Thoughts from the chair (small c)

I shall keep this brief, I’m taking a rest from long blogs you’ll be pleased to know.  A brief, but perfectly civilised, exchange with @keenyn7 the other day brought the point home.  The BBC ran a perfectly good item in their evening news programme pointing out to the viewers what a great job the Armed Forces have done in stepping in at the last minute to save everybody’s arses after G4S so woefully failed to deliver.  They showed servicemen off duty, in uniform, watching the events.  They showed servicemen on duty manning scanners etc and they showed servicemen in uniform generally walking about the Olympic Park mingling with the throng.  I believe that the unit used for the purposes of this broadcast was 7 Para Horse Artillery or something similar.

They (the BBC) then interviewed several members of the public and asked them what their views were on Armed Forces personnel being deployed at the games, and if my memory is being reasonably faithful to me today, the vast majority of those interviewed were generally supportive and thought that the troops had actually contributed something positive to the Olympic Games.

All of the above I would agree with whole-heartedly, our troops have stepped in at the last minute, slept in accommodation which is not the best and reminded me of the miners strike only too readily.  They have done all of this with professionalism and good humour and we should be rightly proud of them.

What was missing from this article, and I must credit @keenyn7 for raising it, was there was not one word of praise for the extra Police on duty at the Olympic Games.  It may well be that there will be a separate news item highlighting the good work done by our professional police officers, but I’m not holding my breath.  Instead we get drip-fed news items like the infamous I’ve Met The Met sticker incident.  In my tiny mind this raises three questions:

  • Are the media anti-police?
  • Have the media been instructed by HMG not to portray the police in a positive light?
  • Why are the police not being portrayed positively when the Police Service is in a time of crisis?

I will leave you there as I did promise you a much truncated rant today, but please do feel free to add your own comments and opinions, and thanks once more to @keenyn7 for planting the seed in our minds.

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RetiredAndAngry Special Award

Well I deserve a #SlapSlap for missing this one the first time round.

A notable refusal to supply me with information in relation to Staff Satisfaction Surveys.

The RetiredAndAngry Special Award for the most long-winded refusal to supply information goes to Cambridgeshire Constabulary for this valuable contribution;

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (The Act) requires us to handle all requests in a manner that is blind to the identity of the requestor. Any information released in response to a request is regarded as being published, and therefore in the public domain without caveat. We have completed all searches within Cambridgeshire Constabulary and hereby enclose your response.

Your request for information has now been considered and I am not obliged to supply the information you have requested due to exemptions provided by
the Act.

In respect of Section 1(1)(a) of the FOI Act I can confirm that Cambridgeshire Constabulary conducted a staff survey in 2011 and the raw data for that survey is held by the constabulary.

Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 requires Cambridgeshire Constabulary, when refusing to provide such information (because the
information is exempt) to provide you the applicant with a notice which: (a) states that fact, (b) specifies the exemption in question and (c) states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.

The exemptions applicable to the information are:

Section 22 – Information Intended for Future Publication

Section 22 relates to information where the authority has made a decision to publish the information but the date for publication has not been reached.

This is a qualified class based exemption and as such I am required to apply a public interest test.

Public Interest Test

Factors Favouring Early Disclosure

There is presently heightened public interest in the inner workings of constabularies due to the situation surrounding policing of high profile public events in 2012.

Factors Favouring Non-Early Disclosure

The Force Executive Board decided at the time of the survey that publication would be made of the results during the 2nd quarter of the 2012/13 financial year and the process for this publication is already in motion. The full findings will be presented to the Board in August 2012 and the publication will be made shortly thereafter, the intention is mid-September 2012.

Early publication of the information contained in the survey would add cost to the process which are unnecessary at this time as well as taking staff away from other duties at a period when there is very high demand.

Balancing Arguments

I am satisfied that there is a robust publication strategy in place to have this information put into the public domain by the end of September 2012. It is my view that the public interest at this time weighs in favour of maintaing the present publication schedule as to publish early would have a disproportionate cost in terms of both finance and manpower abstractions which at a time of increased demand is unacceptable.

In accordance with the Act, this letter represents a Refusal Notice for this particular part of your request.

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The Queen’s Half Hour – The True Story

My word, we’ll have The Queen’s Half Hour The Movie next.  Perish the thought.

As promised I have given up waiting for the last two non-responders to reply, they still haven’t, so they too can enter the RetiredandAngry Hall of Shame.  Lincolnshire and Cumbria Constabularies have made no kind of response whatsoever despite being reminded on two separate occasions that they were in breach of the terms of The Freedom of Information Act 2000.  I wrote to them on 12th, 18th  and 27th July 2012 pointing this out and requesting my information.  In the case of Lincolnshire I received an acknowledgement from them to my original request and then NOTHING, not even any kind of acknowledgement to my follow-up letters.

In the case of Cumbria they sought clarification on 18th June as to whether my request related to Police Officers, Police Staff or both.  Again, not even so much as an acknowledgemwent to my follow-up letters.  Disgraceful contempt of the law.

