David (Warwickshire) Vs Goliath (West Mercia)

Forget #Brexit, this is much closer to home and just as gripping to some of us.

Before I go any further, beacuase I’m a fair kind of person, I must point out the collaboration between Warwickshire and West Mercia Police Forces came into being in 2012, the present encumbent in West Mercia, my old adversary John Campion, has only been in post since 2016.  He had no say whatsoever in the planning and setting up of the colloboration between the 2 Forces.

Right, that’s got the civilities out of the way, let’s begin.

It would appear that Conservative PCC John Campion has decided to end the Strategic Alliance with Warwickshire, without Warwickshire actually agreeing to it.

Chief Constable Martin Jelley of Warwickshire said

Our two forces entered into a strategic alliance in 2012 which has been recognised nationally for the extensive nature of its collaboration and has demonstrated significant benefits from shared working.


In fact, it has allowed both forces to save more than £35million and maximise resources to Frontline Policing? Excellent, what could be wrong with that.

Save more than £35 Million?  Has to be good.  Maximise resources for Front Line Policing?  An excellent plan.  What could possibly go wrong?

The alliance between Mr Campion and his own Chief Constable is what could possibly go wrong.

As a Council Tax payer contributing to West Mercia’s coffers I have been shocked and appalled by some of the decisions and policies coming from the penthouse suite at Force HQ.

They include (and please feel free to add others in the comments below or email them to me and I will add them anonymised)

  • Withdrawal from the Central Motorway Police Group
  • Sale of VRM AB1, possibly at lower than best market value.
  • Closure of many operational Police Stations leaving (I believe) just one Charging Centre per County serving Shropshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, 3 quite large counties)
  • Project Athena, an IT system so frail and flawed it seems worse than some of the antiquated systes in use prior to my retirement. I can think of at least 2 IT systems from my era that could have been brought up to date and function better than Athena.
  • Failing to acknowledge the ‘experience gap’ in the West Mercia caused directly by Conservative cuts since 2010, merely pledging to recruit extra brand new officers.
  • The current ‘divorce’ between West mercia and Warwickshire.

In relation to Athena, I asked the question of West Mercia

1) Could you please tell me the total cost to date to West Mercia and Warwickshire 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?

The response I received 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 indicates 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.

In relation to AB1 I submitted the following FOI to Mr Campion

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

His response?

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 now we have the best of all, the ‘divorce’ and breaking up of the collaboration that was meant to save £35 Million.

A Freedom of Information Request submitted to West mercia PCC by A N Other, asking for the cost of the breakup was met with this response

There is currently no total estimated cost for ending the two force
alliance.

Well, in my humble opinion that is nowhere near good enough.  Mr Campion is controlling a huge budget, he has already increased the Council Tax Precept for Policing, West Mercia covers 3 large counties in rural England and he is publicly accountable for his budgets and decisions.  There seems to be an emerging pattern, common to Conservatives everywhere in Public Office, that they don’t have to do Risk and Impact Assessments, then they can’t be held up as getting it wrong.

In fairness, Mr Campion did record this monumental decision in a publicly available format (for what it’s worth), enjoy (Please note it comprises 4 pages, just use the arrow at the bottom for Next Page)

26-Record-of-Decision-Ending-of-Strategic-Alliance-with-Warwickshire-Police

Now for the really boring bit, this would never had happened if I had been the West Mercia PCC, but Mr Camoron made damn sure that I (and many other Independeent candidates) hastily withdrew from the elections when he craftily increased the deposit payable by all candidates from £500 to £5000, which he did not apply to any other elections, just the PCC elections. Short of remortgaging Angry Towers, that well and truly saw me off without the might of a large, powerful political party behind me and the personal support of Theresa May I was toast.  Surprisingly (well I thought so anyway) Mr Campion didn’t even want to short-list me as an applicant to be his Deputy, but that’s another story entirely.

