Police cuts: yesterday’s news?

North Yorkshire Police

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[tweetmeme] On the 6th December 2010, North Yorkshire‘s chief constable, Grahame Maxwell, told the BBC that in light of enforced fiscal constraint; he was looking at “restructuring the organisation.”

In his previous force (South Yorkshire Police) he introduced a new ‘performance framework’, ‘restructured’ policing in Sheffield, assisted in introducing Neighbourhood Policing force-wide and was instrumental in driving the Force’s overall change programme.

On his appointment to North Yorkshire Police in May 2007, many of the rank and file saw him simply as the Police Authority’s ‘hatchet man’, someone who would save money in any way he could and as fast as possible. Staff have commented on his apparent quoted intention; ‘to fully implement all the budget cuts required (by government over a four-year period) within six to twelve months’???

The methodology would appear to fit with his CV thus far however, wouldn’t it? These thoughts now appear to have come true.. In reality, Mr Maxwell has been doing little else other than ‘restructuring’ during recent years, apart from getting in hot water whilst manning the NYP recruitment line that is…

York Press: NORTH Yorkshire’s chief constable is to face a charge of gross misconduct at a disciplinary hearing following claims he rigged a force recruitment drive to benefit his own relatives…(Read more)

During the recent years of his career, Mr Maxwell has done little to endear himself to the workforce locally, or indeed the frontline of the service nationally. As the head of the ACPO Finance and Resources business area since 2009 this is hardly surprising. Especially when you consider, how heavily involved in the future shape and funding of the police service he has been. I and many others are wondering; if there’s supposedly a four-year window for many of the cuts, why is Maxwell in such a rush to make those savings?

Is there some personal driver other than one of efficient business management? Could there be some desire to quickly obtain further ‘evidence’ of capability for impending job applications? Whatever the driver, let’s return to the actual and important issues affecting North Yorkshire…

At the back-end of last month the local media was full of reports about police cutbacks and the possibility of redundancies. Everyone appeared to be interested in how the government austerity measures were going to impact upon local services. However, it appears the ‘red hot’ journalistic scoops must have dried up. Given the importance of the issues to our communities you should be asking, why is this?

Recently I posted about the redundancy plans at North Yorkshire Police, in so much more than just job losses, I also commented on the managers speaking with forked tongues. For some time now I’ve held a suspicion that the force management have been, economical with the truth, whilst ‘consulting’ their staff and just engineering ‘positive spin’ when talking to the media.

The management of the force has consistently informed staff, “we’re just considering the options” when asked about restructuring and job losses. Despite the fact many saw the writing on the wall early in 2010, the management speak has actually proved to be totally dishonest. They have known exactly what their decision was, long before any open addmition to media or staff. It was therefore unsurprising that Mystic Ethel’s predictions during the middle of last year have actually come to fruition!

Around about the same time the Chief Constable‘s intentions were starting to leak out, and the possibility of redundancy was worrying many members of police staff, the HMIC Roger Baker QPM addressed a large audience of UNISON Officials at their National Police and Justice Conference in October 2010 where he said…

“North Yorkshire Police force is the only force in England and Wales who do not have to make any compulsory redundancies to find the required financial savings the government require” (HMI Roger Baker)

It is now two weeks since the staff at the Police HQ Control Room in Newby Wiske were told their jobs had been identified for redundancy and the control room would be closed. Since that date there appears to have been a sudden media blackout. Indeed, the previous force policy of ‘openness and honesty’ when dealing with the media appears to have been constrained somewhat. There was a time when any member of staff could talk to the press, so long as it was factual, honest and within the bounds of relevent legislation, not so now.

I understand from my various sources that recently, a ‘gagging order’ instruction has been issued to all staff in the force. It basically prevents any communication with the press about the current situation, unless it has been passed by the ‘Corporate Communications’ Department. For the past six months or so now, the staff at both control rooms (HQ & York) have had their job descriptions and posts interpreted and defined in different ways by senior officers (in true politician style); usually dependant upon the format of any question raised by the staff or the media.

  • Its a single department based at two sites.
  • Its a ‘virtual’ operation and location is unimportant.
  • The staff at the two separate locations perform the same role.
  • The staff at the separate control rooms have different roles.

What are they trying to hide all of a sudden and more importantly, why? Lets look at a timeline of some of the media output…

BBC (13th Oct 2010) : Looming government spending cuts will lead to fewer police on the streets of North Yorkshire, the county’s chief constable has warned. – Back office services, including personnel, finance and IT, would have to be run on a regional basis in collaboration with colleagues in the West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Humberside forces.

