25th January 2018 and The Great Police Reform Lie

It was a day like any other. Not much happened. Well not much of any importance anyway. Except that two official reports were published on exactly the same date. The 25th January 2018.

Maybe we were never supposed to read them. Maybe our elected government thought that we couldn’t read them, or maybe they just thought that we wouldn’t understand some of the big words.

But we can read, and we did read them, and we even understood what some of the words meant.

In 2010 the Conservatives were elected to power (sort of) in the form of a coalition. That gave David Camoron just the platform he needed to instigate some major ‘reforms’ of the public sector. The ‘reform’ that peeves me the most is, unsurprisingly given my background, that of the Police Service, once regarded as the best in the world.

One of Camoron’s first acts as Prime Minister was to appoint Theresa May as Home Secretary. and set her loose. I have no doubt that she was tasked by her leader to set about ‘reforming’ the Police Service, a task she carried out with indecent zeal.

To help her, she enlisted the help of the ex Railway Regulator, Tom Winsor, a solicitor with a big London firm but no experience of Policing whatsoever. With the help of an academic and a former Chief Constable, he carried out his now famous ‘Independent Reviews’ of many aspects of the Police Service. We must never forget that he decided, for reasons best known to himself, not to claim his fee for this piece of work. Must unusual compared with most solicitors I know.

Whilst there is absolutely no connection whatsoever he was subsequently appointed Chief Inspector of Constabulary at HMIC (a post normally occupied by former Chief Constables). Oh, and he received a Knighthood too.

Again, there is no connection but Winsor’s Reviews bore a remarkable resemblance to the bullet points of a Camoron speech some years previously.

Since the day they were published a government mantra was born

Crime Is Down, Police Reform Is Working

Which brings us back to the 25th January.

Firstly the Office National Statistics released the latest batch of official Crime Statistics.

Figures based on the Crime Survey of England and Wales (more of that later) broadly showed that crime in general was continuing to fall.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) shows that many of the high-volume crimes, such as lower harm violent crime, criminal damage and most types of theft, were either estimated to be at levels similar to the previous year or to have fallen. It also shows that crime is not a common experience for most people, with 8 in 10 adults surveyed by the CSEW not being a victim of any of the crimes asked about in the survey.

As somewhat of an afterthought they conceded that Police Recorded Crime indicated that many categories of crime had in fact risen. Police crime stats quite rightly came in for some flak a few years ago when the manipulation of those figures, to make the picture look brighter than it was, was made public.

The SEW figures, when it comes to the more violent types of crime, are downplayed somewhat and the true significance of the figures is very much obscured.

“While overall levels of violent crime were not increasing, there is evidence of rises having occurred in some of the low incidence but more harmful categories such as knife and gun crime”.

Hidden away and not immediately obvious are the following stats relating to some of the more worrying crime trends, revealed by Police Recorded Crime.

Gun crime up 20%

Knife crime up 21%

Robbery up 29%

Vehicle theft up 18%

Domestic burglary up 32%

Stalking up 36%

Overall crime up 14%

The significance of these figures is explained away as though it didn’t matter;

Police recorded crime statistics must be interpreted with caution. The police can only record crimes that are brought to their attention and for many types of offence these data cannot provide a reliable measure of levels or trends.

Which brings me neatly back to the CSEW figures.

The sample size for the Crime Survey is 34,400 households out of the, approximately, 24 million households in England and Wales. With such a small sample size (0.15%) it is hardly surprising that the people conducting the survey don’t meet many people who have been the victim of gun or knife crime etc. No wonder their figures are so low.

Whereas the Office for National Statistics show the problem more like this

So that’s the first part of the lie. Is crime really down? I suspect that it is not. Ask any serving officer and I am confident they will tell you it is up. Seriously increased.

Published on the same date was the latest report from the Home Office outlining Police Strength in England and Wales (we mustn’t say Manpower any more).

Police Officers down a further 0.8%, but what is also shocking is PCSOs down nearly 5% and Specials down a massive 15%. A small increase in Police Staff is a minor compensation, and, as we shall see, is temporary.

Almost 1,000 more officers GONE. Who would think that was a good idea at a time of rising crime and Terrorist Threat Levels, not to mention actual Terrorist Attacks. But ‘Police Reform is Working’, the government are constantly telling us. So, a little while ago now, I looked up the word ‘Reform’ in the dictionary.