In conclusion, as a resident of West Mercia, who pays their Council tax (on time as well), takes an interest in the local Constabulary and their problems and interractions with their public I am appalled that such a decisision has been taken by Mr Campion.  I fully understand the anxst of the Warwickshire PCC and Chief Constable.  I truly do not understand how this will benefit ANYBODY, either side of the Alliance.  I can only hope that the people who did vote for him can live with that decision and tolerate the potential damage that will be done to Public Safety if this reckless proposal eventually goes ahead. But what do I know?

An Open Letter to the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner

Dear Mr Campion,

You have been the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner for several years now, and as you know the world of Policing has suffered some savage cuts brought about, mainly, by Mrs Theresa May. ince 2010. Policing as a whole has lost approximately 21,000 officers in total across England and Wales. How does that affect West Mercia I wondered. Unfortunately there is no published data prior to 2012, but below is a diagramatic representation of what Mrs May’s cuts have meant to the corporate experience of West Mercia Police.

It is immediately obvious that the band which held most of your experience, the 5-10 years service officers, have been savagely cut from 599 in 2012 to a mere 115 in 2019 (31st March). With the exception of the 30+ band, your band with the most experienced officers in it is now the band with with the fewest officers in it, a reduction of approx 80%.

As time goes by, over the next 10-20 years that band will simply move to the right across the chart meaning that there will be very few officers within your Force with any significant eperience, the left hand side of the chart being populated by Recruits and Probationary Constables. This will presumably cause problems within your Force going forwards when it comes to Specialist Employments and Squads etc. The ‘experienced’ officers staffing Major Incident Teams will be no more, will have retired, and been replaced from within the mere 115 officers currently with 5-10 years service.

Boris Johnson’s planned uplift of 20,000 officers will not help to ease the situation because the Service will lose approx 21,000-22,000 officers in the next 3 years due to Retirements and Resignations. If he means 20,000 EXTRA officers, how will we train them all, particularly in the light of the College of Policing’s Graduate Entry Scheme? Where will we put them all as approx 650 operational Police Stations have been closed down, including some in West Mercia.

Inter-Force transfers would help alleviate the problem, but is that really realistic on that scale?

I can only conclude that Mrs May’s cuts have done deep and irreparable damage to the Police Service of England and Wales and that West Mercia Police is a major casualty in that.

Do you actually have any plans that will tackle the lack of experience within your Force, rather than merely boosting the numbers with raw recruits? The College of Policing’s PFEQ policy will probably not boost numbers sufficiently and certainly will not bring experience, or do you not believe that experience is essential?

PCC’s Response

campion1

My Reply

Reply-to-PCC-Campion-Abbr

Police Car AB1 – A Slight Reprise

My good friend Dr Ben (not 😂😂) recently suggested that I should go away and write another blog about car registration plates, so I have, not just to please Dr Ben but to highlight a potential concern.

I have previously made a request of the West Mercia PCC to obtain copies of the decision about the sale of the index mark. That didn’t end well.

The sorry tale surrounding the sale can be found here, but it appears that the VRM was sold for £160,000 despite one interested party allegedly making an offer of nearly double that figure.

Today I received a tip-off that the Index Mark has changed hands again, and is now displayed on a new motor

Hmm. I have no idea who owns the Roller, I have no way of finding out, and I cannot find any public record of its subsequent sale.

Neither do I have any idea what the result of the complaint to IPCC was, but I can probably guess.

I just hope that it didn’t change hands for significantly more than £160k or yet again it means that the public purse has missed out due to potential profiteering. Or it may still be with the original purchaser, just proudly displayed on a Roller now.

It’s much easier when everything is transparent.

Politically Affiliated PCCs – A Great Idea (Or Not)

Much has been said about PCCs in general, and by a certain section of the population, about politically affiliated PCCs.  Opinion is divided about PCCs, do we need them? Are they Value For Money? Well something has to take the place of the now-defunct Police Authorities but the fact that many PCCs are firmly affiliated to Political Parties causes me, and many others, grave concerns.  My last post concerned one such PCC, and so will this one.

