What On Earth Is Going On Here?

The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things……

Well, this old walrus is only going to speak about one thing today, and it’s something that is bothering me, but fear not, the truth is out there somewhere.  I may have missed this, you may all know about it.  I didn’t know about it until one of our number sent me a document which enlightened me.  This document (dated in May this year) is not yet in the public domain as far as I know.  I have Googled it several ways but come up empty.  What I have been able to do though is identify other information and anecdotal evidence which IS in the public domain that tends to confirm the information contained within this document.  Needless to say I have already submitted a FOI request in an attempt to flush out this document or the information contained within it.

The facts of the matter are these:-

  • In 2005 Cheshire Constabulary entered into a PFI agreement with a private consortium to supply Custody Services and certain Transport functions e.g. transporting prisoners to/from Custody.
  • Said consortium built 3 Custody Centres at Chester, Middlewich and Runcorn
  • This contract was to run for 25 or 30 years, dependent upon which document you read, but the difference is actually irrelevant
  • In early 2006 the 3 Custody Centres opened for business and a number of Police Staff were TUPEd across to the new consortium.
  • The private consortium not only built the Custody Centres but they supplied everything including, apparently,  doctors and nurses.
  • Written into the contract was a provision for reviewing the arrangements at 5 yearly intervals.
  • In May 2009 the contract was terminated by mutual agreement.
  • The system was generally thought to work quite well by those on the ground, and some elements of it seem to have been quite popular.
  • The 3 Custody Centres were subsequently bought by Cheshire Police Authority and the 53 civilian Custody staff were TUPEd back and became Police Staff, although some were subsequently made redundant as a cost-cutting measure.

So far you are probably thinking “What’s he making a fuss about?  Nothing wrong with trying something and then putting it back the way it was”

You may be right.  This old walrus may well be over-reacting, but I’ll tell you what I don’t like about this experience and what has left me worried about similar privatisations in the future.

  • The private consortium referred to above was GSL or Global Solutions Limited.
  • Global Solutions Limited was part of Group 4
  • Group 4 became G4S
  • The reasons that the contract was terminated early included GSL’s inability to deliver all of the services that they were contracted to deliver and GSL were not making any/enough money out of the deal.
  • Cheshire Police Federation knew of this situation
  • Unison knew of this situation
  • On 21st January 2008 Policy Exchange published a document entitled Footing The Bill:Reforming The Police Service.
  • On page 36 of their report it says this “GSL has delivered custody services in Cheshire, replacing 11 outdated city centre stations with three new custody suites.  GSL was required to reduce the length of time taken to arrest a suspect. Cheshire police authority also made getting more officers on the beat an explicit goal of using privately run custody centres. GSL was able to deliver on both counts: using specialised software to deploy police vans more efficiently it has saved time and human resources.”
  • This report was authored at a time when it must have been clear to all that GSL were actually failing to deliver.

Those are the facts as best as I can establish them at the moment.

I have submitted a request to Cheshire Police under the #FOI asking these questions

In 2005 Cheshire Police took a decision to outsource their Custody functions to a private company. Subsequently, some or all of those functions were brought back in-house.

Could you please supply me with copies of all of the documents which show the reasons why those functions were originally outsourced, and exactly which services were outsourced?

Could you further supply me with copies of all of the documents which show the reasons why those functions were subsequently brought back in-house.

Finally could you please supply with the identities of all private companies that provided Custody services during that time that they were outsourced?

I doubt I’ll get an answer but there is sufficient information out there to confirm the experience.

The Policy Exchange report also contains the following recommendation which I can’t say I actually disagree with “To extract the full benefits from outsourcing and private partnerships, contracts need to be short term, flexible, accountable through key performance indicators and possibly multi-sourced. The NPIA should, through consultation with financial and consulting services experts, establish a training programme that would ensure police forces are prepared to get the best possible terms from private partnership contracts. Implementing successful outsourcing requires well  trained procurement staff who can deliver top-quality performance. That means investment in procurement and contract management skills.”   What is sad about this is that this advice seems to have gone unheeded.  Lincolnshire Police are locked into a 10 year contract with G4S.  10 years seems like a long time to me, and no mention has been made that I have heard about Review periods for the contract.

