Category Archives: Local Authorities
We’re supposed to have locally elected people to speak up for our needs but are they? Is it not a case of them using their public powers to further their own needs most of the time?
For some time now there have been numerous debates surrounding police force amalgamation. It’s a subject which has actually been rumbling on for decades now. Previous visitors here will know that I’m broadly in favour of the principle (see here) but what of the recent supportive and not so favourable comments on the issue…
After the creation of Police Scotland on the 1st of April I asked; is this the way forward for the remainder of the UK (see here). I’m glad to see that finally, we’re now starting to see some chinks in the mostly self-interested parochial armour of the police ‘old boys (and girls) club’ that is the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
A chief constable in Wales has said she supports the idea of merging the four Welsh police forces into one…(policeoracle.com)
Gwent Police Chief Constable Carmel Napier recently gave her backing to “the idea in principle” of a single police force for Wales (see here). Great for Wales, but having been on the receiving end of some of Ms Napier’s leadership and opinion before, I have to say I’m also a little sceptical of her motives here. Is there any real conviction in what she said or, could it just be simple rhetoric? Another one of those opportunist but cleverly executed pieces of public relations hype, the type of stuff which senior police officers (and politicians) are extremely adept at producing.
That said and whatever her motive for the public announcement, it doesn’t really matter if there is/isn’t any personal agenda. The support from any ACPO rank for reducing their numbers is a big step for any of them, “turkeys don’t vote for Christmas” after all. So it has to be a step in the right direction for British policing however; there are still many who remain unconvinced about the advantages.
Police and Crime Commissioner and former policing minister says attempts to further unify police forces should be avoided…(policeoracle.com)
Former MP Alun Michael (now South Wales PCC) maintained that the decision to nationalise policing in Scotland was a “major error of judgement” – as a large force tended to become “a complex beast” to run. Perhaps, but isn’t that due to the politics and micro-management tendencies involved in policing that lead to his conclusion? That and a desire to protect his own self-importance as a PCC? A comment to the original policeoracle.com article summed up many opinions about Michael’s views.
When a member of the Home Affairs select committee he was telling forces that they should be working together to make the most of the resources. Now that his job as PCC is threatened it is suddenly better to have a small force. Still can’t be too hard on him, he is a politician try to understand policing and this is too much to ask…(Ridgeback)
I make no bones about it, I’m no real fan of the PCC system in policing however; I also can’t see why a PCC would stick his nose into this issue, other than for personal reasons. Another comment to the article also questions the validity (and honesty) of his opinion.
This is the same Alun Michael who falsely claimed £19,169-56p in expenses and was ordered to pay it all back, hardly a fit person to be a PCC…(Maverick22)
The “complex beast” that Michael refers to is only such because of individuals like him, they creat and fuel the environment in which senior police officers are almost obliged to react to, if only so they can be seen to be doing something, even when actually doing nothing is the realistic requirement.
Until we finally remove the causation factors of knee-jerk reaction, along with the rafts of self-important micro-management in the system, British policing will always be that “complex beast” that Alun Michael refers to. I and many others with numerous years of policing experience know; it really doesn’t have to be that way and the public actually deserve better!
In answer to the original question – more police amalgamations imminent – I would sadly have to say, probably not. There may have been some ‘glacial’ movement in the right direction but it’s still insignificant. We are moving towards something I see as inevitable in the future however; these proposals are unlikely to gain any significant impetus until it becomes ’flavour of the month’ on the Spin & Hype Menu of PCCS, politicians and ACPO officers.
- Police Scotland: The way forward for British Policing? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- Gwent chief backs police merger (bbc.co.uk)
- Wales News: Alun Michael opposes all-Wales force: South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner hits out at national force idea (walesonline.co.uk)
After a lifetime of promoting safe riding/driving, enforcement of traffic related legislation and unfortunately, dealing with the aftermath and human tragedy of road collisions, I have more than a passing interest in road safety matters…
There is a long history of road safety education and publicity campaigns in Great Britain (see here) but, despite the best efforts of those road safety professionals and organisations, attempting to supplement government action/inaction on the subject, there are still far too many people killed and seriously injured on our roads
We may not suffer the KSI levels experienced by some of our European counterparts (see here) but even the current government’s policy - Making Roads Safer – acknowledges the fact that, despite the UK having one of the best road safety records in the world; more can be done to prevent deaths and serious injuries.
This week the British media reported that “young drivers could face a curfew as part of government efforts to prevent accidents” and reduce “sky-high” insurance premiums (BBC News).
It is alarming that a fifth of people killed or seriously injured on our roads in 2011 were involved in a collision where at least one driver was aged 17 to 24… Improving the safety of our young drivers is therefore a real priority…(Patrick McLoughlin MP – Transport Secretary)
Responding to the above news, The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) expectedly delivered an opinion on the matter (see here). The IAM director of policy and research Neil Greig welcomed the Green Paper saying it was; “a once in a generation opportunity to help new drivers survive the crucial first six months of driving.”
