Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
Hopefully the majority of you have enjoyed a summer break and are now back on the treadmill of life in the BTP world.
Some of you may think that September has been a quite month for updates and news, however behind the scenes I can assure you that the Federation have been working hard attempting to get projects and plans in place.
Last month I informed you of the Scottish Government's public consultation document. I hope many of you chose to submit a response in support of BTP Scotland. We, the British Transport Police Federation submitted a response, a summary of which can be viewed on our website. A full copy of the response should be published by the end of this month for you all to view, however we are waiting confirmation on the timing of that.
We are now anticipating a meeting with the Scottish Government which will take place once all responses to the consultation have been analysed. Hopefully the responses will influence the Scottish Government and encourage them to re-consider their views and plans for BTP Scotland. It is my submission that if the responses received are ignored then the Scottish Government will be clearly acting against public opinion. Having previously been described as a 'one party state', the Scottish Government could further be accused of simply fulfilling an ideology rather than doing what is best for policing and what is best for the Scottish traveling public.
I understand these are strong words but the Scottish Government have described the rationale for subsuming BTP Scotland in to Police Scotland is to allow for more accountability to the Scottish public. Therefore if this is true and the consultation responses shows NO public appetite for these changes then surely the SG will have to take note and respond accordingly.
Darren Townsend and I have been invited to visit the Transport Minister in Scotland on 6 December 2016. We are also expecting an invitation to meet with the heads of department who lead on this project from the Scottish Government in due course. Hopefully following these meetings we will be in a position to divulge further information that will benefit or enlighten our members in Scotland.
In a similar vein you may remember in my July blog, I mentioned that the Infrastructure review being conducted by the Home Office was ongoing. This month, in company with Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police, we met with civil servants who lead on this project. We were informed that a report regarding the activities of the working group would be submitted to politicians by the end of October 2016. This report will identify if there is a business case for merging three forces into one. If there is a case, then Ministers will determine the strategy for implementation. Once we know if the project has the approval of ministers we will ensure all members are made aware.
In summary, at a national level there is a lot of work being undertaken to determine what the future of BTP will look like. Clearly there are a lot of unanswered questions but both projects are in their infancy and as soon as further information is received we the BTP Federation will endeavour to keep you all informed.
Moving on to the next significant change expected in BTP and that is rosters.
In company with Mike McEwan - who is now an integral member of the project team for the demand review - Darren Townsend and I attended a meeting chaired by DCC Hanstock. We were informed that a consultation process with individuals and the Federation would commence in the first week in October 2016, with the intention of introducing the new proposed rosters in April 2017. The Force intend to facilitate a face-to-face discussion between everyone affected and his or her line manager. We have raised concerns about this process and the potential problems it may cause.
Furthermore, the Federation has requested that a new Working Time Agreement, Roster Agreement and Movement of Officer's Agreement are all re-negotiated prior to the implementation phase. This will provide a safeguard in that every officer who will experience this change will know exactly what protection is in place. The DCC has agreed that these fundamental agreements should be in place, so we have made some progress.
Obviously there is still a considerable amount of work to be performed by the Demand Review Team but we are getting ever closer to October when officers are expected to book their annual leave for 2017, so we hope to have sight of the proposed roster soon.
With regards to the Crime Review, I have been invited to meet with D/Chief Supt Jason Bunyard and his team for an update prior to it going to public consultation early in October. Once I have an update I will be publishing it on the website or in next months blog.
Some of you may also be aware that there is a lot of publicity around BTP officers in Scotland being issued with Taser. Also there continues to be a lot of media attention regarding the use of Spit Guards. The Federation will continue to support the Force in their approach of issuing officers with Tasers. It is our stance that all Officers who wish to carry Taser should be issued with such. Furthermore, we support officers who find themselves having to deploy Spit Guards in situations to protect their own safety and that of members of the public. After 26 years service, it still shocks me how some elements of society can justify and condone spitting or worse assaults and class it as simply being an occupational hazard. This is wholly unacceptable; officers are not paid to be spat at or assaulted in any way.
Moving on to the Sickness Policy debate and the proposed new policy on the JRFT; we are still waiting further updates. I look forward to receiving the draft ill health dismissal policy, which is still missing from the present policy and continues to frustrate officers who suffer a disability or long-term illness. I will continue to push the Force on this topic. We are invited to meet the BTPA on 07 October 2016 to discuss the failure to reach an agreement on overnight allowance. Hopefully we can, armed with the legal advice that we have obtained, persuade the BTP Authority to pay officers what they are entitled as per the Winsor Agreement.
Internally the Federation are exploring the possibility of a group insurance scheme where members could be offered the opportunity to pay a little extra to get certain insurance cover including life and accidental cover. We are exploring the market to obtain the best cost effective product for our members. Once we have further details we will circulate our proposal to determine if you are interested in such a product.
Furthermore we are seeking some legal opinion on a number of issues. One being pensions for BTP Scotland officers, another is interpretation of the regulations around rosters.
Looking to the future, we have meetings planned with the BTPA, Scottish Government and the Home Office post October regarding the Infrastructure review and we watch closely the progression of the Demand review regarding the introduction of a new national roster.
We have a Management Board meeting this week (Wednesday) where your local representatives will meet and highlight issues effecting members to identify any concerns that we the Executive body can raise at a Force level.
I hope this gives you a good update on what your Federation is currently involved in. If there are any enquiries or you require further detail about the topics I have raised in this blog then please do not hesitate to contact your local reps or Darren and I and we will do our best to assist.
Quote for the month is:
All the best
Chairman BTP Federation