The Benefit of Brickbats & Bollocks?

Public Sector Industrial Action

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This week’s media, mainly due to the threats voiciferous comments at the TUC Annual Conference, has been full of opposing views about cuts estimated savings proposed by this coalition government.  

But who should we actually believe about police cuts?   

In yesterday’s Telegraph, Alan Cochrane (Scottish editor), renowned for cutting through government and political ‘baloney’ reported on the situation. He likened the comments of the Police Superintendent’s Association to that of a “militant trade union“…   

“It is to be expected that trade union leaders should scream blue murder and threaten all manner of mayhem when confronted by the government’s intention to reign back drastically on public spending. The British public is well used to such tactics from that quarter.” He continued; “It is entirely another matter, however, when the leader of a uniformed, and allegedly disciplined, body of men – Derek Barnett of the Police Superintendents Association – joins in.” (read full article)   

With the extent of the proposed cuts (and their resulting effects on both jobs and public services), a certain amount of ‘posturing’ and ‘sabre rattling’ was to be expected. However, much of this puffing up of chests is in a way a far too  simplistic approach. It is based upon political rhetoric, unrealistic expectations and often, designed solely to promote individuals or, relatively small groups of individuals (at least in the bigger scheme of things). As we are all supposedly sinking under the national quagmire and stench of financial and administrative mismanagement, don’t we all have a part to play (collectively) in sorting it out?   

Typical of how our society has developed; we all run off into our little huddles and try to develop ‘battle plans’ around how secure the best deal for ourselves often, at the expense of someone else! Irrespective of whether or not you actually agree with David Cameron‘s ‘ Big Society‘ ethos (see speach), or the politics behind it, realistically we are in a position where combined effort is the only way we can sort this mess out. Back to the matter at hand…   

Today the government has issued yet another warning to police managers who (predictably) been offering up their own brand of ‘shock/horror’ comments…   

Superintendents Association Annual Conference: Home Secretary Theresa May has warned police chiefs to cut costs elsewhere before slashing officer numbers. (BBC News)   

The spin being delivered by the Superintendents is yet another example of predictability after all in their position, would you be inclined to admit you’re involved in the expensive mismanagement processes, the ones that actually delivered us to this position of unacceptable public spending?   

Quite rightly, Theresa May has informed the Superintendents that “cuts don’t have to mean increased crime”, especially if ‘savings’ are implemented correctly and, “current resources are used effectively.”  Herein sits the problem; until the managers actually learn to be smarter with available resources and probably more importantly, reduce unnecessary administration and bureaucracy costs, we are actually going to see cuts to frontline delivery. It’s the easy option and the same reasoning behind their Superior’s comments…   

Association of Chief Police Officers:  “The reality is that the scale of cuts currently being discussed is so significant that ‘protecting the frontline’ cannot mean ‘maintaining the frontline at current levels’. (Graham Maxwell – ACPO Finance Spokesperson)   

In a recent edition of a publication, which is aimed at the managers of British policing, another (outgoing) member of the hierarchy social club nailed her colours to the wall…   

Police Professional Magazine: Spending cuts across forces would be tantamount to “Armageddon” according to Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s outgoing chief constable Julie Spence. Mrs Spence has spoken out against the spending cuts and she believes that these austere times could spell the beginning of an unrecognisable police service in the future. (www.policeprofessional.com)   

I wonder if there is any chance of Mrs Spence admitting to any of the massive failures of her ilk when it comes to questions like; “but why are the police in this situation in the first place?” No, I didn’t think so. Even after leaving the service, it is very rare for any of them to admit a failing, either as a group or personally. Having said that and despite the general propensity for ‘new brush sweeps clean’ management in the police service, it is slightly unfair to level all the blame at ACPO’s door.   

Within the police service there is a well-known (often derogatory) descriptive term which is ‘Butterfly Management’. It is usually used (by rank & file) to describe police managers who; constantly flit from post to post with their ‘broom’, cleaning up yet another CV notch or two, as ‘evidence’ of their suitability for a higher rung on the golden ladder of promotion.   

In an essay entitled ‘Butterfly Management’, an eminent psychiatrist Dr Leandro Herrero (MD MBA FCMI FInstD) examined the issues surrounding Business Change Management caused by differences in linear and spatial thinking… Proverbially it is said that; the gentle fluttering of a butterfly’s wings in one remote corner of the world can create a tornado in another. Dr Herrero pins down the butterfly effect – when small actions can have big results – in organizational management.   

Herein lays a massive problem within today’s predominant management philosophy. Many of these ‘managers’ have absolutely no concept of (or concern for) the actual consequences of their individual actions, big OR small. Therefore, why should the resulting problems caused by inept (or uncaring) police managers be any different?   

I am not suggesting they (Superintendents / ACPO) always get it wrong however; I am suggesting that once they actually start-up that ladder, their personal requirements, expectations and priorities change. They appear to lose any genuine understanding of policing delivery, always assuming they had one in the first place. That said, the desire to ‘just be a copper’, provide a service and, to protect the society you serve, is a whole different ball game to being a business manager. Which is why, comments made by the Police Federation can actually be taken in a totally different light to those made by management…   

Police Federation of England & Wales: “…we could potentially see a reduction in police officer numbers of anything up to 40,000 in the lifetime of this coalition government. The only winner will be the criminal – to them it’s an early Christmas present.” (Paul McKeever – Chairman)   

I have suggested above that too many individuals and groups are posturing with vested interests and it would appear our politicians at the helm have a similar viewpoint…   

The Government: David Cameron is to lead a cabinet fight back against “vested interests” in Britain’s public services issuing dire warnings of the dangers of introducing drastic spending cuts in next month’s spending review. (www.guardian.co.uk)   

Not with standing any those ‘vested interests’, there is some credence and partial value in the comments from the TUC this week. Public services and in particular the actual delivery of those services are, the bedrock of our civilised society. They are (unfortunately) one of the few items that still contributes to the word ‘Great’ in Britain…    

TUC Conference: “Decent public services are the glue that holds a civilised society together, and we diminish them at our peril. Cut services, put jobs in peril, and increase inequality – that is the way to make Britain a darker, brutish, more frightening place. And let no-one doubt that unions and the TUC will protect and defend dedicated public service workers.” (Brendan Barber – Gen.Sec. TUC)   

Along with the not so veiled threats of industrial action, there are actually some sensible (all be it carefully chosen) words in Brendan Barber’s social and political rhetoric.   

What the elected politicians (and the public) have to decide now is; who is actually telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? After listening to topical debate and reading public comment this week, along with the governmental response so far, I have a fairly good idea about how things should/will progress. That said, I’m not stupid enough to place any bets!   

The present media furor is, if nothing else,  beneficial to the overall process of public understanding about the issues. However I have a major concern which is; will those responsible for implementing the austerity measures actually be able to sift out the genuine beneficial changes, from all the brickbats and bollocks?  

Fingers crossed…  

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About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 15-09-2010, in Police, Public Service Babble and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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