Which brings me to the vast majority who did reply. I wrote to 45 Police Forces, including BTP and City of London.  11 out of 45 issued a Statutory Refusal Notice to comply on the grounds that it would require more than 18 hours (or £450) to retrieve the information I had asked for.  Entering the RetiredandAngry Hall of Shame for issuing Refusal Notices will be Bedfordshire,  Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Durham, Gloucestershire,  Hampshire, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, South Wales, Suffolk and West Mercia.

6 out of the 45 Forces stated that the information simply wasn’t available, i.e. wasn’t stored in a format that allowed for its retrieval.  These 6 Forces have also been allowed entry to the RetiredandAngry Hall of Shame, they are Essex, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, Surrey, Warwickshire and Wiltshire.

That leaves me with 26 Forces that either supplied and comprehensive response  or at least sufficient data that I could make some reasonable estimates from.

If you would like to know the exact response from your Force, please let me know and I will endeavor to supply you with an exact copy of their reply to me.

So, from the 26 positive responses I was able to estimate the true value of the Queen’s Half Hour.

The 1st half hour of Casual Overtime made up 256,609.5 hours in the 2011/2012 Financial Year.  Where an exact Financial Value of that overtime has been supplied by the Force I have used that figure.  Where no Financial Value has been supplied I have used a figure of £15 per hour multiplied by the number of man-hours.  Some Forces differentiated between Constables and Sergeants and some didn’t.  I suspect that a flat rate of £15 per hour is possibly a little on the low side.
These figures produced a total for the 26 Forces of £4,954,500.  A simple piece of arithmetic indicates that the total for England and Wales is quite realistically almost £8 MILLION.  So those out there who thought that Policing was just another job, please think again.  Hundreds of thousands of man-hours go unpaid every year.  This does not in any way include time that officers ‘donate’ prior to the commencement of their shift in order to be ready for Parade and Briefings.

And, finally, in addition to be admitted into the RetiredandAngry Hall of Shame, the RetiredandAngry Special Award for Archaic Working Practices goes to Devon and Cornwall for this contribution;

The Finance Department have confirmed that Officers record any hours worked over 40 hours per week on their time cards which are held locally. They can also not be sure that the 30 minutes (often referred to as the Queen’s half hour) is recorded on cards in the same way for all officers.

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So, What Have I Learnt?

Good morning folks,

As I write, the sun is creeping out from behind the cotton wool clouds, I have an adequate supply of hot coffee.  All is well in my world, or is it?

After my first full week as a bloggist what have I learnt?  I have learnt that even though I didn’t think I had a blog in me, after the first full week I seem to have rattled a few cages, so maybe I did have a blog in me, and maybe I still have some more (sorry about that).  I have also learnt that I can type with more than 2 fingers sometimes.  Sometimes the letters even appear on the screen in the right order!!  I have also learnt that there is a lot of support out there in the blogasphere for blogs such as mine.  Some write similar blogs, some offer words of encouragement and some attract whatever attention they can to the subject of the day.  I think someone once said “They also serve who only sit and Retweet” and if they didn’t, they should have done.

On a more serious note, and to get back to the real topic of this blog, what have I learnt?  I have learnt that the Freedom of Information Act is a useful tool for groups such as ours.  In theory, we can obtain all sorts of information held by the various public authorities which may be helpful to our cause..  I have also learnt that bodies such as the Home Office don’t always welcome these requests, and in my opinion, don’t treat them properly.  My experience of the Home Office is that almost never answer a query on time, when you prod them and tell them that their answer is overdue they can frequently produce it within a matter of hours.  Really? Well I don’t think so, I think it was there all along, just waiting to be fired off.  It has happened too many times to just be a coincidence.  The Home Office have also ‘misread’ a query answering only part of it, when asked for the rest of it they just award themselves another 20 days to produce a response.  Well, I’m sorry Mrs May but that is not how the Freedom of Information Act is worded, your obligation is to produce a response within 20 working days of it being received.  Don’t send out an auto-acknowledgement and then claim you hadn’t read the full question, get the staff in to do it right.  And when you get a request for a formal review of your handling of the request, that is NOT an invitation to give yourselves another 20 working days to answer the original question, it is what it is, a request for a Formal Review.

I have learnt the true value of the Queen’s Half Hour, more on this in a separate blog, but I was quite gobsmacked by the responses.

I have learnt that SOME forces appear to do anything to avoid answering an FOI request.  There are only so many exemptions you can legally invoke.  I think it’s time to Name And Shame West Yorkshire Constabulary.  I submitted an FOI request asking for details of any Staff Satisfaction Surveys carried out within their Force over the last 5 years.  Not too sensitive you may think.  Nothing there to strike fear into the hearts of the Information Keepers.  All in all a particularly benign request.  I will give you the benefit of the exact text of their response

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 obliges us to respond to requests promptly and in any case no later than 20 working days after receiving your request. We must consider firstly whether we can comply with S1(1)(a) of the Act, which is our duty to confirm whether or not the information requested is held and secondly we must comply with S1(1)(b), which is the provision of such information.
However, when a qualified exemption applies either to the confirmation or denial or the information provision and the public interest test is engaged, the Act allows the time for response to be longer than 20 working days, if the balance of such public interest is undetermined. In this case, we have not yet reached a decision on where the balance of the public interest lies in respect of either of the above obligations. We estimate that it will take an additional 20 working days to take a decision on where this balance lies.