The latest PCC story to come across my desk at Angry Towers, involves the North Yorkshire PCC,  Julia Mulligan, and her Deputy, Mr Will Naylor. Mrs Mulligan was re-elected last year, and Mr Naylor was previously her Chief of Staff. Prior to becoming PCC Mrs Mulligan has stood for Parliament, been a District Councillor and now represents the Conservative party as PCC.  It may be fair to call her a Politician.

Personally I firmly believe that Party Politics has no rôle in any aspect of Policing but we are saddled with the system that Theresa May, as Home Secretary, has blessed us with.

In 2016 North Yorkshire District Council decided to approve the practice commonly known as ‘Fracking’ in Ryedale.  Many people were opposed to this for a variety of reasons, not least for the impact this may have on North Yorkshire Police’s budget.  In response Mrs Mulligan had this to say to calm the fears of the tax-payers of North Yorkshire:-

“There is a positive duty on North Yorkshire Police to facilitate lawful and peaceful protests, with fracking being absolutely no different, and I do not expect any resourcing issues as a result of the County Council’s decision. North Yorkshire Police has the necessary contingencies and budgets in place to ensure the force is well able to deal with such events in the calm and professional manner you would expect, ensuring any impact on local residents is kept to a minimum.

“Above and beyond our usual budgeting there are also reserves earmarked for any unplanned Major Incidents, as well as a general reserve which is there for any eventuality. I firmly believe however that any lawful and peaceful protest will be facilitated by the police as usual, keeping costs to a minimum. In the worst case, there is the option to apply to the Home Office for financial support should the costs exceed 1.0% of North Yorkshire Police’s budget, or about £1.5m, but I believe that is highly unlikely to happen.”

Pretty confident speaking there then. No worries about resources or budgets then:- “North Yorkshire Police has the necessary contingencies and budgets in place to ensure the force is well able to deal with such events” No ambiguity there then.

Nearly 18 months later I asked North Yorkshire Police, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, what is the total cost to North Yorkshire this Financial Year of the Fracking activities in Ryedale (Operation Kingfisher) – REFUSED.

I also asked how many Police Rest Days had bern cancelled in respect of Operation Kingfisher – REFUSED.

I asked what level (if any) of Mutual Aid was being ceployed to assist Operation Kingfisher – REFUSED.

Other seekers-of-truth who have made similar requests have received similar responses.  This leads me to think “Do North Yorkshire really have sufficient resources to cope with the anti-Fracking demonstrations?”  “Why are North Yorkshire Police so reluctant to be transparent?”

Even North Yorkshire Police must have to publish some accounts eventually, but the public, presumably, want to know some headline figures before then.  Why should they have to wait? Why is North Yorkshire Police refusing to release the information?

Anti-Fracking demonstrations have the potential to become Theresa May’s Miners’ Strike, and I rather fancy that she relishes that prospect.  Police Forces need to be open and transparent about such large-scale Public Order commitments, and the budgetary implications.  Every Police Officer involved in Operation Kingfisher is a Police Officer not protecting his/her public, regardless of which Force they are from.

Finally, before I move on to Mrs Mulligan’s Deputy it might be worth noting that during her first term as PCC  the Police and  rime Panel received 16 complaints about the conduct of Mrs Mulligan.  All 16 were either resolved informally or deemed worthy of No Further Action.  In her 2nd (current) term in office the Police and Crime Panel have received 3 complaints about the conduct of Mrs Mulligan.  All 3 have been resolved informally or deemed worthy of  No Further Action.

Moving on to Will Naylor, one of his responsibilities as Mrs Mulligan’s Deputy is

  • Delivering her manifesto, in particular reforming the police complaints system in line with the opportunities set out in the new policing and crime bill and overseeing improvements to non-emergency contact with the police (the ‘101’ contact system)

In a 9 month period last year over 30,000 calls to North Yorkshire Police’s 101 system were abandoned, unanswered.  That is not a good statistic for anyone to have, hence Will Naylor was tasked to sort it out.

Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan said every effort was being made to improve the 101 service with more staff and IT improvements.  That sounds like more expenditure to me. As if the Force doesn’t have enough to pay out for at the moment.

In July of this year NYP’s 101 system was described as “shoddy and unreliable” after callers were left hanging on for 30 minutes or more.

By August this year the situation had “improved” so much that the Force found it necessary to ask the public not to contact them via the 101 system due to “technical issues”.

Eventually, just this week, the Vice Chair of the Police and Crime Panel had this to say to the PCC

“Having been vice chair of the Police and Crime Panel for over two years I have been dismayed not to see any tangible improvement in the 101 service – and in fact an apparent decline in the service residents are receiving. Despite the hard work of dedicated staff, which I saw first-hand on my recent visit to the Control Room in York, we still hear reports of long delays to report crime and anti-social behaviour via the 101 numbe

The lack of police visibility on the streets and the difficult in getting a response via telephone is a real concern for residents. To take one of many recent examples I was astonished to learn that the clerk of Haxby Town Council has not had a reply to his email of September 11, where he outlines his own problems using the 101 number.”

A Freedom of Information request by another truth-seeker reveals that, despite Mr Naylor having been tasked to sort it out, the 101 Service for North Yorkshire Police was actually getting  WORSE. The response reveals that up to 7,000 calls to 101 per month were being abandoned unanswered.

So, returning to the beginning, what on earth is going on in North Yorkshire?  It seems to me, and it is only my personal opinion, that we have a PCC who assured the public that North Yorkshire Police had ample resources to deal with thevanti-Fracking demonstrations and not to worry. 18 months later it is proving impossible to get any information out of NYP about costs and resources relating to Operation Kingfisher. WHY?  What, if anything, do they have to hide? The info must be published eventually, what are they hoping to achieve by refusing to disclose it? Is the Tory PCC metely pandering to her paymaster?  Would a truly Independent PCC have allowed these refusals?

I have no idea what the substance of the 19 complaints recorded against the PCC are, but I would have thought that 19 is a larger-than-average  umber.  The Police and Crime Panel seem to have published no reports into any of them.

There are NO complaints recorded against the Deputy PCC.

As for 101, the system is truly in a shambles and the Deputy PCC tasked to sort it out seems to have achieved little more than preside over an increase in abandoned, unanswered, calls. A salary of £45,000 p.a. and he has achieved what exactly? Not much that I can see.

We may be saddled with Police and Crime Commissioners but I can’t help thinking that we’d all be better off if they were free from political influences.  There is no place in Policing for Party Politics, and that includes the PCC.

The Curious Case Of Police Car AB1

Well, strictly speaking, not the car but the Registration Mark.  At various times the actual car has looked like this:-

And now, in 2017, after all this history, it has gone.  Having been in the ownership of West Mercia Constabulary for over a Hundred Years, the Registration Mark has been sold.

At least it must have sold for a fortune, a mark like that with its history, must be really valuable. Right?

It was placed for a sale with a well-respected auction house who put a guide price of £175,000 on it.  Independent valuations suggested a sale value of £500,000, or possibly more.  Index number AG1, which is similar but does not have the same history and associations, is currently valued at £500,000. Predictions are that the value would only increase, possibly to as much as £700,000. Other sources suggest that the Guide Price may have been as high as £250,000.

So, apart from the actual issue of selling the family jewels which I am never in favour of, all is looking good. Right?  What could possibly go wrong?

Having lodged the mark with said Auction House for sale by auction it could reasonably be expected that it would sell in the region, or in excess, of the Guide Price.  One assumes that a suitable Fixed Reserve was set to protect the asset.

When news of the sale hit the press it sparked off a rash of Freedom of Information Act requests (not just me then).  One of the first things I noticed was the PCC’s decision regarding the sale of the mark.  Firstly he had completely skipped the decision-making process for the actual sale (so I have submitted a further request asking for just that).  Secondly the Decision Notice seems to be contradictory.  As it has been referred to in a Freedom of Information Act response it is in the Public Domain, so I have no issue with showing the document here:-


The assertions re Value For Money in the Executive Summary do not appear to be in accord with the recommendation on Page 2 of the same document. 