All of this has left me with the following questions

  1. Why has Cheshire Police Federation not brought this to public attention in the light of current events?
  2. Why has Unison not brought this to public attention?
  3. G4S under the guise of GSL have previously dabbled a toe in privatisation on the small scale.  They failed.  Why now are they deemed to be an appropriate body to enter into privatisation of police functions on a much larger scale?
  4. Why did Policy Exchange endorse the scheme when it should have been obvious that it was failing?

Finally I will leave you with one last question

Please feel free to enter into this debate by leaving your comments below.  If there is a debate to be had let’s have it.  If this retired and angry old walrus has over-reacted please let me know that too.  One thing is for certain, experience has shown that privatisation of police functions CAN be reversed but I suspect that it is not easy, and probably not a cheap process in the short-term.  We have always suspected that there was no profit to be made by a private company in privatising the police. GSL seems to have demonstrated that quite clearly, but G4S, once again, think they know better and will make it work.  What do you think?

What On Earth Is Going On Here?

The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things……

Well, this old walrus is only going to speak about one thing today, and it’s something that is bothering me, but fear not, the truth is out there somewhere.  I may have missed this, you may all know about it.  I didn’t know about it until one of our number sent me a document which enlightened me.  This document (dated in May this year) is not yet in the public domain as far as I know.  I have Googled it several ways but come up empty.  What I have been able to do though is identify other information and anecdotal evidence which IS in the public domain that tends to confirm the information contained within this document.  Needless to say I have already submitted a FOI request in an attempt to flush out this document or the information contained within it.

The facts of the matter are these:-

  • In 2005 Cheshire Constabulary entered into a PFI agreement with a private consortium to supply Custody Services and certain Transport functions e.g. transporting prisoners to/from Custody.
  • Said consortium built 3 Custody Centres at Chester, Middlewich and Runcorn
  • This contract was to run for 25 or 30 years, dependent upon which document you read, but the difference is actually irrelevant
  • In early 2006 the 3 Custody Centres opened for business and a number of Police Staff were TUPEd across to the new consortium.
  • The private consortium not only built the Custody Centres but they supplied everything including, apparently,  doctors and nurses.
  • Written into the contract was a provision for reviewing the arrangements at 5 yearly intervals.
  • In May 2009 the contract was terminated by mutual agreement.
  • The system was generally thought to work quite well by those on the ground, and some elements of it seem to have been quite popular.
  • The 3 Custody Centres were subsequently bought by Cheshire Police Authority and the 53 civilian Custody staff were TUPEd back and became Police Staff, although some were subsequently made redundant as a cost-cutting measure.

So far you are probably thinking “What’s he making a fuss about?  Nothing wrong with trying something and then putting it back the way it was”

You may be right.  This old walrus may well be over-reacting, but I’ll tell you what I don’t like about this experience and what has left me worried about similar privatisations in the future.

  • The private consortium referred to above was GSL or Global Solutions Limited.
  • Global Solutions Limited was part of Group 4
  • Group 4 became G4S
  • The reasons that the contract was terminated early included GSL’s inability to deliver all of the services that they were contracted to deliver and GSL were not making any/enough money out of the deal.
  • Cheshire Police Federation knew of this situation
  • Unison knew of this situation
  • On 21st January 2008 Policy Exchange published a document entitled Footing The Bill:Reforming The Police Service.
  • On page 36 of their report it says this “GSL has delivered custody services in Cheshire, replacing 11 outdated city centre stations with three new custody suites.  GSL was required to reduce the length of time taken to arrest a suspect. Cheshire police authority also made getting more officers on the beat an explicit goal of using privately run custody centres. GSL was able to deliver on both counts: using specialised software to deploy police vans more efficiently it has saved time and human resources.”
  • This report was authored at a time when it must have been clear to all that GSL were actually failing to deliver.

Those are the facts as best as I can establish them at the moment.

I have submitted a request to Cheshire Police under the #FOI asking these questions

In 2005 Cheshire Police took a decision to outsource their Custody functions to a private company. Subsequently, some or all of those functions were brought back in-house.

