Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
May 2017Here is my blog for the month of May, with updates on what the National Executive is involved with on your behalf. My intended blog for this month had been very different. My main focus was going to be on officer welfare and how dissatisfied officers are feeling across the force. However, the events in Manchester on Monday evening have put our concerns and complaints into perspective. Our views have not changed but at present our thoughts and prayers are with those families who have lost loved ones and those children and adults who are still suffering in hospital with serious injuries.
All life is precious and the police family is no different to any other family in feeling grief when a life is lost. The news that a serving police officer from Cheshire lost her life in the attack will be felt throughout the service. Her family, friends and colleagues are very much in our thoughts.
Being a parent I cannot conceive how families are handling and dealing with their anguish, their anger and that question 'why?'. What took place at the Manchester arena, where children and young people were rejoicing, is nothing short of a national disaster. We have all been affected by this devastating event and memories of previous tragic incidents across the world will have come flooding back for many. What I would like to say is whilst I sat in shock feeling helpless and saddened by the pictures being televised, like many I was impressed and proud to see the outstanding levels of professionalism and exceptional resilience that we have witnessed from our officers in BTP, officers in GMP, and all the emergency services.
As stated in my message on Tuesday evening to all those officers who attended the scene on the night and the following day, we all as police officers train for such eventualities but we all hope we never have to put that training into action. On Monday night many did and they did so in the usual fashion running towards danger and putting others first. Again, I know I have sent a message to all but I would genuinely like to thank all BTP officers, GMP officers and the other emergency services for showing the world and those experiencing this callous attack no matter how badl we feel the public sector is being treated, no matter how low we think morale is we all in the blue light brigade pull together, dig deep and serve the public in a way that is unimaginable and that service and sacrifice is without doubt appreciated by many. So again, on behalf of the Federation and most in of society in this country we thank you all.
Moving on to your monthly update, you may recall your General Secretary Darren Townsend and I spent time in Scotland to provide updates to BTP Scotland on the proposed merger. It saddens me to report that just a week after that visit and speaking with civil servants from Scotland the Scottish Government's response to the Scottish Justice Committee report was published.
We now know following the Stage 1 process the Scottish Parliament has passed the draft bill. There were numerous recommendations by the Justice Committee to the Scottish Parliament and thankfully the recommendation to protect the security of Police Officers terms, conditions and pensions has been endorsed. There is clear direction from both the recommendations and the Scottish Government that there will be a "no detriment" clause to the transfer. I appreciate that there are still officers in BTP Scotland who don't want to join Police Scotland and we the BTP Federation will continue to press the force on their proposals for these officers.
Although the draft Bill has been passed there is still a long road ahead during which the finer detail will be subject to scrutiny and our priority is to ensure the T&Cs BTP officers have today are retained on the day of integration. Darren and I have met with Charlotte Vitty from the BTP Authority and DCC Hanstock and we were reassured that their priority is now with the T&Cs and pensions of both police officers and police staff. In company with BTPA and BTP we are meeting with civil servants from the Scottish Government today (25 May) in York to focus on these particular topics.
As you may recollect, I stated last month that the timing of the recently announced General Election will be of interest regarding the integration. We have now seen the Conservative party manifesto that pledges to integrate BTP with Civil Nuclear Police and Ministry of Defence Police creating an infrastructure Police Force. The Home Office first mooted this last year. We're not able to comment on the detail of party manifestos at this time, save to say a proposal like this causes confusion for BTP officers and the public who see Scotland racing ahead to take control of their own policing.
We are witnessing the results of the implementation of the Demand Review and understand the disquiet across the Force. Despite compiling a comprehensive and detailed list of roster failings that have been experienced across the force so far, the Federation has been asked to raise these on division in the first instance, which we will do. We are aware Divisional Commanders will be asked to report on these issues at Demand Review Board meetings and we will pursue them to ensure they are addressed.
We are receiving reports of continued cancellation of rest days, short notice changes to rosters and in some cases no resources available just to cover the core roster. This is wholly unacceptable. In the month of April - the first month of the new rosters - 2,500 rest days were cancelled, with a prediction of 1800 cancellations in May. The reasons for the gaps are simply the lack of resources across the force and given the constraints of the budget, paying officers to cover those gaps is not the answer to the problem.
Obviously, this cannot have been the intent of the Demand Review. Nonetheless officers have now been suffering large numbers of rest day cancellations for more than two years and work life balance, morale and performance are being affected. It cannot be sustained with there being a risk to the overall performance, to an investigation or to an officer's wellbeing. This Federation will continue to gather the evidence and report directly to the DCC on the roster failings. Furthermore, both C/Supt Davies and Supt Gordon have invited me to meet to discuss examples where rosters are not functioning correctly. We are six weeks in to the implementation and I have witnessed first-hand the DCC gathering evidence on what is the true picture. His term is that he does not want to 'sugar-coat' this he wants to know the facts so they can be addressed accordingly.
National Negotiating Meeting:
I reported last month that we were to have our quarterly NNM with DCC Hanstock. We discussed a number of topics, two in particular being the overnight allowance and fuel allowance. The overnight allowance and payment to our officers is well overdue. We were reassured that officers involved in OP Novella were to receive their payment in their May payday and we hope that has been achieved. For other officers who have claimed and expect payment, unfortunately these claims are still ongoing.
We were informed future guidance on claims and structures for operational orders incorporating overnight allowance would be sent to the Federation for discussion. This has not yet happened although we are aware of the Force circulation. Additionally, we were informed that due to the Demand Review the fuel allowance policy would be reviewed and revisited. The decision that all claims would cease with immediate effect was not shared with us. This Federation has not agreed to the guidance being issued on the expenses and allowance portal and we are challenging this.
Again, this is clear evidence of misunderstandings or breakdowns in communications between certain departments in the Force and this Federation. Again, the DCC has been informed and he his liaising with HR to address these issues.
As reported in my last blog HMIC inspected BTP back in February 2017. Their inspection focused on Police Legitimacy, Efficiency and Leadership.
- Legitimacy is assessed in relation to whether the Force operates fairly, ethically and within the law.
- Efficiency is assessed in relation to how we provide value for money. It also looks at how efficient the Force is at keeping people safe and reducing crime in line with the effectiveness strand, which will take place at a later point this year.
- Leadership is an assessment of how well led the Force is at every rank and grade, with a focus on the organisational structures that help the Force to understand and develop leadership skills across the whole Force.
We know the Force has seen the draft report from the HMIC but we all now wait to see the final version. I believe that operationally this Force is effective and efficient and that is due to the steadfast determination of all working on the frontline. Once we have sight of the report we will share our views.
Finally - and I appreciate that for some it has been a contentious issue - our new Group Insurance scheme from George Burrows is underway. This insurance provides every member of the Federation with better life cover, RAC cover, family holiday insurance, legal cover for on and off duty including criminal, gadget cover for phones, tablets and laptops, and sickness pay cover. We have suffered a few teething problems especially with the circulation and posting of the booklets and officers address details - this wasn't helped by the introduction of a new computer server that saw our systems close down for nearly a week. But, we are back up and running now. Booklets and membership cards have been provided but if anyone has not yet received their booklet and cards, please contact us to arrange immediate delivery.
Quote for this month:
"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." Albert Einstein