Reform – Make changes in (something, especially an institution or practice) in order to improve it.

So where exactly are the improvements? A few Efficiency Savings I agree, but what exactly has improved in leaps and bounds?

With crime up, and increasing at an alarming rate surely now is the time to reverse the cuts? The problem with that is that more than 600 Police Stations have been sold off to help offset the cuts, plus to recruit and train 20,000+ officers would take an eternity. It could possibly take decades to put right the damage.

Police Reform? Is it working? Has it improved anything? Is the Police Service staffed at an appropriate level for the challenges of the coming years? Is that the second part of the Great Lie?

Then, just when I thought it was safe to put my quill down, that man Winsor reared his ugly head again.

i made the mistake of looking at the PEEL Inspection Report for the Metropolitan Police, and I wish I hadn’t. Even MORE cuts are planned up to 2021.

Just over 5,000 Police Staff by 2021? Really? That few?

A look at 3 other, not quite random, Forces shows the following

Dyfed Powys

Greater Manchester

and West Midlands

It seems that further cuts to Police Officers over the next four years is not inevitable for all Forces, but certainly for some, and Police Staff are at risk of becoming an Endangered Species in some, or possibly even all.

Finally, and just for the giggles, the Met has come up with something called the One Met Model.  The Met have produced a lovely 44 page booklet, and you don’t have to go very far into it before the Buzzword Bingo begins

The Met is committed to ensuring all of our people have the information technology
they need to do their jobs. Citizens will be able to use a variety of digital channels to
communicate with us, report crime and carry out routine transactions.

But rest asssured

In all of this, the technology will be intuitive, easy to use and user focused. When buying
new systems, the user will be at the heart of everything.

With that I’ll call it a day.  I for one don’t believe that Crime is Down, I don’t believe that Police Reform is working and for certain Forces, at least, the road ahead remains rocky.  There is a #CrisisInPolicing and Police reform is an unmitigated disaster.  You are of course allowed to think differently, but my mind is made up.  Camoron, May and Winsor have done a hatchet job on the finest Police Service in the world.

Why Theresa May’s Cuts To Policing Are Far WORSE Than They Appear

Since 2010 when the Cameron-led coalition came to power Theresa May has overseen the draconian emasculation of the Police Service.

Formerly as Home Secretary, and latterly as Prime Minister Mrs May has presided over the culling of thousands of Police Officers from England and Wales. From about 143,734 in 2010 she has systematically reduced that number to 123,142 FTE officers according to a 2017 Government Briefing Paper.

A mind boggling reduction of 20,592, and even more have gone since. The figures for September 2017 are not yet available.

Remarkably the Police Services in Scotland and Northern Ireland remained more or less untouched. I can’t begin to think why that might have been. Was it the haranguing Mrs May received at the hands of the Police Federation of England and Wales at Conference, or did it go back further to the arrest of Damian Green and the search of his office and home?

I don’t know the answer to that, but both events could have been influential. Either way, it is concentrated solely on England and Wales.

Much has been made about the Front Line. “We will always protect the Front Line”. In March 2017 there were 105,571 Police Officers in Front Line roles. In March 2010 there were about 125,000 in Front Line roles. The government admits that the total figure had fallen by 14.4%.

So much for Protecting the Front Line eh.

The Home Office and HMIC both like to include in their fancy reports the number of Police Officers per 100,000 head of population. That figure varies wildly between 382 in the Metropolitan Police and in 140 Wiltshire with the average being 186. If this number is important enough to be published, it made me wonder. For each Police Force, how low can that number go before the level becomes unsafe? Somebody must have done that Risk Assessment surely? So I asked the question, of Police and Home Office. Nobody answered me. So I cannot reassure anybody that your coverage is adequate for your safety.

So, if those are cuts that we know about, where are the hidden ones?

Firstly, major incidents such as the Terrorist attacks in London and Manchester create a large number of re-rostered Rest Days that have to be taken off further down the line, or vast amounts of normal overtime created by extended tours of duty. The already depleted Front Line is further thinned out by officers taking the Rest Day that is owed them or their time off in lieu. End result, even fewer officers on the Front Line for X number of days.

Sickness. The severity of the cuts combined with a demonstrably increased workload has increased the stress suffered by officers trying to cope with their allocated workload. Junior Detectives seem particularly vulnerable, but not exclusively. The increasing number of knife-related murders (amongst others) also means that the Major Incident Teams are being stretched to their limits.