Could you please supply me with copies of all of the documents which show the reasons why those functions were originally outsourced, and exactly which services were outsourced?

Could you further supply me with copies of all of the documents which show the reasons why those functions were subsequently brought back in-house.

Finally could you please supply with the identities of all private companies that provided Custody services during that time that they were outsourced?

I doubt I’ll get an answer but there is sufficient information out there to confirm the experience.

The Policy Exchange report also contains the following recommendation which I can’t say I actually disagree with “To extract the full benefits from outsourcing and private partnerships, contracts need to be short term, flexible, accountable through key performance indicators and possibly multi-sourced. The NPIA should, through consultation with financial and consulting services experts, establish a training programme that would ensure police forces are prepared to get the best possible terms from private partnership contracts. Implementing successful outsourcing requires well  trained procurement staff who can deliver top-quality performance. That means investment in procurement and contract management skills.”   What is sad about this is that this advice seems to have gone unheeded.  Lincolnshire Police are locked into a 10 year contract with G4S.  10 years seems like a long time to me, and no mention has been made that I have heard about Review periods for the contract.

All of this has left me with the following questions

  1. Why has Cheshire Police Federation not brought this to public attention in the light of current events?
  2. Why has Unison not brought this to public attention?
  3. G4S under the guise of GSL have previously dabbled a toe in privatisation on the small scale.  They failed.  Why now are they deemed to be an appropriate body to enter into privatisation of police functions on a much larger scale?
  4. Why did Policy Exchange endorse the scheme when it should have been obvious that it was failing?

Finally I will leave you with one last question

Please feel free to enter into this debate by leaving your comments below.  If there is a debate to be had let’s have it.  If this retired and angry old walrus has over-reacted please let me know that too.  One thing is for certain, experience has shown that privatisation of police functions CAN be reversed but I suspect that it is not easy, and probably not a cheap process in the short-term.  We have always suspected that there was no profit to be made by a private company in privatising the police. GSL seems to have demonstrated that quite clearly, but G4S, once again, think they know better and will make it work.  What do you think?

Monsieur Angry’s ‘Oliday

With apologies to Jacques Tati

Well, I don’t know, I take a fortnight’s holiday and the whole world’s gone mad.  First though you have to look at my holiday photos, well not really.  Basically Mrs Angry and I set off on a roadtrip to visit old friends in the area of France where we used to live.  We drove down to the Tarn taking a couple of days to get there, spent 4 lovely days with old friends and neighbours (French) and then had a couple of nights on the Med.  Returning towards home we stopped off at the homes of various ex-pat friends, including a retired Met DI, eventually arriving home some 2,500 miles later.  We tried to drink the wine lake and I did my best to consume every steak in the country but we failed. Tired but happy were we, and then I catch up on this lot:-

Pension Reform

I joined the Met in 1972 on a 30 year contract, it was simple.  Work for 30 years, pay 11% and get a 40/60ths pension at the end of it.  It was an expensive pension, but everyone knew where they were and if one wanted to there was opportunity to start another job at the end of it.  They even brought in the scheme whereby you could retire on Friday and start again on a new contract on Monday, although I never fully understood how that really benefitted anyone other than The Job cos I could get paid 40/60ths just for staying at home, but life was straightforward and everyone knew what their rewards would be and when they could get them.  Indeed, it was entirely possible to retire at 50 years of age and immediately draw a full pension at 40/60ths.  Over the years it got tinkered with, but I can’t recall any significant changes during my service, and those that were introduced were introduced for new entrants, existing members keeping their original entitlements, a system which I see as right and proper.  In 2006 it was significantly (in my view) changed to include such perks as an accrual rate of 1/70ths, 35 years of service before you could draw your pension and then a full pension was equal to only half your final salary.  Already I can see that HMG has been fully committed to protecting the value of your pensions. In 2010 the previous Government did us the honour of switching from RPI to CPI when it comes to inflation-proofing our pensions, a move that I believe, begins to erode their value. Then along comes Mrs May and her Minister for Policing, Nick Herbert, ably assisted by Tom Winsor,  and an announcement that Police Pensions are going to be reformed, but don’t worry, I heard her say, we will negotiate with the Federation.  On only 6th July 2012, Theresa May said this “In common with the reforms that are being developed across public service pension schemes, the Government is committed to ensuring that police pensions are affordable and sustainable for the future. Let me reinforce that police officers should, and will continue to, have access to pension arrangements that are among the very best available.”  On 27th March 2012 Theresa May outlined the Governments proposals for Police Pension Reform