“You cannot make a 25% reduction in your budget without affecting front-line service delivery.” (Grahame Maxwell)

“The public will see reduced levels of policing.” (Grahame Maxwell)

“It is going to be a very different service and we are going to have to think differently about how we are going to deliver it.” (Grahame Maxwell)

Unsurprisingly this initial piece ticked all the boxes of the ACPO corporate message. It’s the standard message that was tripping off the tongues of senior officers up and down the country since the austerity measures were first announced. It continued, despite a comment from the HMIC in October. The BBC (21st Oct 2010) reported that…

Up to 300 posts could be lost at North Yorkshire Police as a result of the cuts outlined in the governments Spending Review, the forces chief constable has said.

Mr Maxwell (and many other ACPO officers) continued to blame the government for cutbacks to frontline services. The senior officers of the nation refused to accept that; many of today’s failures in policing delivery actually sit with them, not the government. They are the captains who have been steering the ships! Their denial has however waned slightly of late, especially since they noticed the government and media led public backlash about the possible effects to frontline services.

BBC (13th Jan 2011): North Yorkshire Police has started a consultation process about staff redundancies. Talks will take place with unions during the 90-day consultation and then staff will be informed of changes.

“I can give my assurance that the redundancy process and restructure will be handled sensitively and professionally.” (Grahame Maxwell)

BBC (26th Jan 2011) : One of the control rooms which handles 999 calls at North Yorkshire Police could be closed as part of cost-cutting measures, it has been confirmed. The force said it was reviewing its control room provision, with a view to either retaining the existing sites at Newby Wiske and York or closing one. The force said any decision would be based on “maximising efficiency” while continuing “a high-level of service”.

“The options that are being explored include retaining the current two control room sites at Newby Wiske and York, or removing one of the two sites.” (ACC Tim Madgwick)

“While the consultation process is ongoing it would not be appropriate to go into any more detail at this stage, other than to say that any decision will be based on maximising efficiency while continuing to provide a high-level of service to the public.” (ACC Tim Madgwick)

Still no admission of their long-standing intention, despite the fact staff already knew and, when confirmation did actually surface, many of them found out from social media sites such as Facebook and/or the more mainstream media. The word ‘disgusting’ doesn’t even start to address the way they have been treated.

On the 31st January 2011, UNISON voiced their concearnes about the enforced redundancy proposals in a letter to both the Chief Constable and Chair of the Police Authority. A copy of the letter, which I have seen, was circulated to all staff last week…

We believe the force will be making its staff and Officers vulnerable when performing their jobs due to the lack of support and an untried centralised control room that we believe, will be under staffed, under greater pressure and vulnerable to technical failures which have occurred in the past. (John Mackfall, Branch Secretary)

Obviously UNISON represent all of the police staff, not just those who work in the control rooms. Despite their previous lacklustre performance in fully representing the issues affecting their 24/7 members or those who are required to work shifts, it is refreshing they have finally woken up to smell the coffee and realise the dire consequences of the senior management teams methodology.

The police branch of Unison believe policing across North Yorkshire will be seriously hit by the cuts, which would also include about 310 staff redundancies in the first half of 2011. (York Press)

I would suggest the North Yorkshire Police redundancy debacle is simply further evidence to support the widely held theory that; ACPO members have more self-interest than concern for the future of the service, or the staff they are responsible for leading!

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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 21-02-2011, in Leadership & Management, Police, Public Service Babble and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. According to new research published today (24-02-2011) the British public say they would be worried if the police stopped providing the current range of services, as a result of budget cuts by this government.
    http://www.polfed.org/PoliceFederation_PrioritiesReport_240211.pdf

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  2. I’m informed by a member of my readership…
    “Cleveland got a virus on their systems and had to close down. It took Durham over 24hrs to take up their work, as their fall back. Is this what would happen to NYP if we went down to 1 control room and got a virus?”

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  3. Excellent post, I work in West Yorks Comms and we are moving from 3 rooms to 9, yes 9 and it is costing of hundreds of thousands of pounds !!! We are making about 30 redundant after everyone was scored in a matrix that looked at sickness and PDR, most of the people going deserve it, but there are still some who should be on the list and have kept their job. The issue for me though is spending so much money to fix a system that is not broken at a time when we are making over 400 compulsorary redundant across the force

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    • One of the issues I have is the fact we are never prepared to “learn the lessons” from others, despite managers continuing to espouse that rhetoric! Far too much of that change is so often developed on the needs and desires of individuals, as opposed to the service as a whole! One of the major factors that has cost the public so much over so many years.

