least (and no I don't have the figures to hand but this link provides some back up)
  • Young people feature highly in league tables of people most at risk of being victims of crime
  • All young people under 18, though held to be criminally responsible from the age of 10, do not have a vote
  • I think there is a growing problem for democracy: as more of the electorate is made up of people who are older, politicians will heed their opinions more leading to tensions between the generations (as discussed on the Moral Maze last night) as young people feel marginalised. I think the demonstrations in Brazil, Turkey and elsewhere are often understood better through the lens of such inter generational disagreements.
  • The highest rates of unemployment and underemployment can be found among young people (I think)
  • I want young people to be good law abiding citizens who support the police and collective efforts to reduce crime and disorder. 
  • Young people often get a bad press which is owned and led by (mostly) the stale, male and pale. More balance is required to ensure good governance
Of course John Dwyer is not the only one to be taking such ideas forward. Bob Jones, West Midlands PCC has been doing his stuff as well!

But what do you think? All comments welcome!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

50,000 and counting

This blog has now reached a significant readership. (Well, significant to me, at least!) According to blogger, there have been more than 50,000 page views.

I know this does not mean that there have been 50,000 occasions when people have stopped by these pages and read entire blog posts. But as a crude measure, it does it at least prove I am not shouting into a large empty wood all the time.

So thank you too all people (including GCHQ officials, NSA contractors and search bots) that alight upon these pages. Your attention is gratefully received by "concerned of Buckingham"...

Friday, June 21, 2013

SME friendly procurement: a radical tool

For over two years I have been an active member of the Cabinet Office's SME Panel. The other members come from a wide range of businesses including software development, travel agency services and food supply. We have met about eight times as a full panel and there have been several sub groups meeting at more regular intervals.

The Panel began following a summit hosted by the Prime Minister and Francis Maude. I am still unclear as to how I was invited along to the original summit and thence to the panel. Perhaps it was down to my humorous rant against the excesses of some procurement approaches or the fact that I dared to challenge David Cameron at the summit about the scandal of battlefield soldiers being isolated in tanks which are not adequately equipped for the real situation, because those soldiers had no input to the procurement process. We need 'whole system procurement'.

One of the pieces of work of the panel that I became closely involved with was the creation of an 'SME friendly' tool, designed to change government and public procurement forever.

This tool has now (finally!) been uploaded to the Cabinet Office website and I can proudly (and publicly) tell you more about it. You can access the tool here. The tool has been trialed  in a number of central government departments and thence refined into the version on the net. The Cabinet Office have informed the SME Panel that its use is now growing across Whitehall and beyond.

I regard it as a positive sign that the Government does mean business about reforming procurement and is still persuaded that leveling the playing field so that more SMEs can bid for government contracts is valuable.

There are some of my colleagues on the SME Panel who are very concerned that there are indications that the Cabinet Office has been taking its foot off the pedal a little, of late. They fear what we are seeing is a growth of larger organisations still snaffling (to use a technical term) too much of government business in ways that mean the taxpayers and citizens are losing out (big time). While there does appear to be a belief that if the large primes sub contract their work to SMEs then the taxpayer will still reap the big rewards of lower spend and more innovation (which is largely not the case when you factor in embedded supply chain margins and large prime practices), I am more sanguine.

Changing government and public sector procurement was always going to be a long haul and I am realistic enough to know that there are many deep vested interests in maintaining the status quo. I am also aware there are many practices ensconced in public procurement departments that unwittingly favour contracting with larger suppliers. (If you are a public sector professional and you want someone to come in and help you uncover these practices and change them... just get in touch!)

In sum, I am hugely proud of the efforts that the small team, of which I was a part, put into creating the 'SME friendly tool'. Within this self assessment tool, there is hope for not only fairer procurement processes but critically also processes that result in lower costs, more innovation, better outcomes and investment in growing business in the country.

What other government tools can achieve all that?!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Quick fix, stay fix and the art of getting more from less

I have just uploaded a couple of videos to youtube (parts one and two) where I talk through a model that I have been explaining for many years (with live hand drawing!). The model is grounded in total quality management and continuous improvement (which is where I began my consultancy career).

It is not a complicated model. However many people have told me that it has really helped them to understand the significant challenges faced my them as leaders, in trying to get more from less.

Resources are very tight and demands are even greater: whether you work in the public, voluntary or commercial sectors. The need for organisations to work more elegantly has never been greater.