As one of our number put it so eloquently – WTF?

How on earth can Public Interest be any sort of issue to a Staff Satisfaction Survey.  They haven’t even confirmed that they’ve carried out any.

On the other side of the coin I feel that I should Name And Shame Derbyshire and Sussex Constabularies.  They have been absolutely magnificent with their co-operation, Sussex not only supplied me with all of the information I had requested but accompanied that with a detailed spreadsheet of data.  Derbyshire felt that they couldn’t comply with my request on the grounds of cost and applied the appropriate Exemption, they did, however, supply me with as much data as they could gather within cost whereas most others just applied the Exemption and offered NO data.

Finally I have learnt that 2 out of 91 Voters think that Tom Winsor is the right man for the job, 7 out of 97 Voters think that the selection process was fair, open and transparent, and, finally, 27 out of 27 Voters thought that Police Officers should be allowed to Tweet their personal political opinions so long as it was from as personal account.

Here endeth my first week

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The Queen’s Half Hour

Unsurprisingly I am still waiting for any kind of reply to my original request fro data from 2 Forces, Cumbria and Lincolnshire.  They have both had reminders about their legal obligations on 12th and 27th July, but not even an acknowledgement have I received to those reminders.  In the case of Cumbria I clarified my request to them on 18th June and that is the last I have heard from them.  Similarly with Lincolnshire I got an letter of acceptance on 14th June and not another word since.

I will let sleeping dogs lie until the end of the week and then I will prepare my final set of figures on how much overtime goes unpaid each year, but I can tell you, from the data I have received (i.e. the Forces that did not respond with a refusal, or “We don’t hold that information”  the total is nearly £5 million.

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HMIC – The Appointment Brief

I must really stop banging on about Tom Winsor and his recent appointment to the post of Chief Inspector HMIC, only I can’t because it still won’t reconcile itself within my head.

If you’ve learnt anything about me in the last week or so from reading these blogs it should have been that I believe in ‘Fairness’ and ‘Transparency’ in the workplace.  I understand all about Secret and Confidential, and all that but the appointment of Chief Inspector HMIC shouldn’t attract those labels.

I am grateful to @FlysCarpet for putting the idea into my head, so I went hunting for the Job Description and Person Spec for the said post.  I found the following lengthy document on the Parliament Website

Home Affairs Committee – Third Report
Appointment of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary

It can be found here

Contained within it I found all sorts of information, but for the purposes of this blog I shall restrict myself to information about the selection of the successful candidate.

“The next HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary will be an inspirational leader with extensive understanding of operational policing. They will direct transformational change in HMIC to refocus its core purpose on supporting effective crime—fighting and stronger accountability to the public for chief constables and their forces.”

“The challenge for the new Chief Inspector is to take forward a powerful and professional programme of work that supports the reforms that are changing the policing landscape.”

“Applications will be considered from candidates with a policing background (serving UK chief constables or HM Inspectors) as well as from other professional backgrounds where candidates can demonstrate strong understanding of operational policing.”

Person specification

Applications will be considered from candidates with a policing background (serving UK Chief Constables or HM Inspectors) and from other professional backgrounds where candidates can demonstrate understanding of operational policing and how they might apply that to HMIC’s strategy and programme of work.

Owing to the sensitivity of some of the material that the HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary needs access to, this appointment is open only to UK nationals.

To help you to decide whether you are the right person for this role, we have listed below the criteria that will be applied when assessing candidates. To be considered, you must be able to demonstrate that you have the qualities, skills and experience to meet these.

  • Resilient and inspiring leader who has strong experience of leading organisations through major transformational change.
  • Strong understanding of policing and the broad reforms to the policing landscape and accountability framework, including relationships between forces, police and crime commissioners, police and crime panels, and the public, as well as how you might apply that to a broad strategic vision for the Inspectorate that is both forward thinking and outward facing.
  • Excellent customer engagement, demonstrating evidence of building and maintaining successful relationships and partnerships with policing and the wider public, private and third sector communities.
  • Positive evidence of challenging service delivery to drive continuous improvement.
  • First class communicator, capable and confident in influencing a wide variety of audiences on different and complex issues. Decisive but also open and collaborative in considering different views and opinions.
  • Strong planning and organisational skills to ensure that competing priorities are balanced and key commitments are met.”


The Job Advert can be found here


Does any of this sound familiar?  Does any of this convince you that Mr Winsor was the right man for the job after all?

Having read the above post maybe those of you who haven’t yet taken the polls re Mr Winsor’s appointment could find the time to take them now.  They are completely anonymous, even I don’t know who’s voted never mind what they voted for.

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