Injury. The reduced numbers on the Front Line have led to a truly alarming increase in really violent assaults. Some of them have suffered some really nasty injuries that have resulted in them being off sick for extended periods, again reducing the resilience of the Front Line.

Whilst not directly attributable, I am hearing some horror stories about Fleet sizes being reduced. I fully agree that fewer officers need fewer vehicles but reductions should be in proportion. A reduced fleet means fewer ‘spare’ vehicles for when vehicles break down (and they do) or are damaged by the ‘bad guys’ (and they are). Fewer vehicles on patrol means increased response times when an officer requires assistance and increased risk of injury and subsequent absence from duty. Even time spent in A&E or waiting to be seen by a Police doctor is time that the officer is not fulfilling his/her duties. A problem made worse by the cuts.

Police Stations. Over 600 Police Stations have been closed and sold off. Custody Suites have been ‘rationalised’ (reduced) and officers now spend more time driving to Custody Suites that may no longer be in their own local Policing area. Is that efficiency? Really?

Police Staff. Whilst their role is not even remotely identical to the officers, it is just as vital. They too have suffered cuts resulting in some of the associated problems listed above.

Crime is down (no it isn’t). Police Reform is working (really? It is? I have yet to see proof of that).

Now we find ourselves at a stage where some Forces are recruiting unpaid, unqualified ‘volunteers’ to conduct some rôles. Direct Entry Detectives are being used in some places, bypassing the traditional route involving Probation after Initial Training until 2 years service. Now one can enter the CID immediately following basic training in some Forces. A good idea? Hmmmm.

Police Officers were #CryingWolf. No they weren’t, the problems are here, and visible to anybody who knows where to look. They have even been noticed by a few Conservative MPs who forgot what the script was and complained about lack of access to ‘the Police’ when they felt they needed it.

In short, there is a #CrisisInPolicing and collectively these cuts and ‘reforms’ will take generations to put right. Work harder, work smarter is no longer applicable. It has been worn out. There are only so many opportunities to work smarter.

The time is long overdue for all members of the National Police Chiefs Council to speak out with one voice, and make it abundantly clear what can no longer be done under the cuts.

Project Athena – Nearly There

Apologies to those of you that aren’t affected by Athena, but I do think it’s important for the nine participating Forces and their Council Tax payers.  Apart from naughty Kent all Forces have now answered my questions, so we’ll see what I can make of it.

I asked all 9 Forces the same questions

1) Could you please tell me the total cost to date to xxxxxx Police of joining Project Athena?

2) Could you please tell me the cost for this Financial Year (alternatively the total number of hours) of overtime incurred by Police Officers in relation to file preparation etc for Project Athena?

Some were more successful than others.

In no particular order;

For West Mercia and Warwickshire Combo the response was

The implementation of Athena has resulted in West Mercia Police and
Warwickshire Police force Alliance investment costs to date of £4.423m.
This represents the one-off costs from both capital and revenue.

The overtime cost to date for this financial year 2017/18 is £127,205.

The initial cost for the original 7 Forces was £32 Million over a period of 10 years.  I’m no expert but the best part of £4 and a half Million so far for West Mercia and Warwickshire seems a little steep and possibly indicares a bit of creep ahead, but we’ll have to see.  £127,205 is surely a scandalous figure for overtime costs on a system designed to be more efficient and save money.  It does tend to corroborate all those stories I’ve been hearing about officers in West Mercia taking an absolute age to complete a simpe file on Athena.  But who knows, seven more Forces to look at yet.

Next comes Bedfordshire, their response was

1) The total spent by Bedfordshire Police on Project Athena is £1,279,000.

2) We do not hold any information relating to overtime for Project Athena.

One and a quarter Million £ doesn’t seem too bad at first glance, quite reasonable probably, but not knowing how much it has cost them in Overtime Costs?  The Auditors won’t like that.  How can anything be fully costed?

Next comes the Norfolk/Suffolk combo, their response was

1) Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies Athena capital costs, excluding forecast capital costs, are
currently £4,116,086.

The Constabularies Athena revenue costs, excluding forecast revenue costs, are currently
£2,427,245.