Each day, nearly 3,500 people die on the roads. Tens of thousands more are injured. Families are broken apart. The futures of young people are dashed. Road accidents have become the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 29…(European Youth Forum for Road Safety)
There may have been 100,000 lives saved during last 10 years as a direct/indirect result of European Commission action on road safety however; as the EYFRS have said “this is an unacceptable price to pay for mobility” and I would say now is not the time to be complacent. I don’t expect many would disagree with that.
As a driver foremost but also as a member of the IAM, I agree that many of the Young Driver KSI problem surround the need for ”a system that embeds continuous learning for all new drivers.”
When we all first learn to drive we’re actually learning how to pass the driving test, but there’s so much more that you can achieve in your car…(IAM)
Basic driving skills can actually be learned in a relatively short period of time, you can be taught how to pass your driving test however; the necessary skills required for continued safe driving after that basic training are ongoing life-skills.
As the above video clips show, the United Kingdom is not alone with acknowledging there is a massive problem with our young (and/or newly qualified) drivers being injured and killed on the road. Who (if any of us) will end up being succesful in addressing or eradicating the problem still remains to be seen.
The Government’s THINK! campaign which provides road safety information for road users, along with resources for road safety professionals, aims to; ”encourage safer behaviour to reduce the number of people killed and injured on our roads every year.”
The human and social costs of road accidents are immeasurable, and with the price of each fatal casualty on the road estimated to be £1.7 million, it makes no financial sense to cut campaigns…(Dr Alistair Cheyne OBE – IAM Chairman)
At the risk of using business-speak which I abhor; this particular problem (and road safety in general) requires a totally holistic approach to treat the causation factors behind collisions. Vehicles may now be more inherently safe than ever before however; any sustainable improvement in road safety also involves dealing with the human factor. One which will always require a combination of education, practical training, assessment and enforcement action when applicable.
That said, with all the government austerity measures, many public agencies and local authorities are now facing reduced funding. With the expectation of even further cuts probably just over the horizon, there are severe implications for the future of proactive road safety initiatives.
The 20% cuts to police budgets over the next four years will also have a profound impact upon the availability of police resources. The officers once engaged in road safety, the enforcement of traffic legislation, road collision investigation and the influencing of driver behaviour are already in almost terminal decline.
With an 80% reduction of funding for road safety campaigning (in real terms) over recent years, many motoring organisations like the RAC and the IAM, along with Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents have condemned government plans and are worried for the future. Road safety may be public safety function but it’s not one immune to the HM Treasury axe.
This reduction of road safety resources has compounded the poor safety legacy of an inadequately and poorly maintained road network, an infrastructure which has not received the investment it once enjoyed for many years now. Even the The Road Safety Observatory, which provides independent research and information for anyone working in road safety, shows a cover image depicting a long and winding road.
There are those that argue our older drivers are just as much of a problem to road safety. They use the adage of the elderly driver talking to a young driver who says; “I’ve been driving for fifty years and never had an accident” to which the listener replies; “ok, but I’m sure you’ve caused hundreds” but that’s another story for another day.
Without some tangible reversal of policy, and a little increased funding for the future which is highly unlikely, things don’t look very good for road safety improvements any time soon - despite all the government PR and rhetoric!
More Road Safety campaign clips…
- New drivers may face night-time curfew (guardian.co.uk)
- L-drivers face ‘minimum learning period’ in radical overhaul of driving test rules (independent.co.uk)
- Young drivers ‘could face curfew’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Young drivers ‘could have to take motorway lessons’ (telegraph.co.uk)
So the Police and Crime Commissioner elections have been and gone, did you notice? Do you really care? As one newspaper headline proclaimed yesterday it truly was a “Dismal day for democracy as voters trickled to the polls.”
Fewer than 15% of voters (overall) turned out in the 41 police areas. The original concerns about election advertising (amongst other things) appear to have been wholly justified. Subsequent to the election, it’s hardly surprising that the Electoral Commission have announced an enquiry into what can only be described as an expensive mess. Yet another politically derived malaise indicative of the now popular ’omnishambles‘ descriptive, used when talking about our ConDem government.
It was a day of records and firsts – none of them good…(Nick Robinson – BBC Political Editor)
I also find it somewhat ironic that Ministers have said; “a lack of familiarity and understanding of the role may be behind the low turnout” - No shit Sherlock and who’s bloody fault was that?
These were new elections taking place at an unfamiliar time of year, which is why we have made clear at every stage that it would be important to engage effectively with voters. The government took a number of decisions about how to run these elections that we did not agree with…(Jenny Watson, Electoral Commission)
Unsurprisingly, given the predominant political colour of this county, Conservative Julia Mulligan was elected as the PCC for North Yorkshire. She beat Labours Ruth Potter in a two-horse race by 47,885 votes to 34,328 in a low turnout of just 13.3% with 6,400+ spoilt ballot papers (see BBC news). Not what you could really call a resounding mandate from the people, is it?