  • An accrual rate of 1/57ths (apparently 5% better than most other public sector schemes)
  • Officers contributions to increase to 13.7%
  • Normal retirement age of 60

Then her and her staff negotiated the very best pension available with the Federation, or maybe she just told them what they were going to get, I’m not sure, but what we ended up with was

  • A pension scheme based on Career Average Earnings and not Final Salary
  • An accrual rate of 1/55.3ths
  • Members contributions of 13.7%
  • A Normal Retirement Age of 60, but the possibility of retiring at a minimum age of 55 with an actuarily reduced pension

So if I have got this correctly ( and I may not have, happy to accept that) you will now work longer i.e. anything up to 40 years, pay more (13.7% of your pay) and get less (pension based on career average not final salary.  Best case scenario to me is work 40 years to get 40/55.3ths of your average salary.  I can immediately see how this is one of the best pensions available, best for the Government, definitely not the member.

In a lot of ways the final Pension Scheme mirrors Lord Hutton’s recommendations, and some of you may think that that was the brief, to come up with a scheme that Lord Hutton had already thought of.  However, there is one recommendation in Lord Hutton’s report that I have been unable to find so far in the new 2012 Police Pension Scheme – Honouring, in full, the pension promises that have been earned by scheme members (their “accrued rights”) and maintaining the final salary link for past service for current members;  maybe it’s in there and I just haven’t seen it yet.

Nick Herbert

So, Nick Herbert has quit the Government.  A sad loss I’m sure you’ll agree.  I have read reports that he was unhappy at not being offered a new job in the Cabinet Reshuffle.  Presumably he thought he was going to be the new Home Secretary and when Mrs May managed to hang on to that role could see no better prospects for his career. He is apparently now keen to “focus on new ideas & protecting countryside” outside of government.  I wish him well, who knows maybe a return to the Policy Exchange might be on the cards as well.

Olympic Medal Ceremony

Apparently whilst I was away some government ministers were booed and heckled at the medal ceremonies of the Paralympics.  Firstly I would say that the performances of all of the athletes competing at the Paralympics is immense and the winners fully deserved their moment on the rostrum, but if government ministers think that the great British public should not show their disapproval of the government’s performance then they need a reality check.  The current Government is incredibly unpopular, second only (probably) the Maggie Thatcher and her government of the day.  They need to recognise that fact and work out how they’re going to deal with it.  So far, it looks like they’re going to ignore it.  Do so at your peril, although akin with previous Tory regimes they will probably be only too happy to lose comfortably at the next General Election.

Judge Peter Bowers

Finally, I could not hang up my quill without commenting on M’Lud Peter Bowers.  How on earth is burgling someone’s home ‘brave’?  Crime and Disorder are big enough problems in society today without sending out messages such as “it’s very brave of you to burgle those houses, so in recognition of that fact I will not be sending to prison”   even the misguided poor soul himself does not think he was being brave ‘I don’t think burglary is a courageous thing to do. I felt awful about it, to be honest, but I can barely remember even doing it. I was on 60 to 70 valium tablets a day at the time.’  60-70 valium per day?  Well, that’s alright then.

Bugger, that was the last straw and I’m now so angry that I have snapped my quill, so until I can afford to buy a new one I will bid you farewell.  If I have made any errors in the Police Pensions paragraph please be gentle with me, I’m far from being an expert on pensions but Mrs Angry has taught me over the years, and on numerous shopping opportunities, how to recognise what is more expensive than the alternative, so blame her if I’ve got it wrong.

Some Quick Updates

Firstly the Warwickshire/G4S Poll results, as at 10:00 today they stood at this (just click on the image to enlarge it)

Still not too late to vote, you can have your say here

Secondly, the Queen’s Half Hour, a subject I know is close to all your hearts.