2) The Constabularies do not maintain records concerning overtime incurred specifically in
relation to Project Athena. Such costs will be embedded within overall overtime budgets, which
cannot be broken down to identify individual costings

Six and a half £Million on Athena so far.  Reasonable?  I’ve long since lost track of the cost oif IT but it sounds like it’s getting expensive to me.  Two more Forces that don’t cost their Overtime costs for Project Athena.  That can’t be right surely?  It certainly isn’t efficient, and again, I’m sure the Auditors would want to know.

Then we get to Cambridgeshire, their response was

1) Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s cost to date is £1,619,616.

2) The cost of Police Officers overtime is £473.73.

Just over 1 and a half £Million is probably about right for a small county like Cambridgeshire, and they have been hugely fortunate with Overtime costs of only £473.73.

Next one along is a large County Force, Hertfordshire.  Their response was

1) The total spend by Hertfordshire Constabulary on Project Athena is £5,276,000.

2) We do not hold any information relating to overtime for Project Athena.

5 and a quarter Million £ does seem quite high, but Hertfordshire is a large Force.  Who knows?

Finally (Apart from errant Kent) was Essex.  With a little bit of prodding they have provided me with the most comprehensive figures relating to Project Athena, but the least clarity.  HOWEVER, their documentation did include a very illuminating paragraph on the background of Project Athena.

As for costing it, over the past few years, they usefully provided a breakdown of costs and how much the each Forece’s share of it is alleged to be.  I must say their figures, at first glance, don’t seem to match up with those provided by individual Forces.

Cost of Project Athena 2013-14

Cost of Project Athena 2014-15

Cost of Project Athena 2015-16

Cost of Project Athena 2015-16

Cost of Project Athena 2016-17

Cost of Project Athena 2016-17

Looking on the bright side, Essex has only incurred 6 hours, £146, of Overtime costs relating to Project Athena.

The AMO referred to above is the Athena Management Organisation, the cost of which is not included in the quoted £32 Million over 10 years.

Sadly, for all of us, it seems like we will have to wait until 2023 to see whether it comes in on budget or not, and whether it ends up being ‘national’, as was envisaged.

In the meantime here’s a little reminder of what the users think of it.

And here’s some comments on Athena from a previous post:-

  • Safe to say I’d heard bad things about Athena before West Mercia decided they would implement this excellent **its not excellent, it’s awful** bit of kit.
  • We don’t actually have it yet because of all the bugs etc that have been ongoing throughout fits inception. We were trained 2 years ago in a 3 day session involving forcing other teams to work 12 hour shifts to cover our time off. This will happen again in the new year when we have to be trained again due to how long ago the training was with no usage time.
  • Athena doesn’t interlink with notification systems for social services, DV units or child services etc so whereas the old CRIMES system West Mercia used for years would send automatic messages to relevant departments to make them aware of incidents in their remit, Athena won’t. It falls to the individual officer (who by the way has to input the whole crime report themselves rather than calling a crime desk full of knowledgeable data inputters) and then manually send messages or emails to the other departments .. of course officers will not always know what needs to go to whom .. especially at 3am in the morning because previously it was done automatically … You can see the opportunity for major disaster when something gets forgotten
  • Suffolk have had Athena for a while now. In the first few weeks it was plagued with issues. People physically cried after losing lots of work repeatedly. I have to say though, a year and a half on, I am so pleased we have switched to Athena.
  • Custody practically ground to a halt, it took so long. Weekly ‘Gold’ meetings because of all the problems. Officers just bursting into tears of frustration. Everything taking much much longer than the old way.

Good, Bad or Indifferent?  Value For Money? The Way Forward? Suitable for National Roll Out? You decide.

 

Ambulance Waiting Times

A change of subject today, but another topic very close to my heart.

Did you know that hospitals can be fined £200 for every patient that is kept waiting in an Ambulance at A&E for between 30 minutes and 1 hour?

It gets worse, if kept waiting for over an hour that fine can increase to £1,000.

Why are patients left waiting in an Ambulance once they have arrived at A&E? There is only one answer, government cuts.

I am not bashing the NHS, A&E or the Ambulance/Paramedic Service, I am laying the blame squarely at the door of Central Government, and it has been going on for several years.

Government cuts have led to fewer doctors, fewer nurses, bed-blocking (Local Authorities cannot accept patients being discharged from hospital to a Care Home etc due to their budgets being cut by government and this has a knock-on effect).