In response to an appeal against the outcome of one of the FOI requests the PCC’s Chief Executive says this 

The number plate was not sold to a private individual at a significant discount, but at the highest offer made within a reasonable time frame.

This document is also in the Public Domain, and here it is

However, it is alleged, that the direct offer was accepted and the mark withdrawn from the auction.  Who is to say how much it might have sold for on the open market?

In a different request, part 18 of the request asked this question

The response given was this


You can see from Decision Notice 8 (above) that the information requested is simply not included. Smoke and Mirrors? Human Error? Misunderstanding?

I wish to make it absolutely clear that I have no criticism whatsoever of the Auction House, Brightwells, in all of this. They have done nothing wrong.

The PCC and his Chief Executive consistently refuse to confirm the Guide Price placed on the Registration Mark by Brightwells, claiming an exemption that it would breach the Commercial Interests of Brightwells and the PCC.  I don’t see that personally.  Brightwells would presumably have published the Guide Price in their catalogue, the alleged Guide Price has been widely reported in the local and national Press, and it’s history, it’s been sold now, so what exactly is the issue?  Why hide the information?

The original decision to sell allegedly originates in a discussion between the PCC and previous Chief Constable in 2016, but no record of this has yet been produced.

To tidy up what I see as some loose ends I have submitted my own FOIA Request seeking the following information:-

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

I understand that the Independent Police Complaints Commission have been asked to investigate this matter but, to date, I have not seen any confirmation or update.

My personal opinion is that it would have been better to leave it with the auction house and it would probably have sold for more, although nothing is guaranteed.  Instead it was pulled from sale before the auction date and sold to a previous Chief Constable for a figure less than the reported Guide Price.

Once the decision to sell had been taken surely the Force were obliged to achieve the best price possible for it.  Several people have come forward to claim that it was worth much more, or that they offered to pay more but were declined. One businessman, Tim Brookes, alleges that he offered £305,000 for the mark some two weeks before it was sold for £160,000. Mr Brookes has since allegedly complained to the IPCC.

Value For Money?  You decide.  Or maybe the IPCC will.

The PCC’s own Press Release on the sale of AB1 can be found here

I’m Telling You Nuffink Rozzer

Some time ago, you may remember, I posed the question whether it was approriate that one of our more northerly PCCs paid the ACPO membership fees.

http://retiredandangry.thisistap.com/2016/05/24/tory-pcc-expenses-foi-raise-their-ugly-heads-again/

I got a very fuzzy reply from the PCC concerned, that it was all a mistake and had come out of the wrong budget, still hasn’t been replaced though last time I looked.

As a response to an FOI request I was supplied with a copy of the invoice showing that this had been agreed at a General Meeting of the Association of Police and Crime Commsissioners.  So I was straight on it and asked for a copy of the minutes of that meeting.

SILENCE

Eventually I got a reply back from somebofy called James Waters

As we are a membership organisation these are private confidential documents, and we are not covered by the FOI terms.

If you can be specific about what information you are seeking, we can reconsider the request and try and assist further.

Regards,

James

So I was VERY specific about what I wanted, just that part of the minutes that covered that alleged agreement

SILENCE

Despite the fact that PCCs are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners feels that it is not, and we ain’t telling you nuffink.

‘Nuff Said.

Nepotism Or Not Nepotism?

That is the question……

Some of you will know that I was going to stand for the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia until Call Me Dave and the Cabinet Office tilted the playing field against Independent candidates.

Many of you will know that I subsequently applied for the position of Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia but was unsuccessful.

For these reasons I feel that I am entitled to hold an opinion and comment on the outcomes.

First off, the position of Police and Crime Commissioner went to a Conservative Councillor from Wyre Forest District Council, John-Paul Campion, who, bizarrely, follows me on Twitter so will doubtless see this post.  The previous post-holder had been an Independent and his, then, Deputy, entered the fray as an Independent this time round and finished 4th.  The Independents relegated from 1st to 4th.

