Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
Chairman's BlogColleagues, welcome to my February Blog with an update on what the National Executive is involved with on your behalf.
This month has seen some considerable changes in DRD and Scotland, both of which are very much welcomed. I will report further on these two topics later in this blog.
We have also been busy planning for our National Annual Conference, which will be held in Manchester. During the event we will showcase the excellent work of all in BTP. We will proudly represent some of the finest officers in policing and demonstrate why it is so important to have a specialist force policing a very testing and dangerous environment. We will exhibit some of the outstanding work that you, our members, have been involved in over the last 12 months keeping the public and staff safe on our railways.
I hope that all those who attend our conference will leave better informed and those who work for BTP will walk away proud to be part of this great force.
What a month for Scotland! Following the announcement in December 2017 by the Scottish Police Authority, that full integration couldn't be achieved by April 2019, we witnessed several other debates highlighting why full integration should now be suspended/paused.
Following the lively debate in the House of Lords, the Shadow Justice Secretary Liam Kerr MSP, tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament. Just this week we saw the results of an independent staff survey conducted by Dr Kath Murray and Dr Colin Atkinson. The responses to this survey show the pride our officers take in protecting and serving the travelling public across Scotland. They are knowledgeable, passionate and experienced railway policing specialists, who are proud of and value their role within British Transport Police. This is the force they joined and the force they wish to remain with.
The impact of the integration is clear to see. Officers are concerned and frustrated at what remains an uncertain future. Despite this, as highlighted in the recent HMICS report, those same officers have demonstrated that they remain committed to delivering an excellent service to the public and keeping the rail network in Scotland safe. Three-quarters of officers and staff responded to the survey and we would like to thank all who participated.
We have also seen the letter from the Convener of the Scottish Justice Committee, Margaret Mitchell MSP, to Humza Yousaf MSP, the Minister for Transport and the Islands, requesting an update on the progress of the integration of the BTP into Police Scotland. You can read his response here. Clearly from the evidence to date even the Justice Committee were somewhat concerned.
On 30 January there was a Joint Programme Board (JPB) meeting to review progress to date and consider emerging risks and issues. We now know that work is progressing on workforce issues and a proposal has been made to the pension scheme trustee that would allow officers and staff to retain access to their current pensions within a segregated part of the existing scheme. The Federation have not seen these proposals and we continue to canvass all parties to share such. On communications, members of the JPB agreed that stakeholder events would be organised for staff, officers and the rail industry, to engage with them on progress and provide clarification on the work and delivery plan going forward. We now await the dates of these events.
A further report was released by Mr Liam Kerr MSP recommending a pause in the integration process and that continuing towards a cliff edge was not the way forward. Meanwhile we organised more meetings with politicians and with Police Scotland to advance the T&C's and making comparisons to Police Scotland regulations.
We are now all aware that on Tuesday of this week (20 February) there was an extraordinary meeting of the JPB which resulted in a paper proposing that the integration of BTP Scotland into Police Scotland was suspended/paused. This paper was delivered to Ministers followed by a report to the Justice Committee. Over the next 6 months there will be a detailed re-planning exercise by the JPB which will determine the revised timeframe for integration. This pause is very much welcomed by this Federation and those officers that we represent.
What we would like to see now is that experts in their relative fields are listened to, the risks they highlight are addressed in full, and that communication between those involved in and affected by the integration improves significantly. The process to date has caused unnecessary worry and concern; this cannot be repeated in the coming months and years. Opportunities to engage with staff, which have not been taken previously, should now be planned and delivered regularly and thoroughly, providing the level of detail of members need.
It was pleasing to hear both the JPB and Scottish Government now acknowledge that the engagement with stakeholders and staff has not been great and their intention is to properly engage with all.
Clearly there is still a lot of work to be completed and we will continue to keep you informed on progress whilst attempting to encourage Ministers and senior police personnel to share more information.
I reported last month that I believed that DCC Hanstock remained open to feedback from the Federation and from officers working the current rosters. I am pleased to report that DCC Hanstock has since announced that with the assistance of CI Chris Casey new rosters will be introduced in May of this year across C and B Division. As I have always stated, rosters are subjective and we will undoubtly continue to debate in some quarters the rights and wrongs of the new rosters.
The Federation welcomes the change and we thank DCC Hanstock for listening to your concerns. Some would say it has taken too long to reach this point and the damage has already been done. The optimistic ones amongst us would say better late than never. What we must do now is look forward and not dwell on what has occurred in the past. I hope we can embrace a better roster that hopefully will address a lot of your concerns especially the work/life balance.
Nonetheless lets make sure we are all honest with ourselves. If you are expecting a roster that provides many weekends off, very few late and night turns and all your rest days as planned, then please think again. The demand on BTP continues and although Rest Day cancellations are presently reduced in number, they will continue, as will some changes to shift patterns and certain restrictions on annual leave maybe applied. Unfortunately that's the nature of policing and anyone ignoring that fact is not facing up to reality. We will obviously keep an eye on the number of cancellations and we will make our feelings known if the number starts to rise in unmanageable ways as experienced previously.
National Negotiating Meeting
We had a further National Negotiating Meeting with the DCC on Tuesday 14 February, a Valentine's day treat. Firstly we welcomed a new attendee to the meeting, Kerry McCafferty Head of People and Development, Capability and Resources. I am pleased to report that we have finally agreed our Machinery of Negotiation, the agreement that in essence allows the Federation to function and which includes the third full time post within the Executive.
There will be a review in 18 months regarding the role of Treasurer but in the meantime I congratulate Mark on his future role. We also agreed in principle the Working Time Agreement, although the force has, in the main, been working within the spirit of the Agreement. We still however, have work to do around the roster agreement which hopefully will fall in line with the introduction of the new proposed rosters. The Working Time Agreement, once badged and signed by the Chief, will be published on our website and on the Force Intranet.