I have now had a reply of some kind or another from every Force in England and Wales with the notable exception of CUMBRIA.  Let’s name and shame them.  For their information I have now requested a review of their handling of my request because I feel that it has been disgraceful and contemptuous.

15 Forces refused to answer the request quoting cost as their reason for issuing the Refusal Notice.

6 Forces stated that the information was Unavailable for a variety of reasons.

The remaining 27 offered a complete or partial answer sufficient to make some reasonable estimates from.

Based solely on the 27 positive responses the number of (recorded) man-hours that went unpaid last year was nearly 315,000.  Where no precise monetary value has been applied I have used a figure of £15 per hour, but this obviously does not take into account any enhancements that may have been payable.  My best estimate for the monetary value of the unpaid overtime based on returns by just 27 Forces (slightly over half) was £5,094,089.  A realistic estimate including Constables, Sergeants and enhancements is probably not far away from £10,000,000

So now we know the true value of the Queen’s Half Hour.

Finally, I am absolutely gobsmacked to see that The 4 Horsemen of The Apocalype has now been viewed (10:45 today) no fewer than 712 times in 15 different countries around the world.  Let’s just hope that the message gets out that Blair Gibbs and his think tank, Policy Exchange are going to attract some flak if they continue to behave with such appalling arrogance and disregard.

I thank you all for taking the time to read my blogs

The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse

I am grateful to @Shabster66 for bringing this Tweet to my attention:- @Blair_Gibbs: #FF for my talented team @RoryGeo @Edwardmjboyd @kmsosa – together aka ‘Four Horsemen of the #PoliceReform Apocalypse’

Those of you who have got to know me over the past few weeks and months can probably imagine the effect this Tweet had on me whenI saw it.  Apoplectic if not Apocalyptic.  If that isn’t designed to be confrontational and to wind up the Bobby on the Beat then I don’t know what is.  As you may have guessed I Retweeted it with a certain amount of sarcasm and venom, so that you could all see it rather than because I agree with it.  And the I got to thinking,  this could be today’s blog.

So what do we know about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?  How do they fit in with Police Reform?

Some folk would have it that the Four Horsemen are the most powerful entities in the entire universe, more powerful than any monster, Ghost, Demon or Pagan Deity and even more powerful than most Angels.  Does that sound like Blair Gibbs and the Policy Exchange?  Presumably Mr Gibbs thinks it does.

The 4 Horsemen, according to my good old friend Wikipedia, modernly represent Conquest, War, Famine and Death.

So let’s look at them one by one.

The 1st Horseman, Conquest.  Presumably Blair Gibbs and his team already think that the battle is won and he has been victorious in his Conquest of the Old Guard, Police Reform is assured.  The name could also be construed as “Victory,” as per the translation found in the Jerusalem Bible (the Greek words are derived from the verb νικάω, to conquer or vanquish). He carries a bow, and wears a victor’s crown.

The 2nd Horseman, is War, or mass slaughterWell, there’s a wholesale slaughtering of the Police Service on the agenda, so I guess that fit’s in quite well with the Policy Exchange’s vision of the future shape of the Police and his Reform Agenda.  The rider of this horse is dressed and red, carrying a large sword, suggesting that blood is about to be shed.  Mind you, if Mr Gibbs thinks that the war has been won I think he has seriously underestimated public opinion.  More and more people are slowly becoming aware of the potential (and real) consequences of this reform and are beginning to question it.

The 3rd Horseman is Famine.  He rides a black horse and carries a set of scales, but I don’t think he’s meant to be a drug dealer.  Well, Famine could be quite apt if the promised reforms go through with officers’ take home pay in danger of being cut.  In my service there were Police Officers on Benefits and I don’t want to see that again.  This Horseman is the only one that is heard to speak, and said “and see that thou hurt not the oil and the wine“, well you wouldn’t want to kill those two off, the government gets too much tax out of oil and wine to want to see it killed off.

And finally, the 4th Horseman is Death.  Well we’re about to witness the death of the Police Service as we know it if the reformers and the Think Tanks get their way..  This Horseman is commonly depicted carrying a scythe like the Grim Reaper.

