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 December 2016. This will be the last blog for 2016 and what a year it has been with December not bucking the trend!
The month began with a visit to FHQ for a JCC meeting with the Chief Constable. We, TSSA and the Superintendents Association were provided with updates regarding Scotland, the infrastructure review, and the Toby Harris report, before Mr Crowther then described the issues the Force is facing going forward into the New Year.
Top of the agenda was the future budget. It was disappointing to hear that there needs to be additional savings made throughout the Force which we hope will not impact on frontline Policing. The Force wants to expand the CT capability into the north of the country and this will have an additional impact on its budget. On top of the savings required there is the revaluation of staff pay, the new Government apprenticeship scheme, inflation and the DFT expectation to find 8% savings between now and 2020. Evidently there are some testing times ahead. Obviously, we will continue to attempt to influence the BTP Authority to provide additional funding for the CT capability, which is a must in the current climate.
On a positive note, the Chief agrees with the Federation that he should issue more officers with Taser. He also wishes to invest additional resources into supporting and valuing his workforce; with more investment into Trim and assaults on police officers/staff, improving payroll queries and looking at running wellbeing days, cultural boards and ethics boards. There are some further changes to come; nonetheless they will hopefully be for the benefit of the majority.
On 5 December I travelled up to Scotland to visit Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Scottish Government. During my journey to Scotland I received a letter by email from the Justice Secretary Mr Matheson. This letter was in response to our request in August for reassurance about preserving the current terms and conditions for BTP officers. It was disappointing that the letter was only written on the eve of our visit some five months later.
The following day Mick McEwan, Darren Townsend and I attended a workshop chaired by Ch/Supt McBride in Glasgow, where we were offered the opportunity of defining the roles and responsibilities of BTP to the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland. We were in company with Supt Conaghan, Supt Wylie, Supt Marshall and TSSA. Also present were stakeholders from certain Train Operating Companies. This was a beneficial debate and one where we had sufficient opportunity to highlight the risk associated with policing the railway and the difficulties Police Scotland will experience.
This meeting was followed by a visit to the Scottish Government where we met with the Justice Secretary, Mr Matheson. We expressed our frustration regarding the refusal to share the results of the consultation process; he explained this was policy and until the draft enabling Bill had gone through the Scottish Parliament we would not see the results or the draft Bill.
We also touched on our disappointment regarding the reassurance letter received from Mr Matheson. The Justice Secretary described this letter as a triple lock reassurance, which we obviously disagreed with. We have made our thoughts and our frustration known to Mr Matheson and the meeting ended with both parties feeling somewhat dejected.
Some three days later, without any notice, the results of the consultation and the draft Bill were published on the Scottish Government website. Clearly the results of the consultation confirmed our suspicions and demonstrated that regardless of the consultation The Scottish Government continues with their plans with little or no support. We, the Federation, continue with our efforts in ensuring that the welfare of the officers and the security of their future is our priority.
Its fair to say the month then continued in the same vein.
A group of detectives from across the country were encouraged to propose a number of rosters covering all divisions and the representatives did exactly that. We all met to discuss these proposals and there was one particular roster that fitted the criteria provided by the review team and could possibly fit both B and C Divisions. This roster, with one proposal from C Division, has now been shared with ACC Newton who is to present it to the COG.
A good start, you would think. Nonetheless, just last week we received notification of some derogatory comments made on the BTP Intranet about CID officers. Clearly this had a demoralising impact and I was personally inundated with calls from officers expressing their dismay and feelings of dissatisfaction. I have since circulated my views on these comments and don't intend to dwell on them. However, it is important for all officers in BTP (including CID) to remember we are one big policing family and we all put in an incredible number of hours and effort in to serving the public and the railway. There are excellent examples of the work being conducted across the Country and we should not dwell on one foolish negative comment. In these difficult times, we should support each other and be proud of what we achieve because believe me, the good totally outweighs the bad.
Again, we have experienced certain obstacles but the Chief Constable is now accepting three of the rosters that the Force has consulted on. Those rosters are the National 24/7, the London night tube 24/7 and the National 19-hour roster. These should now be advertised in January 2017 so officers know going forward what the final version of the roster looks like. The roster that is in dispute is the 3-week variable roster, which is non-compliant as per the Force roster agreement. The Demand Review is conducting a survey to determine if officers wish to work this pattern and if they do, whether they would stand outside of the Force agreement. The Federation cannot prevent officers from working a non-compliant roster should they wish to do so; we can only advise that is in non-compliant and explain the impact of this.
In addition to the 3-week roster, just this week the Leeds and Swansea rosters were produced. These have not previously been part of the consultation process so we are now in a 30-day consultation period (which began on 14 December). The Swansea proposal is again non-compliant and the Leeds roster is a slight variation to the accepted 24/7 roster. We look forward to seeing how we progress these.
I had a quarterly meeting with PSD and we ran through the ongoing investigations. I reported that during this year, my first of authorising legal assistance, we have supported 59 officers against whom allegations have been made. This doesn't include the 35 ongoing civil matters that the Federation in house lawyer is working on. Very few have reached the misconduct hearing stage but in those cases that do, we continue to support those officers through the process.
We had a Force Conference with BTPA and a National Negotiating meeting this month where we have made progress with the overnight allowance and the sickness policy.
We are awaiting a written explanation as to when officers will be entitled to claim overnight allowance instead of the current stance where no one receives it. Additionally, HR is reviewing any back pay that officers may be entitled to. The new sickness policy should now go live in January and included is a new ill-health procedure.
At these same meetings we continue to debate Police Regulations, terms and conditions, new flexible working agreement, a workforce agreement, an entitlement grid, part time pensions and PIP on call allowance.
As we look forward to the New Year, I suspect many more changes will be on the horizon. Be reassured that we are all committed to take on whatever challenges are put in our path and we will continue to support you the members.
For those officers who are working over the festive season, I wish you all a safe return to your families and to all in BTP, we wish you and all your families a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Quote of the Month:
Chairman BTP Federation