What we didn't resolve was the overnight allowance decision; the DCC requested that further work is conducted on assessing those outstanding cases before looking at introducing a new policy agreed by all parties.
To reiterate our position once again on the Overnight Allowance: if an operational requirement means you're being instructed to stay at a location overnight, which is not routine policing and are unable to go home, you're entitled to the allowance. If you're given a choice of staying or going home, then clearly you're not entitled to it.
In addition, we have challenged the new proposed "Limited Duties" policy which most Home Office forces are working with. We are of the opinion that our policy is slightly draconian and there may be a breach of the Equality Act. The Force has agreed to seek independent advice and revisit the areas of concern that we have raised.
As reported last month there are possible changes on the horizon, one of which being the introduction of a document that is entitled "an officers handbook". This includes the T&Cs/regulations which we have sought legal advice on. We have encouraged the Force and the Authority to produce a document incorporating our rules and regulations so you all have a point of reference, and the Chief Constable has confirmed there is a need for these to be in one single document. There are obviously still some differences with the interpretation of some of the Police Regulations; hopefully we can resolve and agree the interpretations so that the document can be published sooner rather than later. We are having an independent body review the policy and feedback any concerns, ideas or recommendations.
On 5 February Darren Townsend and I visited the Department of Transport and met with Mr Dan Moore regarding our concerns around engagement in Scotland and the refusal to share the pensions proposals. Mr Moore gave a personal guarantee that he would seek to improve engagement and invited the Federation to gather as many questions from officers as possible with a view to him providing answers. This resulted in a circular going out to all in Scotland inviting officers to submit their questions. There has been an excellent response supported by the local Federation rep Gordon Wason who has been coordinating the submissions. I would like to thank you all for assisting us with this task.
On 7 February I attended an Interview Strategy conference hosted by BTP MIT at FHQ. For those that don't know, prior to becoming the National Chairman I was a National Interview advisor and an old Tier 3 interviewer. Also in attendance were interview advisors, Senior Investigating Officers from a number of Home Office forces and various academics from the field of expertise in communications. I gave a presentation on how the Federation believes that police officers in certain major incidents should be treated just as importantly as other significant/vulnerable witnesses. The presentation was well received and I thank DI Ian Trantum and Professor Becky Milne for giving me the opportunity to provide a Federation perspective on obtaining best evidence through interviews.
The following day Darren Townsend and I were invited to visit the Rail Delivery Group RDG in London where we received a tour of the premises and they explained how BTP as a force fitted in to the plan of railway delivery/service. We had interesting discussions around performance, Scotland and the wider spread of CTU. I believe a working relationship between the RDG and the Federation to be an important relationship and one that hopefully we can develop over the months and years to come. It was pleasing to note the RDG sees benefits in working with a staff association and we were able to dispel some of the myths about police staff associations. One thing I was happy to hear is how all members of the RDG appreciate, admire and support our frontline officers.
On Thursday 22 February I attended FHQ and, with many senior personnel and the Chief Constable, received a briefing from Dr Les Graham, a professor from Durham University, regarding the recent staff survey conducted by the Force. Now I have been quite cynical about this survey and whether it would address your concerns and view on life in BTP at present.
I must admit that I have totally misjudged the survey and its findings. Dr Graham delivered a very detailed but engaging explanation of the results received. Some of the results don't make for comfortable reading for the Chief officers and others while some are very positive. Putting my initial - incorrect - assessment to one side I have to admit this survey captures what I would have expected form a staff survey, if not more. More importantly it identifies the reasons behind the results and provides recommendations and priority actions so the Force can look at improving.
What was pleasing was the Chief Constable committing to taking the recommendations, engaging better with work force and working more closely in addressing those concerns. Credit where credit is due, this is a big commitment and one that will involve us all. We will all need to engage and embrace this survey for it to work and we, the Federation, are starting that by inviting Dr Graham to present the results to our annual conference.
We are now less than three weeks from our annual conference. As well as showcasing some of your excellent work, conference gives us an opportunity to address the Government, Ministers, DFT, Chief Constable and many others with your concerns and ideas, and hopefully in return secure support in addressing those concerns and ideas.
Once again, our Chief Constable will take part in a Q&A session at conference. If you have any questions you would like to put him or Charlotte Vitty, CEO of the BTP Authority, please email them to us asap at firstname.lastname@example.org
On the eve of conference we will give recognition to certain events and certain officers for their excellent work over the last 12 months. For the first time this year we asked you to nominate your colleagues for Awards of Excellence; something we will repeat as we feel it has worked well. Award winners include officers who carried out life-saving interventions and disarmed suspects with weapons. We will also pay recognition to all those officers involved in the Croydon Tram crash, the Manchester terror attack and the attack at London Bridge. Please keep an eye on our social media where we will post updates on those award winners and films depicting their stories. I am hoping for an excellent night and one where many will feel proud to be BTP Police officers.
Lastly, on a personal note, I have now been in office for exactly two years. There have certainly been ups and downs during this period but I hope you will agree that your Federation has demonstrated it is moving in the right direction regarding accountability and accessibility.
The last two years have perhaps been most challenging I have experienced in 28 years of policing. When people say 'every day is a school day' they are right; we all face new challenges every day. We don't always get it right but hopefully you feel assured by the level of support that this Federation is providing to its members.
Thank you for reading this monthly blog. I hope it provides sufficient updates and information on what your Federation are doing on your behalf. Please don't ever hesitate to contact your local Federation representative if you need our assistance.
Quote of the month: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." Anne Frank