Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
Here we have it, the Chairman's Blog for November 2016. Where have the last four weeks gone? This is quite a lengthy blog but there is a lot of activity to report back on.
It started on the first day of the month when Darren Townsend and I were invited to the Scottish Parliament to give evidence to the Justice Committee on the proposed merger of BTP Scotland in to Police Scotland. You can view the TV footage and the evidence supplied here. It was a first for both Darren and I but, placing our nerves to one side, I feel that we both managed to get across some of the relevant points supporting the debate that BTP should continue policing the railway network as a national policing service.
The day after providing evidence to the Justice Committee, Darren and I visited BTP Divisional Headquarters in Glasgow where we spoke with British Transport Police Authority (BTPA), DCC Hanstock and the Senior Command Team of BTP Scotland. We had a lengthy discussion about the future of BTP Scotland and I can honestly say that everyone within BTP and BTP Scotland are all pulling in the same direction and working extremely hard to achieve what is best for the BTP officers in Scotland. There is a long road ahead but it was reassuring to see that all parties are playing their part.
Finally on the Scotland concern, we paid a further visit to St Andrews house on Monday 14th November, where we hoped to have sight of the results of the public consultation regarding the integration. Undoubtedly we were disappointed at what we actually received on this particular visit and we made sure our feelings were known. We did not get to see or hear the results of the consultation and were simply told that the responses were still with the independent analyst.
Darren has provided a full update on this meeting and if you haven't yet read it, you can do so here. Don't forget you can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.
At this point it is worth mentioning the Infrastructure review. Some of you may have seen some media attention regarding this matter but as per my last blog, there have still been no decisions on this review. Ministers are considering the paper submitted by the Home Office project lead who has to demonstrate if there is a business case for such a merger and how that would look going forward. So there is a long way to go and we are not expecting any news until early in the New Year 2017.
Furthermore, at the end of October, Lord Toby Harris' report on how prepared London is to deal with a terror attack was published. BTP gets more than a passing mention; indeed, a lot of what Lord Harris reported on regarding BTP was very positive. However, one of the 127 recommendations talked about assessing the benefits of bringing the Metropolitan Police and BTP underground together. This comment was in the same context of the recommendation regarding the infrastructure review. Again, there is much work to be done to assess the viability of what's being proposed.
Closer to home
Rosters still are very topical and generating a level of uncertainty, but we're reassured that rest day cancellations, in the short term, appear to be reducing in number. Concerning the implementation of the new proposed rosters, I have written formally to the Demand Review to express disquiet about the consultation procedure. I raised the point that from the outset it was proposed that all officers in BTP would be consulted in face-to-face meetings with their second line supervisors. This fell in line with Police Regulations where it states that the Force have a statuary obligation to conduct meaningful consultation with the Federation and those officers affected, taking into consideration any welfare concerns.
At the Demand Review board meeting today at Force Headquarters my disquiet was raised with DCC Hanstock. He stated that the face-to-face meetings were for officers to raise any concerns regarding the proposals with their second line managers, rather than for supervisors to speak to each and every individual. If this has been miscommunicated then Mr Hanstock apologised but encourages officers with personal or welfare concerns to raise them immediately with line managers who can report back to the Demand Review.
The BTP Federation has also been in negotiation around a new Working Time Agreement. The last agreement is out of date in accordance with legislation and needs amending and updating prior to any implementation of new rosters, so you all know what protection is in place prior to commencing these new proposals. This document is now in its final draft form and hopefully we will be in a position to circulate it to all prior to Christmas.
Furthermore the BTP Federation is still in dispute regarding the three-week variable roster pattern. This pattern is non-compliant in accordance with the current roster agreement and Working Time Agreement. The Demand Team is attempting to extend the six consecutive days on a variable roster pattern to a maximum of seven consecutive days. Obviously, this Federation will not agree to such a proposal as this would allow rosters to have officers working a possible 70-hour week on 7 consecutive 10-hour shift patterns. Clearly that is wholly unacceptable. The proposed three-week roster is a week of 62 hours on seven consecutive days. Again this cannot be considered as an acceptable working practice. We still wait a decision by the Chief Officers Group and once we have any news will be sure to share it with you.