Hospitals are struggling financially because of the government cuts, and their situation is being made many times worse by being fined for failing to perform at the required level because of government cuts. The hospitals have less money, then they get fined and ‘robbed’ of some of the little money they did have.

In 2013, collectively, hospitals were fined £44 Million for patients kept waiting in Ambulances. In 2017 one hospital alone was fined £300,000 over a nine month period. Just think what these monies could achieve if spent on patients, instead of being lost in arbitrary ‘fines’.

Doctors, Nurses, Ambulance Drivers, Paramedics, virtually ALL Healthcare Professionals, exist to provide a world class service to their patients. They are hampered in doing this by the government cuts and then have even more money taken away from them because they have failed to meet their targets.

Well done Mr Hunt, I hope that you can sleep at night.

#CutsHaveConsequences in the NHS also.

Senior Met Police Officer Awarded Knighthood For Successfully Arresting Fewer People

Like many of you I noticed that Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey had been awarded a Knighthood in the New Years Honours List. Like a few of you I actually thought “what the **** did he get that for?”

Now I know the answer. This morning I stumbled upon this

Met Police Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey has been made a knight for services to policing.

In a citation he is commended for reducing stop and search by 70 per cent while doubling the arrest rate and overseeing a dramatic improvement in the recruitment of officers from ethnic minority backgrounds.

To say that I was shocked is an understatement.

Back in May 2017 I wrote a piece entitled

A Scoop For George Osborne – R.I.P. Stop And Search

The reason I wrote it, at the time, had naff all to do with (Sir) Craig Mackey, but more to do with a set of Stop and Search statistics issued by the Mayor of London’s office. Nobody is going to offer me a Knighthood so I can’t be arsed to bring the stats up to date but I don’t suppose the current stats are very different to those forming the basis of a Knighthood.

If you look at the above graph, the arrest rate has more than doubled from 8.3% to 19%. Brilliant? No?

Well actually no.

At the beginning of his graph 8.3% of 533,427 people stopped were getting arrested.  This means that 44,274 people stopped were getting arrested.  Fast Forward to 19% of 160,694 people arrested as a result of “better”, “more intelligence led” application of Stop and Search.  It seems like we’re doing SOOOOOOO much better. In reality those figures show that the Met arrested only 30,532 people, almost 33% FEWER

I won’t challenge the 70%, I’ll give him that, but I do think the stats above represent a reduction in Stop and Search of about 70% over the rolling 12 month period. However, a doubling of the arrest rate? No, I’m not having that. 33% fewer people were arrested over the identical period. To state that the arrest rate was doubled is just a cynical manipulation of the stats. Surely the Public at Large would rather have more prisoners in the Custody Suite than juggle with percentages. Smoke and Mirrors.

Stop and Search is Dead, RIP Stop and Search .  Theresa May should hang her head in shame, she is personally responsible for this latest trend.  Amber Rudd has done nothing, I think literally nothing. I can’t remember her most significant contribution, and NPCC have done little or nothing to challenge Mrs May or her successor on it.

So, ultimately, the Deputy Commissioner was actually awarded a Knighthood for producing an outcome desired by Mrs May, reducing Stop and Search by 70% and reducing clutter in the Custody Suites at the same time, but do not pretend to have doubled the arrest rates.

London Knife-Related Deaths Up 60%

Happy New Year. There’s a rather chilling post title for you. Not my figures, for once I am relying on our infallible news media.

Apparently, in London, in 2017, there were 80 fatalities due to stabbings etc. Again, according to our news friends, this is an increase from 50 in 2016. Unlike the BBC news reader this morning who portrayed this as an increase of 30%, my ancient abacus calculates this as an increase of 60%.

In response to this shocking storyline well-respected Policing Commentator, former DCI, Peter Kirkham was interviewed last night on Sky News.

Theresa May has blood on her hands.

There is Institutional Racism at the heart of this government.

Just two of the headline-grabbers from the above piece, but both are 100% accurate. Peter put his points across in an excellent manner, leaving nobody in any doubt where the blame actually lies.

As Home Secretary, and latterly Prime Minister, Theresa May has presided over the deconstruction and total emasculation of the Police Service, the dying throes of Stop and Search and the total inability for the modern-day ‘reformed’ Police Service to conduct any proactive or disruptive operations against the (mainly) gangs.