Possibly the intervention of Theresa May had something to do with it, with her unsolicited emails supporting the Conservative candidate.  Where did she get non-Party Members email addresses from? Did somebody abuse the Data Protection Act?

Come the recruitment time for Deputy I took the view that I had nothing to lose and would try to inject some balance into what I saw as a bad situation for Policing in West Mercia.

My background, antecedents and experience speak for themselves.  My CV and Personal Statement were checked out by some people who know about these things. You know who you are and I am truly grateful.

And……………I didn’t make it through the short listing.  20 applicants, 6 made it on to the Short List.  I have no idea what the short-listing criteria were but I was disappointed not to make it.

For what seemed like an eternity I sat and patiently waited while the interviews were conducted and eventually the successful candidate was announced………..a Conservative Councillor from Wyre Forest District Council.  Incredible coincidence.

The local Press have not been slow to pick up on this amazing piece good fortune.

New ‘part-time’ deputy PCC appointed on £40,000 salary – as police chief denies “nepotism” claim

Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion defends appointing Wyre Forest District Council colleague Tracey Onslow as deputy

One of the above Press articles makes this very valid point, and implies, if not states, that both are hanging onto their Councillor jobs as well, contradiction of that would be most welcome if this is not the case;

The West Mercia PCC represents the people who live in four local authority areas; Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Worcestershire.

“John Campion is a Wyre Forest DC and Worcestershire County Councillor. Tracey Onslow, is presently a Conservative Wyre Forest DC Councillor so we have a PCC and deputy PCC who are both from the Wyre Forest area of Worcestershire.

How WILL they adequately serve the people and Police of West Mercia if they also have “day jobs”?

I did manage to get hold of a set of the questions put to each of the 6 candidates who made it through to the interview stage, naive in parts, possibly tailored for a certain kind of person in others

 

The final insult for me personally is a pinned Tweet on Mr Campion’s personal Twitter account

Earlier in the week I was angry, today I am more sad.  Even if nepotism has not raised it’s ugly head, the people and Police of West Mercia surely deserve better.  This is a clear reminder of what can happen when you mix up Policing and Politics.  I blame Theresa May for that, Well Done, and for that, she is likely to be our next Prime Minister.

Please feel free to Unfollow me Mr Campion, but I have had just about enough of politics interfering with with Policing, and quite honestly, I’m GLAD I get didn’t the job as your Deputy.


Is This A Strange Way To Record Accounts/Expenses?

During the run-up to the recent Police And Crime Commissioner Elections I noticed what I thought was a disparity in the incumbent North Yorkshire PCC’s published expenses.

In 2013 it included an entry for >£10,000 for ACPO fees.  As PCCs are not members of ACPO so should not pay membership fees (Association of PCCs fees also paid, no problem there) I submitted a Freedom of Information Request asking who these fees were relating to and for a copy of the invoice.

I notice from the Commissioner’s published expenses an entry on 13th June 2013, this is for Invoice Number SI10384, payable to the Association of Chief Police Officers, for PCCs Fees and Subscriptions, for an amount of £10,695.34 with a description of ACPO fees.

Could you please tell me;

a) To whom do these fees refer?

b) Could you please provide me with electronic copies of the invoice and any other documentation referring to this item of expenditure?

The first reply I got (late) was this;

Good Morning,

I acknowledge that your request is overdue however we are still waiting for the statistics from the relevant business area. I can only apologise for the delay and will endeavour to respond to your request as soon as possible.

Kind regards,

What a L.O.B.  I wasn’t even asking for statistics, PCC’s office running amok.

Eventually they provided with this response

Decision

I have today decided to disclose the located information to you.

Please find enclosed an electronic copy of the invoice described within your request which details membership costs paid by North Yorkshire Police to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). To clarify, these expenses were subtracted from the North Yorkshire Police budget and not the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioners budget (OPCC). These expenses were published upon the OPCC website in error.