On the CID review and the roster consultation it was pleasing to see that the review team invited several CID practitioners from Detective Inspector to Detective Constable from all Divisions across the Force to converse and contribute in the delivery of a new roster. This inclusive practice can only be commended as best practice. The review team has supplied a proposed roster with a level of expectation, however they now seek the views of those working the roster with the intention of reaching a mutual agreement that suits all needs. The aim is to hopefully have a final draft proposal by the beginning of December, which can then go to Chief Officer Group for them to decide upon. Pretty straight forward you may think...
Well, at present we still do not know what the outcome of the public consultation is, due mainly to the fact it does not conclude until the first week in December. We also don't know where some officers especially in B Division maybe posted or working and finally there are still vacancies in C Division that may impact on the success of any proposed rosters. So again, there is still a lot of work to be done before any announcements can be made, however we are now witnessing a more inclusive approach than previous attempts, and welcome this.
What we do know is that the CID review wish to implement the changes for B Division in April 2017 and in C Division in October 2017. Again, the level of uncertainty across the Force continues but hopefully we are nearing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Some good news is that on 1 December 2016 the new sickness policy should come in to operation and with it will be a new ill health process (not ill health dismissal). After weeks of negotiation - some good, some not so good - we now have a policy that will offer our disabled officers a level of protection and reassurance unlike the previous policy that suggested that such officers should be dealt with using the Unsatisfactory Performance Process. So hopefully going forward we now have a better sickness policy that is first and foremost contemplating officers welfare and wellbeing as well as addressing, on the few occasions, unsatisfactory attendance.
Additionally we spent two days with BTP HR in Birmingham during which we went through the Police Regulations 2003. It is our position that BTP should, as a starting point, mirror all Police Regulations as per the RTSA 2003, which in some cases we do. However there are certain regulations that differ and we have requested that those regulations should be identified, an explanation provided as to why it differs and then it should be published with all other Police Regulations. It is only fair we all know what our Regulations look like.
To achieve this task we were optimistic by placing two days in the diary. It was very ambitious of all parties and it quickly dawned on us all that this is a massive undertaking; a task that needs more time, more scrutiny, and the inclusion of BTPA. We were able to identify a lot of regulations that are the same for us and all home office Forces, nonetheless when it comes to those that differ then there are more comprehensive discussions to be had. It is now proposed to re-schedule the meeting ensuring BTPA are present and we have adequate time to complete the work required. It is a move in the right direction and slowly we will continue to achieve one of our aims for you, the members.
Finally I would like to congratulate and thank all the BTP officers who dealt with two major incidents in London recently. Firstly those who attended and dealt with North Greenwich station incident, where a male was detained in possession of explosive materials and later charged for terrorist related offences. An excellent reaction and conclusion, which resulted in no injuries and thankfully no fatalities. Secondly, and sadly, the Croydon Tram disaster where our deepest sympathies go to all those families who lost loved ones in this tragic incident.
What I have heard on the corridors of power is nothing but admiration and gratitude for all the hard work, motivation and steadfast determination provided by all those officers involved. Occasions like this demonstrate the importance of national Police Force like BTP, who provide a professional and determined response that is recognized, not just by senior officers but also by our stakeholders and politicians alike. Well done to you all.
On a lighter note and before I end this blog it would be remiss of me not to give a quick mention to your General Secretary. I wish to congratulate Darren for successfully completing the Sheffield 10k where he raised over £1000 for the Police Treatment Centres. This is a charity that benefits all police officers and Darren has made a great contribution in ensuring that the PTC continues to receive charitable donations. An excellent effort, for an excellent charity. Well-done Darren.
I hope this has given you all an insight into the latest news from your Federation. The quote for this month is:
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it".
Chairman BTP Federation