I have a sense of humour, not everyone appreciates it, but it’s there.  I didn’t however see the funny side of Blair Gibbs’ Tweet.  But now I can see that #PoliceReform will be Apocalyptic and that the 4 Horsemen are obviously gathering, ready to sweep it through, in the full belief, I assume, that they are the 4 most powerful people in the #PoliceReform process.  I don’t know, it’s just my interpretation of a rather inflammatory Tweet.  Feel free to contribute your own interpretations below.

The Day I Met The Commissioner

Please stop reading now if you’re offended by the occasional F Word.  I promise not to over-do it, but it’s vital to the story.  I do not wish to offend.

Well, to tell the truth I’ve met ‘The Commissioner’ 3 times now.  The first occasion was on August Bank Holiday Monday 1976 during the Notting Hill Carnival riots.  It was a gloriously hot sunny day and my serial had been on duty on ‘Aid’ to Notting Hill for the Carnival since about 8am.  At some time in the afternoon we were dismissed, back to base and go home lads.  Well, we probably got about 5 miles down the road before the radios started squawking and we sent back again.  It seems the wheel was coming off.  We were deployed to form a cordon somewhere in Ladbroke Grove to prevent the local youths, who were now throwing bricks and bottles, from progressing any further.  As we de-bussed, our beloved Inspector received a bottle to the swede and went down, oh dear, we were leaderless.  After fighting a series of running battles, I think it’s fair to say that we lost that year, we were sent to NSY for feeding, always a good sign, you’re not going home any time soon if they’re feeding you.  So there were, what remained of 1,2 and 20 (not very many if I recall, most had been removed to hospital) stood on the ground floor of NSY waiting for the lift doors to open and take us up to the 4th floor for our meal.  A more, rag-tag dishevelled bunch you could not imagine.  Discarded on the floor were all the dustbin lids we had ‘borrowed’ from the residents of Notting Hill to protect ourselves as shields had not been issued in 1976.  Eventually the lift doors opened and as we swept forward to get in out stepped Sir Robert Mark, looking pristine in his lovely posh Commish uniform.  Someone was heard to say “and you can fuck off too mate” and we pushed past him to go for our meal. To his eternal credit, not only did not say a word, but he then went to pay a visit to The Front Line.  I changed my opinion of him slightly that night.  I think I finally got home about 5 in the morning.  A long day.

The second occasion was on the awarding of my Long Service and Undetected Crime Medal.  I should have been presented with this in 1994 after 22 years service, but for some reason which was never explained to us, my intake was given their medals in 1995, a whole year late.  Sir Paul, now Lord Condon of G4S, was now the Commissioner and stood up on the stage reminding everyone gathered what had been happening in the world 22 years previously when we all joined the Job.  I don’t know who wrote his speech for him, but they obviously didn’t twig that he was a whole year out.  Quite pathetic really.

The final occasion was sometime about 1996/7 when we were told that the Commissioner was coming to pay a visit to our unit.  We were given firm instructions that we should all enter and leave our office by the main (front) door and not under any circumstances use the back door.  Stop laughing @Met2Moz, I can hear you!!.  So I was sat at my desk writing up my most recent escapades (probably with my partner, I don’t remember exactly) when there was a knock at the back door.  ‘Fuck Off’ said I, doing what I was told.  A second, slightly louder knock at the door followed, “I’ve told you once, Fuck Off”.  Well, this did no more than prompt a very loud and rather angry sounding knocking on the door.  A tad pee’d off by the lack of understanding by the idiot on the other side of the door, I walked over to the door, opened it and said “If you’re not the Commissioner you’re not coming so Fuck Off”  “Ah, good afternoon Sir, All Correct”.  Yes you’ve guessed it, in front of me was stood an apoplectic Detective Chief Superintendent and a rather amused Commissioner.  He had the grace to laugh, and that was ALMOST the last I heard of it.  Somebody (and I know who you are) sent the details of this charade to Dogberry for publication in the Police magazine, so my embarrassment was complete.  In my defence however, I maintain that as he WAS the Commsioner I didn’t tell him to Fuck Off.  And I kept my job, so it wasn’t all bad.