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Home Secretary’s ‘cynical’ manoeuvre over Police Federation marks rise of the Iron Lady, claims West Midlands PCC

Home Secretary’s ‘cynical’ manoeuvre over Police Federation marks rise of the Iron Lady, claims West Midlands PCC

🕔22.May 2014

The Home Secretary was guilty of a “cynical political manoeuvre” when she told the organisation representing Britain’s rank and file coppers that it had to embrace change, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones has claimed.

Mr Jones said Theresa May’s ‘reform yourselves or be reformed’ ultimatum to the Police Federation conference was designed to provoke bobbies  into rejecting reforms set out in the Normington Report, which would then have enabled Mrs May to “act tough” by forcing changes through Parliament.

The Home Secretary was fully aware that the Normington reforms would be approved by the conference and Mrs May’s “unfortunate” speech was designed to play to the Conservative Party by presenting her as “Iron Lady material”, Mr Jones claimed.

Mr Jones, a former Labour councillor in Wolverhampton, told Chamberlain Files: “It was very inappropriate. It was a calculated political move to provoke the Police Federation into resisting change so that she could then force through legislation.

“If they didn’t embrace reform she would claim credit for forcing through the proposals that were in any case set up by the Police Federation through the Normington Review.

“It was a cynical political manoeuvre which will do nothing to improve police morale.”

Mr Jones accused the Home Secretary of “playing politics with something that was already on its way through”.

He added: “She wanted to prove to her colleagues that she is iron lady material.

“She is trying to undermine the Police Federation and to undermine the local policing governance system. She is trying to undermine any power base that could possibly oppose her will.

“We have the most centralised policing structure in the history of policing.”

Following Mrs May’s speech to the Police Federation, delegates accepted all of the reform proposals set out in a review conducted by Sir David Normington.

Mrs May told the conference:  “ I do not want to have to impose change on you, because I want you to show the public that you want to change. I want you to show them that you have the best interests of the police and of the public at heart.

“But make no mistake. If you do not make significant progress towards the implementation of the Normington reforms, if the Federation does not start to turn itself around, you must not be under the impression that the government will let things remain as they are.

“The Federation was created by an Act of Parliament and it can be reformed by an Act of Parliament. If you do not change of your own accord, we will impose change on you.”

Mrs May said the government will make three key changes, using new and existing powers, even before a decision is made by the Federation on whether it adopts the wider reforms.

– Cutting government funding to the Federation. The Home Secretary made it clear that it is not acceptable that, when the Federation is sitting on vast reserves worth tens of millions of pounds, it is in receipt of public funds to pay for the salaries and expenses of the chairman, general secretary and treasurer. She announced that this funding will be stopped altogether from August. Instead, the money will go into a new fund to accelerate the introduction of Police First – a new scheme designed to attract the brightest young university graduates into the police.

– Earning the right to represent members. In common with changes made elsewhere in the public sector, the Home Secretary announced that she plans to change the law so that officers will have to opt in to join the Federation. This will mean that officers no longer become Fed members by default. And officers who have chosen to become members also have to opt in to pay full subscription fees.

– Greater accountability. The Home Secretary announced that today and on an annual basis thereafter, the Home Office will use its existing legal powers to call in the Federation’s central accounts. The law will be changed so the Home Office can without any question call in the accounts for any money held by the Federation – including all so-called Number Two accounts. And proposals will be brought forward to make the Police Federation – the national organisation and all the regional branches – subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Published in January, the Normington Review set out the case for fundamental reform of the Federation’s culture, behaviours, structures and organisation with the aim of making the Police Federation once again ‘the trusted voice of frontline officers’.

Recommendations from the Review Final Report, now accepted by the Federation, include:

1 – The Federation should adopt a new statement of intent which reflects the Police Federation’s commitment to act in the public interest, with public accountability, alongside accountability to its members. This should be incorporated in legislation as soon as practicable.
2 – A new independent reference group should be established to hold the Police Federation accountable to the public interest and monitor progress on the implementation of the Independent Review recommendations.
3 – National guidelines for all expenses, honoraria and hospitality practices should be agreed and local force branches will be required to comply with these (including their publication online).
4 – All accounts from which the Police Federation derives income or contributes revenues should be published and be publicly available.
5 – The completion of local and national databases should happen as soon as possible. Where these are currently incomplete we request that ACPO and the Home Office agree to the transfer of email addresses to the local Federations and the national Police Federation.
6 – A new performance and standards contract and an ethics, standards and performance process should be drafted, consulted upon and signed by all representatives.
7 – There should be a stronger focus on equality and diversity at all levels of the Police Federation. There will be a new Director of 8 – 9 Equality, equality assessments, reserve seats maintained in the short term but then discontinued once real progress has been made as independently assessed.
8 – Each force should complete, with the help of the Police Federation HQ, a cost-benefit analysis of the value it provides to its local force.
9 – The model of representation should be changed including repealing the equal representation of ranks at local level and the establishment of independent panels to decide levels of representation if no agreement can be found.
10 – Rank committees should be brought to an end with all staff, reserves and revenues transferred to the JCC nationally and JBBs locally.
11 – A new National Council comprised of representatives from all the 43 branches should elect a National Board and hold it to account while ensuring that the Board has the authority to provide leadership to the Federation.
12 – The new National Board should replace the Joint Central Committee. This will be slimmed down body both in terms of numbers and the amount of time that representatives will devote to national level business.
13 – The National Chair would become a position elected by all members. The General Secretary would be selected for their professional skills and would be the de facto chief executive of the Federation.
14 – There should be a 25 per cent reduction in subscription levels for one year in 2015 financed by the reserves from the rank central committees with the possibility of further reductions in future years.

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