In order to appreciate what Theresa May is prattling on about, you need to be aware of the implications of Winsor 2, if you haven’t done so then please start by reading this post:
No matter your opinion on how far we have drifted from Sir Robert Peel’s original principles, I think it’s fair to say the modern police doesn’t really reflect some of them. “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.” Now a lot of it’s about ‘public perception’ (making people think everything’s ok even if it’s not) and ‘visibility’.
Peel’s principles were full of foresight and have been the basis of policing since their inception. I think Winsor 2 will help consign them to history.
On Tuesday 27th March 2012 Home Secretary Theresa May referred almost all of Winsor 2 to the Police Negotiating Board (PNB), paving the way for its adoption. Below is my interpretation of her statement, but before that, a little something I thought of while reading the transcript of Winsor’s most recent appearance at the Home Affairs Select Committee:
Home Office Statistical Bulletin 03/12 provides details of recent police strength across the country. When Winsor began his review on the 1st October 2010 there were about 142,000 police officers in England and Wales (not including non Home Office forces such as the BTP). Winsor, during his research for part 1 of his review, says he personally spoke to 176 officers. At least three of those he either got mixed up about or made up (although he blames the police for the confusion). So, by my ‘barely literate’ calculations, that was about 0.13% of the total number of police officers in England and Wales around about the time he started (there are about 6,000 fewer officers now). This shows that he wasn’t interested in getting his review right. Pantene probably ask more people about how shiny they think their hair is, and he’s fundamentally changing policing! He didn’t bother interviewing anywhere near enough officers to get an accurate reflection of us all. If I investigated a crime which had 1,000 available witnesses stood in a line waiting to tell me what they saw and I took statements from just 2 of them I’d be laughed out of the crown prosecutor’s office, let alone get anywhere near a courtroom, and that’s rounding Winsor’s figure up to the nearest whole person.
I think May gave him his brief and he duly started making things up to fit precisely what she asked for, regardless of what he might discover during his ‘research’. Compare his recommendations with the three terms of reference below:
1) Use remuneration and conditions of service to maximise officer and staff deployment to frontline roles where their powers and skills are required.
2) Provide remuneration and conditions of service that are fair to and reasonable for both the public taxpayer and police officers and staff
3) Enable modern management practices in line with practices elsewhere in the public sector and wider economy.
Those aren’t terms of reference, they’re diktats.
We still don’t, to my knowledge, have an exact definition of what the ‘front line’ is do we? And what I think those 3 actually mean are:
“Work out a way to get everyone onto the ‘front line’ quick so we can flog everything else to the private sector!”
“It’s not a public service the police provide, it’s an unprofitable business. And the staff cost way too much. We need to make them cheaper, and make it easier to influence what they do and how they do it. Please think of some ideas to make this happen, but disguise them as improvement.”
May goes on to state that the government remains committed to further reform and lists a number of principles set out in Winsor 1. I haven’t read part 1 in full for some time, so cannot recall exactly what all of these relate to, but here is why I think they were quoted in the statement:
“Fairness is an essential part of any new system of pay and conditions.”
“This is a vacuous political sound bite that makes us sound nice but doesn’t actually mean anything at all.”
“The office of constable is the bedrock of British policing.”
“It’s going in all but name, but you still can’t have the same rights as employees, and saying this makes us sound like we value it.”
“The demands of policing should be given full and proper weight.”
“You think we are saying that we recognise the unique nature of policing and its impact on the lives of officers, and that this will be taken into account. Actually we could be talking about anything, or nothing at all, because this point doesn’t make reference to anything or have a context. But it sounds good. Weight. That word gives the impression of strength and security. Subconsciously this might influence people. We should use it again if we can.”
“People should be paid for what they do, the skills they have and are applying in their work, and the weights of the jobs they do.”
“If you don’t do what we think is more important, we will penalise you financially, regardless of the fact that not everyone can do whatever they want (or what we think they should). However, this phrase will be popular with the public and make the police sound resistant to reform because it sounds like common sense. Plus we said weight again.”
“People should be paid for how well they work”
“we are going to reduce people’s pay, but make it look like we are trying to improve standards.”
“A single police service – distinctions in pay and other conditions of service between police officers and staff should be objectively justified”
“We are going to try and make you the same as each other by making it harder to differentiate between the two. We won’t say harmonise though, in case someone picks up on it.”
“Arrangements should be simple to implement and administer”
“We are going to change things so we can do whatever we want to the police with little, if any, opposition, but people will like this phrase because it sounds like we are reducing bureaucracy and sorting out a mess”
“Phased introduction of reform”
“We are going to do it slowly but surely so most people won’t realise the consequences or notice until it’s too late, but we’re giving the impression that we’re doing it slowly to do everyone a favour by allowing them get used to the idea”
Then comes pensions:
“This recommendation will be reflected in a proposal for long term reform of police pensions on which I will now consult the PNB. In common with the reforms which are being developed across public service pension schemes, the Government is committed to ensuring that police pensions are affordable and sustainable for the future. Those who work in the police and across public services will continue to have to pension schemes that are among the very best available.”
What this means is they are going to change my pension. And yours. And everyone else’s. But probably not their own, of course. They will probably change the two existing police pension schemes (PPS and NPPS) so they are more similar in remuneration and conditions to the civil service scheme. They claim we haven’t been reformed for decades. The pension scheme was changed for new recruits just a few years ago. 2005 was it? Or 2006? What I am afraid of though is might they even try and make the police pension and civil service pension schemes one and the same? They lump the two together with the phrase “those who work in the police AND across public services” This document is only about the police, why are they mentioning other public services? But maybe I’m reading too much into that?
May repeats Hutton’s view that the pensionable age should be 60. I covered this in my first post.
At this point I’d just like to remind you that I currently pay 11% of my salary into my pension, and over the next few years that will rise to over 14%. Judges are getting uppity and threatening legal action for being made to pay 1.2%, that’s 1 point 2, not 12, in case you didn’t see the little dot (previously they didn’t have to contribute at all). MPs pay between 5.9% and 11.9%, depending on the contribution rate they choose. MPs and Judges pensions are more valuable than the average police officer’s. Here is a quote from the House of Commons Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund Standard Note 01844, dated October 2011:
“An MP serving the average term of office of 15 years, paying contributions at 11.9% of pensionable pay…would accrue a pension of around £22,500 pa”
We’re all in this together are we?
And last but by no means least the final few points:
May is referring the questions of direct entry superintendents and appointment of overseas police chiefs to ‘partners’ for consultation (this means they are going to do it down the line, but make it look like they are considering it carefully). Particularly as she says “I do not believe it is in the best interests of the service to restrict its ability to appoint officers to senior positions to a limited number of individuals. While police leaders have undoubted strengths, I want to ensure the police service is able to draw upon the best pool of talent available.”
May also says that the Government will ‘consult’ on proposals to change the police officer pay machinery. Again, this means “We are going to do it, but we are going to make it look like we are just thinking about it for now, and when all this furore has died down we’ll get rid of PNB and PAT, move to three and five year reviews of things so there’s no yearly pay rise, sideline the Federation by changing the rules and you’ll be at our mercy forever more.” Aside from the financial implications, and as stated previously; the pay and conditions recommendations in my mind are some of the most dangerous and likely to erode the office constable, and the help the loss of impartiality.
Finally, May does a bit of ‘blahing up’ as we call it in the job, and says the recommendations are of SERIOUS NATIONAL IMPORTANCE for the service, which could play a VITAL role in reform. And she’ll be taking them forward as a matter of URGENCY.
What do you think?