With, as promised, a copy of the invoice.

Invoice for ACPO Fees

 My question is this, bearing in mind the number of wholesale changes made to her published expenses just before the elections (possibly hundreds of new or altered entries dating back years), why, when I checked last night is this entry still listed as an expenditure.  Surely it should either have been deleted as erroneous or an equal amount shown as an income (virement from the correct account) to negate the expenditure.  As it stood last night Ms Mulligan’s published expenses still contained a £10,000+ ‘error’.

Sloppy?  Something worse?  Or have I missed something here?  Or is this a perfectly valid way of publishing expenses?

Tory PCC Expenses & #FOI Raise Their Ugly Heads Again

Has anybody here seen Julia Mulligan since the PCC Elections?  She seems to have gone walkabout, or at least her office has in FOIWorld.

31st March, I posed a simple question (or at least I thought it was)

Dear North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner,

I notice from the Commissioner’s published expenses an entry on 13th June 2013, this is for Invoice Number SI10384, payable to the Association of Chief Police Officers, for PCCs Fees and Subscriptions, for an amount of £10,695.34 with a description of ACPO fees.

Could you please tell me;

a) To whom do these fees refer?

b) Could you please provide me with electronic copies of the invoice and any other documentation referring to this item of expenditure?

Thank you

Yours faithfully,

Not an unreasonable question I thought, shouldn’t take too long to answer that one.  It was particularly relevant in the run-up to the Election because Ms Mulligan was being particularly transparent and bringing her Expenses and Allowances data on her website up to date.  Very commendable, good to see.

In view of my question just imagine how shocked and surtprised I was when the 20 day limit came and went, and I was forced to issue a gentle reminder.

Nowhere near as shocked and bemused as I was when I received the following response on 29th April

Good Morning,

I acknowledge that your request is overdue however we are still waiting for the statistics from the relevant business area. I can only apologise for the delay and will endeavour to respond to your request as soon as possible.

Kind regards,

Robert Bates
Collar Number 5480
Legal Officer (Civil Disclosure)
North Yorkshire Police

Committed to the Code of Ethics

Well, here we are on the 24th May, still no reply, the statistics are presumably still not ready.

Come on Ms Mulligan the Law requires you to respond.  This is your opportunity to show us that you are not a Home Office puppet.  Don’t follow their lead whgen it comes to the Freedom of Information Act please, they have an abysmal track record there.  It’s a simple question, who wwere the £10,695.34 ACPO Membership Feesw paid for and why.  Why did this money come out of your account and not the Chief Constable, it’s not like you are a Chief Police Officer is it?  You’re a Police and Crime Commissioner, something totally different.

It’s Wednesday today, if I don’t have a response by the end of the week Internal Review and Information Commissioner will surely follow.

I thank you, obliged.

ADDENDUM

 

Here is the oath sworn and signed by Ms Nulligan after her re-election.  It does say something about ‘transparency’ in there somewhere

julia oath

A Post-Apocalyptic Dawn

Well, it’s taken 4 years but the Horsemen finally seem to have earnt their corn.

The votes have been counted and verified and I can announce that the winner is Theresa May.

Results in Wales are not set to be announced until Sunday but it seems that the Tory Machine has won the day.  Having lost Cheshire, Leicestershire  and Humberside to Labour, they went on to take Hampshire from Independent, Kent from Independent, Lincolnshire from Independent, Norfolk from Independent, Surrey from Independent, Warwickshire from Independent and West Mercia from Independent.  So, apart from 3 losses to Labour it seems that ALL of the Tory gains were at the expense of the Independents.

I don’t really see why we should be surprised by that, the Tories seem to have targeted the Independent seats with some very (in my view) questionable tactics.

Firstly we had the Cabinet Office decision at a very early stage to withdraw/withold funding for a free mailshot.  Not everyone agrees with me but it is my view that this seriously disadvanaged the Independent candidates without the deep pockets of Party candidates.