I will not apologise for banging on about the Knife Angel. Having seen it, touched it and met the sculptor, plus the man behind the campaign, there cannot be a much more powerful image.

It is huge.

For a man who pledges to take Knife Crime seriously, I am still waiting for the Mayor of London to explain why it can’t stand atop the 4th plinth. If we can have a huge “Thumb” why not the National Monument Against Violence And Aggression?

If you are not familiar with the monument you can read it’s story here.

Thumb or Angel?

“I will be open and transparent in how decisions are made and how tax payer’s money is spent”

“I will be open and transparent in how decisions are made and how tax payer’s money is spent” – these are the words of Mr John Campion, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia. This was his promise when he was campaigning to be be elected PCC.

Time has moved on, he is now the successfully elected Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia. His official website now contains the following:-

As your Commissioner I will:

Be open and transparent in all the decisions and appointments I make and in the way I hold the Chief Constable to account

Be under no illusions, this is clearly a man who is going to be open and transparent with his Public.

18 months or so down the line since his success in the elections and we have the controversial sale of Registration Mark AB1. I have already written about this here and here.

Under the terms of the FOIA I requested the following from the PCC

Copies of Minutes of any Meeting where the sale of AB1 was proposed or discussed (redacted if appropriate) including the very first proposal to sell it.

His response was this

There are no copies of minutes or any other documents regarding the first proposal to sell AB1. Decision Notice 8 implicitly incorporates the recommendation to sell with the recommendation to accept the offer.

Very open and transparent I must say. I can only say that I am really glad that I will never have to rely on Decision Notice 8 as my Original Notes in any Civil or Criminal Court proceedings as it is seriously lacking as a document to rely upon when giving evidence. PLUS, am I really supposed to believe that in the process of making the decision to sell off some of the ‘family silver’ no meetings were held to discuss it, no notes of any discussions were written down, in short there is NO written record of anything until Decision Notice 8 records the decision to accept £160,000.

Is THAT ‘Open and Transparent’?

I also asked for

Copies of any documents including, but not limited to, any correspondence concerning the monetary value of the VRM, any letters or emails between OPCC/PCC/HEO and the successful purchaser.

Copies of any other documents or emails, not specifically requested previously, that contain reference to the sale of AB1 and have not been previously included in a Disclosure Log.

The PCC’s response to these requests was:-

The documents and correspondence concerning the monetary value of the VRN and copies of emails between the OPCC/PCC/HEO and the successful purchase are exempt from disclosure under Section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act – Commercial Interests.

The copies of any other documents not specifically requested previously that contain reference to the sale of AB1 and not previously included in the Disclosure Log are all exempt from disclosure under either Section 43(2) – Commercial Interests, Section 42(1) – Legal Professional privilege, Section 33(2) – Audit Functions or Section 22(1) – Information held with a view to its publication at a future date, which has all since been published.

An assortment of reasons why the information I requested should not be disclosed. Open and Transparent?

So I requested a Review of their (lack of a) response.

In your response you have referred me to Decision Notice 8. At the bottom of Decision Notice 8 (a document signed by both the PCC and the Chief Executive, entitled PUBLIC ACCESS TO INFORMATION. Within this section it states that any information that cannot be made available automatically on request are included in a Part 2 Report. It then categorically states that THERE IS NO PART 2 REPORT. On the basis of this statement I request that you conduct an Internal Review into your response to my request.

Their response to this was:-

As per your request dated 2nd December 2017, I have reviewed the handling of your Freedom of Information request regarding the sale of the vehicle registration ‘AB1’, with specific reference to the information published in decision notice PCC/D/2017/08.

Every decision notice on the PCC’s website makes reference to public access to information and the potential for a ‘part two report’. In this instance, the notice correctly indicates that no part two report was completed for PCC/D/2017/08, as it was not deemed necessary. This is common practice for decision notices, as can be verified on the PCC’s website.

This does not mean the information you requested does not exist, but it does not form part of the formal decision notice and is exempt from publication for the reasons stated in our previous correspondence.

As such, the previous response you received to your request was correct and appropriate.

And this response from an un-named ‘FOI Officer’ in an unsigned letter

So, there we have it, a completely Open and Transparent account of all the relevant decisions behind the sale of VRM AB1.

A cynical person might think that something was being covered up but I can’t believe that, the PCC has pledged to be Open and Transparent.