I intend to work really hard to make sure I represent people fairly across all parts of North Yorkshire and without political prejudice…(Julia Mulligan)
The words and sentiment are highly commendable but surely, shouldn’t working “really hard” be expected from someone receiving a salary of £70,000.00 pa? Despite the fact that many are still arguing, the £70k salary isn’t actually public money being well-spent.
Ms Mulligan conceded that it was her “job to get out there and make sure that people see that this will make a big difference in their local areas.” It’s a pity that the work she is promising for the future, wasn’t apparently reflected in her pre-election efforts. The public relations and canvasing work that should/could have been done, to help the public better understand all the issues, all appeared to be sadly lacking.
A Facebook comment from a supporter of North Yorkshire’s loosing candidate says it all when considering what these elections actually meant to the general public…
I found it hard to persuade friends to go and vote for a an elected position they did not want. The large amount of spoilt ballots and low turnout proves how unpopular the whole exercise was and it looks like none of those elected have anywhere near a popular mandate for their actions.
When Ms Mulligan takes up her new post on the 22nd of November, I hope and expect that she will confirm the current Chief Constable’s temporary post. But what will happen during the future years of her tenure is anyones guess? Are the public going to get the results they want and not least, will they receive true value for their enforced but unwanted £280k salary investment?
PCCs and the democratic deficit: And so the inquest begins. Why were the people of England and Wales so emphatically indifferent to being given the power to elect their police and crime commissioners…(Mark Easton – BBC Home Affairs)
Like many others, I still remain unconvinced about Ms Mulligan’s ‘vision’ of future policing in the county. Her party on the other hand have actually achieved their aim; despite all the rhetoric and assurances about localism and power to the people, all they really wanted were scapegoats. One of the highest rated commentators to the Mark Easton article (above) summed things up by saying…
Whilst I agree with the general sentiment of the article I would suggest that the public position is even more negative. It’s not that people need to be persuaded that a PCC is a good idea. It is more that they have made up their mind that they do not want political interference in law enforcement. That is my position & I chose to spoil my ballot to give that message…(see here)
But in many ways Ms Mulligan has been set up for a massive fall by her own supporters and her party. The PCC is little more than a convenient political scapegoat, they are people who the government can blame for any problems and issues surrounding our policing. When the public question the politicians about policing they will simply adopt their best sloped shoulder stance, shrug their shoulders and retort; “don’t blame me, that’s what you elected a PCC for.”
The less the public can actually blame a government for when it goes wrong, the greater chance of those politicians remaining in power for longer. Another PR and marketing campaign that might deliver politically but one that has been based upon little more than rhetorical hot air - simples!
Although Labour and the Conservatives roughly split most contests which is probably a good thing thankfully, independents also won a reasonable percentage of the PCC posts (see here).
Twelve independents have been elected as Police and Crime Commissioners as candidates without party labels fared well across England and Wales…(bbc.co.uk)
That said, there is still a distinct lack of true independence in the representation, let alone any policing knowledge and/or apparent experience amongst so many of the elected candidates nationally. That in it self is a very worrying factor. Luckily for those (who actually care) in Co Durham, no doubt they’ll be celebrating knowing that at least they won’t have the latter issue to contend with (see here).
So here we are, two days after something that so few wanted, that hardly anyone (in real terms) engaged with and that (hopefully) won’t actually have that much (real) impact upon policing in the future. At least not when considering the overall good of the service and service delivery to our society.
Democracy is changing before our eyes – more elected posts, more voting systems, more choice as the two-party system continues to break down and, above all other things – more unpredictable than ever…(Nick Robinson – BBC)
Once again we have (mostly) followed an (arguably) failed American model, simply because of some suspect sales literature designed and penned by self-interested staff at a think-tank. That said there are winners; no doubt Blair Gibbs is sitting somewhat smug in the new job he ‘earned’ for himself because of it?
As a result of the experience and knowledge gained in a thirty year police career, whilst maintaining a close interest in all the issues (and many of the subsequent observations) on the PCC proposal, I can now confidently conclude; we’ve been sold a pig-in-a-poke!
My vote was a “No” vote: …We wish to express that this was not an act of apathy, or an uninformed electorate, but a deliberate decision…(sign the e-petition)
British policing (as we know it) has actually been sold down the river and it’s unlikely to ever recover from all this political tinkering. The whole debacle is also likely to leave a very bitter and sour taste in our mouths but I guess now, we’ll just have to suck it and see?
- #PCC Elections: a socially and financially expensive political damp squib? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- #PCC – Happy to potter about considering a mulligan? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- VIDEO: What it means to be a PCC (bbc.co.uk)
- Electoral Commission to investigate ‘comedy of errors’ PCC vote (telegraph.co.uk)
- Police commissioner elections: high rates of spoilt ballot papers recorded (guardian.co.uk)
- VIDEO: Police vote turnout ‘catastrophe’ (bbc.co.uk)