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Parliamentary and Political Monitoring Report w/c 19th March 2018

By DPF Admin23rd March 2018August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

This week Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused by the UK Statistics Authority of misleading MPs and the public by implying that the Government is increasing funding for the police (Home Office) by more than is actually the case. Mrs May had suggested the Government had increased funding by £450m this year, whereas £270m of that had actually come from the Government granting local authorities and police and crime commissioners the power to raise council tax to increase funding to police – as opposed to direct funding from central government. The Home Office responded saying it did not mean to mislead the public and also that every area had chosen to exercise the new power.

The Government continues to develop its response to the poisoning of a Russian former spy with a nerve agent in Salisbury. Scientists at the MDP-guarded Porton Down continue to conduct tests of the poison as politicians debate how best to respond to the attack, which is widely regarded to have been conducted by the Russian state. Twenty-three Russian diplomats have been expelled from the UK and European nations are divided on how to respond to the matter. Russia held a general election at the weekend in which incumbent Vladimir Putin won an overwhelming majority and thanked the United Kingdom for helping him secure it. The continuing diplomatic tensions have continued to dominate Parliament and also the media over the past week – although retired senior officers including former Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton GCB, CBE, ADC have commented publicly this week on the need for additional defence funding in light of the changing geo-political situation and tensions with Russia.

Overview

 

DPF calls for MDP chiefs to support pay parity

Police Oracle has reported on the Federation’s activity promoting pay parity for MDP officers and their Home Office counterparts. The MDP is the only Major Force without pay parity, following a victory for the Civil Nuclear Police Federation at the end of last year when the CNC was granted full pay parity with Home Office officers. MDP officers are currently paid 95 percent of Home Office salaries despite them having to “carry more equipment, run further and work longer than Home Office PCs,” as noted in a recent DPF circular that formed the basis of Police Oracle’s report.

Police Oracle failed to approach the DPF for comment but quoted the Federation’s General Secretary, Mitch Batt, from his blog saying “It has been tough seeing our valued colleagues in the CNC achieve their pay rise and to see them working with their Chief Officer Group when our Chief Officer team don’t seem to want to do the same.” He opined that members of the Federation felt “disconnected” to the Chief Officer group as everything they were doing “seems to be making life more difficult for us in our working environment right now.”

A spokesperson for the MoD was quoted in the article saying that the Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police is in ongoing discussions with the Defence Police Federation on the issue of pay party. The outcome of these discussions will help inform the MoD’s consideration of this matter.”

The Federation is continuing to try to engage with the MDP’s senior leadership on the issue of pay parity, but thus far this has been extremely difficult. We also continue to highlight the issue as part of our parliamentary engagement to support work around the Modernising Defence Programme – noting the importance of effectively funding security for vital assets (i.e. the MDP).

Police given two days extra leave for wellbeing

Lincolnshire Police are to be granted two extra days’ paid holiday a year to improve their “spiritual and emotional wellbeing,” The Times has reported. The Force has argued the decision will provide the rest and recuperation needed for the job, which is “taking a greater toll” on officers and the leave will better equip them to meet the “particular needs” of a “large rural county.”

Bill Skelly, the Chief Constable, said: “This is one of a number of initiatives that we will introduce over the next few months. I have been most impressed by the commitment of Lincolnshire police staff and officers but I am increasingly seeing the impact that this can have on their physical and mental wellbeing. By encouraging our staff to take time to look after themselves I believe that we can make an improvement to how they feel at work.”

Statistics watchdog calls Prime Minister’s extra funding for police claim “misleading”

The Guardian has reported that the UK Statistics Authority has formally rebuked Prime Minister Theresa May this week for “misleading” MPs and the public by making false claims during Prime Ministers Questions in February, which suggested that the Government was providing £450m in funding to local police forces in 2018/19. The claim was subsequently repeated by Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom in a letter and in tweets by the Home Office. The Authority has criticised the statements as up to £270m of those funds will be generated from local mayors and police and crime commissioners increasing taxes to fund policing – rather than the total funding coming from central government.

Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, David Norgrove, said in a letter to Shadow Policing and Crime Minister Louise Haigh: “The Prime Minister’s statement and the Home Office’s tweet could have led the public to conclude incorrectly that central government is providing an additional £450m for police spending in 2018/19.” He noted that the time pressures in Prime Minister’s Questions inhibited proper discussion about the complexity of police funding, but that Ms Leadsom’s subsequent letter and Home Office correspondence should be held to higher standards.

Ms Haigh said that, “you would hope this embarrassing slap-down would now shame the Conservatives into being honest about their dismal record on policing. With 21,000 officers gone and billions cut in real terms, it’s time the Government stopped taking the public for fools.”

The Home Office said in a statement that “We aim to be as clear as possible in communicating it to the public and have repeatedly said that around £270m of the up to £450m increase in police funding next year results from increased council tax precept income, which is dependent on police and crime commissioners’ decisions.” It also noted that all mayors and police and crime commissioners had chosen to use their new powers to increase police funding.

Watchdog finds police sometimes take days to respond to emergencies

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services has warned that many police forces in England and Wales have come under “significant stress” as funding has been cut by a fifth since 2010 and crime rates have increased. The report found that approximately a quarter of forces “are all too often overwhelmed by the demand they face resulting in worrying backlogs of emergency jobs.” In some recent cases that require a “prompt” response within an hour, police did not respond to the case for days. Cambridgeshire has one of the worst average “prompt” response times of 15 hours.

The report claimed that, because of pressure on personnel and resources, police are also failing to collect evidence in the initial stages of an investigation. Following last year’s report claiming that forces were “artificially suppressing demand” to meet demand, this year demand “is simply being unmet.” Police campaigners attribute this in part to the decrease in police officers by 21,000 since 2010.

Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, said that the pressure stretches some forces “to such an extent that they risk being unable to keep people safe in some very important areas of policing.” She highlighted the threat this posed in particular to vulnerable people. Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Policing and Crime Minister, said: “It’s time the Tories owned up to the public because their cuts have left our police at breaking point and our communities at risk.”

Nick Hurd, Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, said: “The government recognises that crime is changing and demand increasing, which is why we have provided a strong and comprehensive settlement that will increase funding by up to £450m across the police system for 2018/19, including £270m drawn from increased precept contributions.”

MoD Chief calls for cull of “sacred cows” in MoD equipment

The Times has reported that Permanent Secretary to the MoD Stephen Lovegrove has said that difficult decisions need to be made in the prioritisation of military equipment. Speaking at a lecture at King’s College London, Mr Lovegrove said that the Armed Forces must be ready to slay some “sacred cows” so that funds can be redirected to new and more deployable technologies. This is the first time a senior official in the MoD has publicly stated that the Modernising Defence Programme will involve making difficult decisions with regards to spending.

Mr Lovegrove said: “We need to be rather more ruthless, unless there is to be more money, about getting rid of some of the [capabilities] that are actually deployed less often or [are] incapable of being deployed” because of concerns over safety. He also said. “I think we do have some of those capabilities and we need to be prepared to slay the odd sacred cow.”

Mr Lovegrove did not speculate as to specifically what resources might be scrapped, but possibilities include equipment that is overdue an upgrade, such as the Army’s Warrior armoured fighting vehicles or the Navy’s amphibious assault ships, HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion, which had been considered for disposal last year. Without more funding, the MoD will need to make £20bn in efficiencies over the next 10 years, but this is under review through the Modernising Defence Programme.

As noted previously, the Federation is engaging with both the MoD’s consultation on the Modernising Defence Programme and a call for evidence by the Defence Select Committee. We will also be meeting members of the Labour Shadow Defence team and following up on communications with the Liberal Democrat and SNP defence teams to secure cross-party endorsement for our submissions to the MoD and Select Committee – which will highlight the importance of the MDP and provision of robust security to protect high-value assets.

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