Above, in its entirety, is reproduced Decision Notice 8/2017. This appears to be the only document that has been Openly and Transparently disclosed, and is the only publicly available document that records the ‘entire’ decision-making process re the sale of VRM AB1.

Open and Transparent? Commercially and Legally Sensitive? Is that appropriate? You decide.

Openness And Transparency (The Continuing Tale Of AB1)

On West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion’s official website there is an item entitled A Reformed West Mercia.

The second sentence reads

I will be open and transparent in how decisions are made and how tax payer’s money is spent.

So I was confident that the full story behind the sale of Registration Mark AB1 would be forthcoming from the office of the PCC. So, armed with my trusty quill I made the following Freedom of Information request to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia Police, confident that ‘openness and transparency’ would rule the day and that the information would be forthcoming;

In relation to the sale of Vehicle Registration Mark AB1 could you please supply me with the following:-

Copies of Minutes of any Meeting where the sale of AB1 was proposed or discussed (redacted if appropriate) including the very first proposal to sell it. I have yet to locate in the Disclosure Log any document containing the original proposal to sell it and ensuing discussion. Decision Notice 8 only records the decision to accept the offer of £160,000, specifically NOT the Decision to sell the VRM.

Copies of any documents including, but not limited to, any correspondence concerning the monetary value of the VRM, any letters or emails between OPCC/PCC/HEO and the successful purchaser

Copies of any other documents or emails, not specifically requested previously, that contain reference to the sale of AB1 and have not been previously included in a Disclosure Log

Some 4-5 weeks later it became apparent that my request had ‘got lost’ despite having received an email acknowledgement that it had been received. The Chief Executive invited me to resubmit it, which I duly did. I have now received the PCC’s response.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin;

a) Copies of Minutes of any Meeting where the sale of AB1 was proposed or discussed (redacted if appropriate) including the very first proposal to sell it. I have yet to locate in the Disclosure Log any document containing the original proposal to sell it and ensuing discussion. Decision Notice 8 only records the decision to accept the offer of £160,000, specifically NOT the Decision to sell the VRM.

The answer to this was:-

There are no copies of minutes or any other documents regarding the first proposal to sell AB1. Decision Notice 8 implicitly incorporates the recommendation to sell with the recommendation to accept the offer

b) Copies of any documents including, but not limited to, any correspondence concerning the monetary value of the VRM, any letters or emails between OPCC/PCC/HEO and the successful purchaser

The answer to this was:-

The documents and correspondence concerning the monetary value of the VRN and copies of emails between the OPCC/PCC/HEO and the successful purchase are exempt from disclosure under Section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act – Commercial Interests.

And finally

c) Copies of any other documents or emails, not specifically requested previously, that contain reference to the sale of AB1 and have not been previously included in a Disclosure Log

The response to this was

The copies of any other documents not specifically requested previously that contain reference to the sale of AB1 and not previously included in the Disclosure Log are all exempt from disclosure under either Section 43(2) – Commercial Interests, Section 42(1) – Legal Professional privilege, Section 33(2) – Audit Functions or Section 22(1) – Information held with a view to its publication at a future date, which has all since been published.

In their response to part a) of my request I was referred to Decision Notice 8, which apparently answers a lot of my request.

You can find Decision Notice 8 here

The Executive Summary is exactly that, a very brief summary

There is then a proposal that the mark be sold for a figure of £160k

This proposal is then approved by the PCC, John Campion and signed off. If you refer back to my earlier post on the sale of AB1 you will see that there are allegations that offers in excess of £160k were made but ‘ignored’. The refusal of the PCC to disclose the relevant information makes it difficult, if not impossible, to establish the truth. However, at the bottom of the Decision Notice is the following section;

Surely this section states that any information that cannot be made available on request is recorded in a separate Part 2 report. There is no Part 2 report. Are we to believe that the decision to sell the Registration Mark was arrived at without a single minuted meeting or exchange of emails having taken place? It’s a good job we can rely on transparency.

Surely the absence of a Part 2 report indicates that there is no information that cannot be made available on request.

I feel a request for a Review coming. Put the Information Commissioner on standby.

A Clear Illustration Of How Crime In London Is Falling (Rising)

Much has been made in recent months of Acid Attacks and Moped Crime, not exclusively, but mainly, in London. The media have (rightly in my opinion) made much of it, but nobody seemed to be putting any numbers to the problems. Never one to shirk away from numbers I did some digging.