So please, have a look at the videos and let me know what you think. You can find them here: (Part One & Part Two)

I have also written about this model here too, if reading is more your style.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Payment by Results and lamp posts

Many years ago at school, I studied SMP Maths. I always remember the cartoon at the front of the chapter on statistics. It showed a drunken man leaning against a lamp post. The caption read: some people use statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post, for support rather than illumination.

And so yesterday, the Ministry of Justice published

Statistical Notice: Interim re-conviction figures for the Peterborough and Doncaster Payment by Results pilots

I was drawn towards this document by a combination of Russell Webster's excellent blog and the BBC news at midday. It kind got up my gander a little bit as it seemed to be exercise in political punditry rather than a clear analysis of whether the new Payment by Results regime may actually be working (or not). With my gander raised, I emailed the statistician involved with a number of questions which I reprint below.

The questions are a bit geeky, I know. But I do think it is vital for us all to know the precise evidence for whether PbR can work or not. Feel free of course to comment or indeed write with your own questions too.

Dear Mike Elkins

I have just read through your publication. I have a number of questions and I would be most grateful for your thoughts:

1.       The pilots began on 9 September 2010 and the 1 October 2011 (Peterborough and Doncaster respectively.) Please can you qualify “began”?
2.       Given that “the next Proven Reoffending Statistics quarterly bulletin will not be published until 25 July 2013”, why did you publish your results today rather than a few weeks from now?
3.       I understand that “the interim re-conviction figures being published in this statistical bulletin are based on periods half the length of those that will be used for the final results” – daft question I am sure, but presumably this applies to both the ‘experimental’ subject averages and the national comparators?
4.       You say that these “interim 6 month re-conviction figures are available for almost all of Peterborough cohort 1 (around 850 offenders) and half of Doncaster cohort 1 (around 700 offenders)”, please can you explain what has happened to the other portions of the cohorts and why they are included?
5.       In terms of methodology, you say “offenders enter the PbR pilots after their first eligible release from the prison within the cohort period”, please can you explain “eligible” in this context and whether the national comparator figures also cover the same “eligible” group?
6.       You explain that the key difference is that reconvictions only count offences for which the offender was convicted at court, whereas the National Statistics proven re-offending measure also includes out of court disposals (cautions)” and “Additionally, there are a number of other differences between the pilots and the
7.       National Statistics proven re-offending measure in terms of which offenders are counted within the cohort”. Are you able to say what difference these differences might make to the figures? For example, what number of offenders per hundred are usually subject to a caution (or similar disposal) as opposed to a court conviction?
8.       Again I assume that given that the “Peterborough pilot includes offenders released from custodial sentences of less than 12 months, whereas the Doncaster pilot includes all offenders released from custody regardless of sentence length”, the national comparisons are on a like for like basis?
9.       You explain that the “success of each Peterborough cohort will be determined by comparison with a control group (of comparable offenders from across the country)”. How will this ‘control’ group be selected to ensure there is no inadvertent or unknown bias? Indeed was there (will there be) any form of randomised control trial element to either of these two trials (and extensions)? If not, what is your considered professional judgement as a statistician as to the validity of these results to guide future practice?
10.   For Doncaster, success “will be determined by comparison with the reconviction rate in the baseline year of 2009”. How will this accommodate national and/or local trends in (say) sentencing practice or levels of crime?
11.   Given that normally reconviction rates are measured on a 12 month basis and these interim results are measured on a 6 month one, how much is that likely (based on past data) to have depressed the reconviction rates?
12.   You say “Whereas in this publication, to eliminate the risk of seasonality and enable a consistent comparison over time, all figures relate to offenders released in the 6 month period from October to March”. I may well be missing something here, but by only using the six winter months, are you not likely to increase the risk of a seasonal effect in the data? Please explain further.
13.   Given that the Peterborough cohort finished on 1/7/12, and allowing for the 6 months plus 3 (for court delays), this takes us up to March 2013. So on this basis, why have the last three months of data (April, May and June 2012) been excluded? (As far as I can see there is no explanation of this decision, but forgive me if I have overlooked it.)
14.   Given that I assume that data is ordinarily collected on a quarterly basis, it would have been helpful to have presented your data in a similar way so that trends could be spotted over time rather than use the fairly arbitrary 19 month period to show the data. Why did you present it this way? Please could I have the data on a quarterly basis.
15.   Given that you must have the data for Peterborough for the missing 19 month period (September 08 to March 11), and acknowledging that this overlaps with the pilot beginning, please could I have this data nonetheless.
16.   Likewise, please could I have the data for the quarter beginning April 2012.
17.   You say “Nationally the equivalent figures show a rise of 16% from 69 to 79 re-conviction events per 100 offenders”. How do you get 16%? I can see a rise of 10 ‘points’ or a rise of (10/69*100) 14.5%.
18.   (As an aside, this is quite a large rise nationally in re-conviction rates comparing the period from just before the last election to period after. Have national rates continued to rise or have they levelled off now?)
19.   You say “these interim figures show a fall in the frequency of re-conviction events at Peterborough” which is drop from 41.6% to 39.2%. At what threshold of probability is this statistically significant?
20.   Please can you confirm that the OGRS scores cited relate to the cohort groups in both Peterborough and Doncaster (rather than all offenders who were released)?
21.   Why are the national re-conviction scores given next to Doncaster data (which average 32.9%) differ from the scores given next to the Peterborough data (average 37.9%)? I know the period is different and there is some missing data, but this still seems like a large difference…