We have seen Spin, More Spin and downright untruths from some of the Tory candidates in this campaign.  What on earth is wrong with simply telling the truth?  The story you are telling might not be a vote winner, but your proposals for dealing with it might well be.  Don’t keep telling us that Crime is Down, when it demonstrably is not, tell us that crime has risen and what you propose to do about it.  Way too simple that one for some candidates, they had to have a waltzer ride instead.

In Surrey we saw the late entry of two more Independent candidates which caused a few raised eyebrows and split the Independent vote, but having said that the Tory candidate attracted more votes than all three Independent candidates added together.

Here in DeadBadgerShire we had the (unwelcome) intervention of Mrs Theresa May, MP, Home Secretary.  She seemed to be targeting undecided voters with an email assuring us all that Tory was the only way to go.

A certain amount of spin surely?  Not only the Conservative PCCs that have had the power to ‘Hire and Fire’.

Not only the Conservative PCCs that have set the Policing priorities and overseen multi million £ budgets.

Crime is down by more than a quarter since 2012?  Really.  CrimeStats have endured all kinds of problems over the last few years.  The Home Secretary knows full well that the Counting Rules have chsnged more frequently than my socks.  Recorded Crime is on the increase once more but no mention of that.

We need a PCC that will take the job seriously and work with the government?  Is she implying that ONLY a Conservative candidate will take the job seriously?  Why is it essential to work with government?  It isn’t, it is essential to make Policing work properly, and to serve the public properly.  Mind you, it makes Theresa’s life easier to have a compliant PCC, that could well explain why she wants a PCC that will work with government.

How did she choose who to send it to?  How did she get their email addresses (that could be a worry)?  I didn’t get one so it wasn’t sent to all.

Even if wasn’t wrong to chip in (and some think it wasn’t) just because she COULD, doesn’t mean that she SHOULD have.

In Dorset she progressed to a rather more controversial video, promoting the same message as the email but targeted at Dorset.

Some of you know, most of you don’t know, but I was originally standing as an Independent Candidate for my local Force.  I had received all my registration paperwork from the Electoral Commission, I had sorted my £5k deposit, was designing a campaign website and was well over half way through getting my initial 100 nominations as required when the Cabinet Office withdrew mailshot funding. I was left in a similar position to Mike Pannett but with three entire counties to cover I certainly couldn’t afford leaflets for 3 large counties, I couldn’t effectively ‘Press the Flesh’ over such a large area.  Rightly or wrongly I took the decision early that the field was being tilted and manipulated by government so I withdrew.  Ultimately the sole Independent candidate here finished 4th, so it is highly unlikely that I would have won.  The Tories overthrew a reasonable Independent majority, despite the fact that the only candidate I knew anything about was the surviving Indie, and I was taking an interest unlike the average voter.

Do I regret withdrawing? I most certainly do.  Do I think I could have won?  Almost certainly not, but I am immensely grateful to those who supported and encouraged me, and I’m sorry if you feel that I let you down, but realistically I am convinced, with the benefit of hindsight, that success was far from assured.

There is an element that doesn’t believe that an ex Police Officer would make a good PCC.  Whyever not?  Almost anybody from a School Leaver to a 100 year old pensioner is eligible to stand.  How is any knowledge and experience, at whatever level, be a negative thing?

With just the Welsh votes to be declared the Tories have 20 out of the 36 PCCs elected in England.  More than half.  Labour have 13 PCCs in England, leaving a meagre 3 Independents. THREE!!

Party Politics now play a HUGE part in Policing of England, and I’m sure Wales will follow suit.  Who is to blame?  Personally I blame, partly, Theresa May, for her questionable interventions, but mainly, our old friend APATHY.

The government did a wonderful job of keeping the elections low-key, but I’m sure more people COULD have voted but presumably didn’t think it was important.

Finally I want to pay my own personal tribute to Mike Pannett.  I know the administrative hoops that he had to jump through in the background.  He had to endure some pretty tacky tactics along the way, but he did so with head held high.  Well done Mike.  You have lost no friends or supporters here.  The boy done good.