Acid Attacks

Acid attacks across London are on the increase, from 259 in 2011 to 431 in 2016 with the London Borough of Newham consistently top of the League Table.

For the 2017 Calendar Year there were 149 offences recorded up to 31st May.

Moped Enabled Crime

It’s fair to say that there has been an absolute explosion of ‘Moped Crime’ across London. In 2011 there were a ‘mere’ 365 offences recorded in the Calendar Year, rising dramatically to more than 17,600 in the first 9 months of 2017.

The London Borough of Newham has had a reprieve but the new ‘Super Borough’ of Camden and Islington has taken a right hammering this year.

Two questions immediately come to mind.

  1. How has this crime flourished so dramatically this year without the Home Office getting involved and insisting that something is done, with extra funding being being made available to tackle this extraordinary rise in crime?
  2. Why is it that whenever the Metropolitan Police use clearly defined, and approved, tactics to try and deal with the problem they are lambasted by Press, Armchair Experts and even the occasional politician? Talk about a No Win Situation.

In the background we have the omni-present Tory Mantra so beloved of Theresa May, Amber Rudd and Damian Wassisname telling us that Crime Is Down.

Well, is it?

Don’t just take the word of a dinosaur, the figures above have been extracted from the Met’s Crime Recording system, CRIS. I haven’t even retyped them. Official figures.

And this monstrous explosion of certain crimes has all taken place under the guardianship of the Conservative Party.

They have no right to call themselves the Party of Law and Order. They are a disgrace, spouting out that same old cracked record trying to assure us that all is well.

Is it?

If any other Party had presided over a ‘decrease’ in crime from 365 to (probably) almost 20,000 annually the Tories would be baying for blood.

Surely it is time for the gloves to come off the Metropolitan Police Service and witness the rebirth of the Metropolitan Police Force? The Met is full of lads and lasses perfectly willing to tackle this explosion, but their morale has been shattered by the Cuts, threatened job losses, and fear that the IPCC will be on their backs if poor Johnny were to fall off his moped.

What say you?

Project Athena – The (First) Update

A short while ago I posted a blog about Project Athena. This is a computerised system currently across 9 Forces for intelligence and investigation management, file preparation etc etc. A full list of its ‘advantages and capabilities’ can be found here. If it works.

I also posted a poll on Twitter asking what current users thought of it. I asked Was it a) Very Good, b) Better than the old system, c) Bad or d) Very Bad.

Well the results are in. I didn’t get a huge response, but I did get one. If you missed it and would like to answer the question, just leave me a comment or a tweet and I will update the results and publish them again.

Here are the initial results

An overwhelming win for Bad/Very Bad don’t you think?

If you check the comments on the original post you will see, to be fair, that there were one or two favourable comments but most slated it.

Two of the proclaimed benefits of Athena are Shared Costs, and a Fully Integrated System with no Double Keying. A total cost of £32 Million over 10 years is the original cost quoted but cynical old me thinks that price will swell significantly. I have also heard some right horror stories about how time-consuming entering anything on Athena can be.

With these two concerns in mind I sent all of the Forces contributing to Athena identical Freedom of Information requests.

Could you please tell me the total cost to date to xxxxxxxxxxx Police of joining Project Athena?

Could you please tell me the cost for this Financial Year (alternatively the total number of hours) of overtime incurred by Police Officers in relation to file preparation etc for Project Athena?

Today I received responses from 7 out of 9 Police Forces using Project Athena. Hmmm, all on the same day? Very unusual.

More unusual was the fact that they had all sent me virtually identical responses;

I can confirm that xxxxxxxxx Police does hold information relating to your

request but in this case we have not yet reached a decision on where the

balance of the public interest lies in respect of disclosure of the

information requested. We estimate that it will take an additional 20 days

to take a decision on where this balance lies. Therefore, we plan to let

you have a response by the 6th December 2017. If it appears that it will take longer than this to reach a conclusion, you will be kept informed.

All I can think is that it’s a good job that the Forces aren’t in touch with each other or they could be making sure that they all give the same reason for refusing my request.

Please be assured that this will not be my final post on Project Athena, and I can’t believe that there aren’t better, cheaper and well-established programs out there, but I do accept that I’m out of the loop and IT has allegedly come on in leaps and bounds since I retired.

Hey ho, any comments and opinions on Athena are always welcome.