I look forward to your thoughts

Many thanks


And now I wait...

Comparing the plans: the power of consultation

Last night there was a meeting in Reading where Thames Valley PCC Anthony Stansfeld gave a presentation and was open to questioning. I did not attend because a) it is quite a long way to go, not sure my satnav would tell me where to park, I felt a tad tired and my chauffeur has every Wednesday night off and b) I am not a Reading resident (any more) and c) I don't want Mr Stansfeld to think that I am stalking him.

Nonetheless, there were people there who I know and I have heard a little about what happened. I am led to understand that Mr Stansfeld is concerned that crime prevention resources are mostly deployed to areas where there is most crime. But perhaps he did not say that.

This got me wondering about how things were changing in his approach. And so this morning I dusted off my copy of the original draft of the Police & Crime Plan for Thames Valley and compared it to the one that is now published. I only compared the forewords (because I do have some other things to do today!).

Here is a brief summary.

Out has gone:
  • The opening line "The Police reduce crime primarily by catching those that commit it"
  • "Rural crime committed against isolated communities is endemic"
  • "Furthermore, where I believe partners are not playing their part, at whatever level of responsibility, I will take whatever action is open to me"
  • "I would hope to see this police involvement extended so that Thames Valley Police can pursue by way of criminal investigation of patient safety cases where there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime having been committed. This would include cases of neglect resulting in death"
  • "I do not believe that the legislation of controlled drugs is a sensible way ahead. The rehabilitation of offenders, whether in jail or outside establishments, is key to the reduction of household burglary"
  • "I will be proactive in seeking out the views of victims of crime about policing across the Thames Valley area so that I and partners can respond appropriately"
  • Indeed any mention of victims...
In has come:
  • "The primary purpose of the police and the criminal justice system is to reduce crime. This is achieved primarily by deterring criminals from committing crime and catching those that commit it"
  • "A key priority in my Plan is preventing the criminal abuse of vulnerable people, whether they are adults or children" (much higher up in the text)
  • "I do not believe that the legalisation of controlled drugs is a sensible way ahead; instead we should look to reduce burglary by rehabilitating offenders" (I am sure the 'legislation' was a typo!)
  • "I believe the technical advances in ‘global positioning system’ (GPS) tagging offer a way to reduce reoffending by making the wearing of these tags a condition of early release from prison"
  • "The Police and Crime Plan for the Thames Valley aims, with our many partners, to continue to reduce crime and the causes of crime within our area, and to do so with the most efficient and effective use of the public money that is made available to me" (final sentence the same except the last word is 'me' not 'us' now)
There is much that is the same although large tracts did not make the final cut (the new version is 534 words shorter that the original 1114). I have uploaded a comparison document to my Google drive if you want to have look at the two versions side by side.

You will take your own view from the comparison. But I think what it shows (on paper at least) is wiser and more circumspect understanding of the criminal justice system. The second version has more of a partnership feel about it to me with less of the admonishing tone of the first draft ("I will take whatever action is open to me"). I am glad about this. There is a greater nod towards prevention and deterrence. I am concerned that victims do not seem to have made the final version of the foreword. What happened there?

So, on the basis of this data, consultation and reflection does broadly seem to work... (and who knows maybe my critique had some impact too?)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Some perceptions of the relationships between PCCs and Chief Constables

A couple of days ago, I announced a small survey. Below I reprint the results gleaned. I hope it goes without saying this is not a statistically valid survey and I hope that no one draws any conclusions, firm or otherwise, from this data.

Nonetheless, the results are interesting and perhaps point to the need for further research...

So, the first question asked: How much do you approve of the new arrangements for holding the police to account (Police & Crime Commissioners etc)? (I asked this, to detect whether this was a factor in people's answers and see below). The answers are shown below:
(One person skipped this question)

The next question asked: Thinking of your local Police & Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable, how well do you think they are working together? (This was the main question of the survey. And although I know answers would probably have been based on remote impressions in the main, these impressions count.)