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  4. One of those individuals being ‘shafted’ by their employer sent me a private email to comment on the post. It reflects the level of distrust and disdain the staff hold for their management and, the levels of concern for the negative effects on service to the public; he/she has agreed to its publication but I have had to edit slightly to protect their anonymity…

    As you can appreciate, I’m still employed by the force so to be identified for writing this to you would be suicidal… I’ve been reading your articles; your most recent one is spot on, as you quite rightly pointed out, the situation is escaping the media attention it deserves.
    Last week saw a huge number of well respected, talented and skilled staff opting for voluntary redundancy, opting to jump before being pushed in many cases I suspect. No matter how much I and others tried to persuade them otherwise. My fear is that; not only will we reduce to one control room, but we will also be left with some staff that (in my opinion) are not really suitable for the role in the first place.
    This both saddens and angers me… The people I feel most comfortable working with, the most competent and skilled are the ones who we’re loosing. These are the people who posses the levels of capability the public have a right to expect. Once my colleagues depart from this farcical organisation I hope and pray that I never need to dial 999 because I was urgently in need of a police officer. I cannot trust some of the people who will be left to deal with initial contact from the public.
    If North Yorkshire Police insist on making staff redundant, this was the perfect opportunity to weed out those who simply degrade the level of service provided. Ensure that those who are skilled in their role, and achieve exceptional standards, are retained to provide the public with the service they deserve. Instead, we are being forced to reduce to one control room and ultimately, provide a substandard service.
    A recent rumour suggests that, if there are more applicants than jobs in the control room at York (resulting from redundancy relocation), management will decide who can continue their role, simply by picking names out of a hat. How ‘professional’ is that?
    To say I am disgusted by how my colleagues and I have been treated would be an understatement. I really enjoyed my job, though somehow the Chief Constable hand his so-called ‘managers’ have changed my outlook, I now struggle to enjoy my job or function to the high level of competence required and I am not alone. The police officers are also going through a tough time, even if their jobs are relatively safe.
    Decisions are being made by management who’ve never stepped foot in to the control room let alone understand the work. They’ve never attempted to find out who we are, or what we do, so why do they have the right to make changes that WE know are ridiculous and won’t work? Ones that have major safety implications for the public and our officers! The majority appear to have little interest in the service or staff or indeed, anything that isn’t connected with their career progression.
    In the past people worked for the police because they actually wanted to serve the public, regardless of what their income or rank was. Managers remained in their roles for several years; there was no requirement for them to constantly implement change, simply to get noticed. The long-term negative impacts of today’s ‘ideas’ won’t appear on tomorrow’s CV’s as ‘effective’ results.
    The Chief Constable has secured the backing of the Police Authority and therefore remains unchallenged in his decision to close the control room and make staff redundant. I expect to see a media headline; “Chief Constable saves millions” along with some detail about a bonus payment no doubt… Strange how they forget he’s currently under investigation for ‘gross misconduct’. If he can’t demonstrate integrity within the police force, how can the public ever expect the service as a whole to display that trait?

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  5. There are deep questions on restructuring that rarely surface in our public discussions. There is an assumed plan that efficiency will somehow give us ‘more for less’, a “plan” that relies on an economy that will soak up those cast into redundancy. If this was really true, people would change jobs more often and not be so scared of losing them. Presumably, we would not have such endemic, high rates of either unemployment or under-employment. The broadly marxist arguments on this concern a surplus of capital employing itself in making money, rather than soaking up surplus labour in productive activity. My own view on this is that we miss the obvious somehow (my candidate is the ‘criminality’ of money), ending-up able to explain what is happening, but missing what we need to do to change for the getter.

    This is the context of farces like chopping the public sector when there are no real jobs to be done elsewhere and expecting the private sector cavalry to ride in to the rescue. I don’t believe the real arguments are political, but about ignorance and very fearful selfishness we don’t need.

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    • Like your ‘criminality’ theory ACO, I am convinced the route cause of much is our disgusting love affair with money. That along with high levels of self-interest in those who could effect real change. Much of this has been known since the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy!

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