The next question asked: Which part of the country are you in? 

And the final question was: Do you work for the police service?

I have managed to apply only one filter (the rest you have to pay for!). I extracted all the people who said they approved a great deal of the new arrangements. There were 8 such respondents. Of these people, 5 said they thought their PCC and Chief were "working very well together indeed". The other three said either not sure, not working together satisfactorily or not working very well together at all.

The 8 were scattered evenly across the country (apart from the SW and none anyway in NE). 2 of the 8 worked for the police service.


It would appear that the majority of people who replied did feel able to express opinions about the quality of the relationships despite (I would imagine) not knowing about the relationships at close quarters. True it is possible that those who expressed a view, did have such knowledge, but I think that is unlikely given the sample size and method of recruiting respondents (via twitter) than many did. But there was over a third who did not express a view as well.

I am not surprised at the proportion of people who said they worked for the police service. This was to be expected from my twitter feed and from interest anyway.

What next?

I do wonder how much effort many PCCs and Chiefs are putting into managing how their relationship is coming across. Should more be done? Or does this not matter one jot? If CCs and PCCs are seen as too 'pally' will this dent the impression that the PCC is there to have a robust relationship with the Chief Constable and hold them to account? Or if the relationship is perceived as 'rocky' will this damage public confidence? Will officers and staff working within the service be comforted or disturbed if the relationship between their Chief and PCC is seen as problematic? Might this impact on performance?

There is a whole heap of questions about this aspect of the new governance arrangement... (Please send your research grants this way!)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Survey: PCC & CC working relationships

I have just posted a survey on Survey Monkey. Out of curiosity, I am wondering on how well people perceive their Chief Constable & PCC to be getting on with working together. It is a pretty basic survey, but I think the results could be interesting...

SURVEY: How well are your Police & Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable working together?

Naturally I would be most grateful for any encouragement you can give to get more people to take the survey... The more data, the better!


UPDATE: results posted above

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

iPad yes (TomTom no?)

Back in the middle of May I asked a series of questions of the Thames Valley Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner. Nothing stunningly new here - but for the record (my questions in italics - their answers in bold):

1. Has Mr Stansfeld ever been issued with a secure laptop?


2. If not, has this option ever been discussed with him sometime in the last six months?


3. If the option has been discussed and not pursued, why was this? If cost was a factor, what was it judged to cost to provide Mr Stansfeld with remote secure access to appropriate systems (including email)


4. Overall, what IT / communication equipment has been provided to Mr Stansfeld?

Blackberry and ipad only at his request

5. Was the option of home secure access (via landline) to Thames Valley police / OPCC systems ever discussed? What was the outcome?
6. If not, why not?
7. If it was discussed and not pursued, how come?

[together] In response to a previous request for information the operational reasons for the PCC to use the office at Hungerford Police Station and not using his home, is to provide him with local access to secure Force systems, equipment (including a printer). The PCC has stated that he does not wish to access confidential work-related information from, or store such information within, his home (which is not seen as an appropriate secure environment).  

Stansfeld on tour: new dates announced!

Of course, I will never ever know whether my post (22/5/13) suggesting that it was about time that the Thames Valet Police & Crime Commissioner got out and about to meet his publics, had any impact but eight days later...

It would seem that Mr Stansfeld has announced a whole series of occasions where he "or his Deputy will be attending each event to give out copies Police and Crime Plan Summary and speak to the public about the role of the PCC and his priorities". The full details (posted on 30/5/13) can be found here. And here is the list:
  • Abingdon Fun in the Parks, Abbey Grounds - 1st June 2013
  • Marlow Town Regatta - 8th June 2013
  • Reading Water Fest - 15th June 2013
  • Slough Festival - 29th June 2013
  • Cowley Road Carnival - 7th July 2013
  • Oxfordshire County and Thame Show - 13th July 2013
  • Banbury Play Day - 24th July 2013
  • Aylesbury Vale in the Park Play Day - 7th August 2013
  • Milton Keynes Arts Festival - 10th August 2013
  • Bucks County Show - 29th August 2013
  • Force Open Day - 7th September 2013 (Kidlington)
  • Royal County of Berkshire Show - 21st/22nd September 2013 
The full details of each event can be found on this page.

So if you are a local Thames Valley person - do go along and offer Mr Stansfeld your views on his Police & Crime Plan (a new summary of which can be found here) and anything else that you wish to raise with him. I am sure he will be keen to listen.

Probably best if you don't wear hat though...!