Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
Colleagues, this is the final blog of 2019; a year in which we have yet again faced some major changes not just in policing with increases in violent crime (especially knife crime) and assaults on officers but in politics, with a change of Prime Minister, a cabinet reshuffle, a general election, and a continuation of uncertainty especially in the policing world. Nevertheless, our colleagues in BTP continue to work productively to achieve excellence. With Christmas just around the corner I can't imagine anyone in BTP will be saying 2019 was a quiet one!
As recently as the end of last month we were again reminded of the threat that society and our brave police officers face with another terrorist attack at London Bridge. Our condolences, prayers and thoughts go to those families who lost loved ones as a result of this callous attack. We hope the tributes that have been paid to Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt will bring some comfort to their family and friends.
It would be remiss of me to not thank those individuals who had the courage to intervene and confront the attacker, putting themselves at risk of serious harm and danger, including one of our very own officers in BTP, who disarmed the terrorist. Finally, I would like to thank the brave firearms officers who attended the terrifying scene and conducted themselves with courage, professionalism and tenacity. It's an event many of us would hope never to witness or have to deal with but yet again officers from the City of London Police, Metropolitan Police and the British Transport Police demonstrated that we have the best police officers in the world.
While there is an ongoing investigation there is little more I can add other than to say, on behalf of millions, a very big thank you.
Force-wide issues of concern to you
Moving on to some more routine business, you may recollect last month I shared with you the theme of a letter that I had written to BTP regarding the concerns and complaints you have raised with us through various forums. I am pleased to report that DCC Hanstock has responded to the points raised on behalf of the Force and we have circulated his letter to members by email.
Furthermore, I am told that the Chief Constable will address each one of these topics by way of a weekly blog, providing you all with more detail.
I suspect for some there will be more questions than answers, however we must take the positives from this welcomed response. I know the Force faces difficult times, especially around the £30 million efficiencies that need to be found in 2021, and with that comes the added pressures of retaining skilled and experienced officers.
I will touch on a couple of the points raised, which were also discussed at this month's National Negotiating Meeting (NNM).
National Negotiating Meeting
Firstly, recruitment and retention complications continue. Regardless of charts and figures, officers are still leaving BTP. Many are choosing to work for train operating companies (TOC'S) rather than policing, some are retiring, some are going to other forces and others are going outside of policing but still they leave. As skilled and experienced officers leave gaps appear on the rosters that result in the limited resources being stretched further than normal. I have said it on numerous occasions, but you can only stretch an elastic band so far before it snaps.
Yes, we welcome the numbers being recruited and that will take some of the burden off those working 24/7, but new recruits cannot replace time-served experienced police officers and recruits need time to settle in, time to understand the realities of policing and time to build their experience. In many cases time is a luxury and something some locations just haven't got.
We are therefore pleased that the Chief Constable has decided to look at the South East allowance, which has remained the same for far too long and out of sync with our Home Office colleagues. This is a concern that we raised only last year after the annual pay award was announced.
We are also very pleased to hear that the Force is in negotiation with the Rail Delivery Group and TOC's to address BTP officers travelling on the rail network when off duty (whether coming into work or not). Our officers are duty bound to deal with crime on the railway on and off duty and while other forces receive travel concessions, BTP officers get none and that is wholly unacceptable. Hopefully - and the message seems very positive - this will change in the near future. Clearly concessions have tax implications so acceptance of any future offer will mean officers having to pay additional tax for such a benefit.
Car parking is something else the Force is exploring for those officers who must pay for parking. Again, this is in its early stages, but a plan of action is being worked up in respect of additional costs/parking fines being incurred due to extended unplanned duty time. So, if for unforeseen reasons you are late off duty and you have incurred further costs to park then the Force is exploring how that can be reimbursed.
Finally, rosters - something which is both very subjective and very newsworthy - are now back under the ownership of Divisional Commanders who have been invited to look at any new rosters and to present proposals to the Chief Officer Group giving justification for change. What the force won't consent to is the shift pattern of two earlies, two lates and two nights, and any proposed new rosters cannot and should not breach the 135-140 rest days a year. Let's hope that whatever is designed for the future introduces a better work life balance for our frontline officers.
What is given with one hand is taken with the other, and what isn't so good is the decision the Force has made regarding the starting salary for new recruits. The starting pay at spine point zero is just below £19,000 up to spine point one, just over £23,000. You enter policing as a new recruit at different levels depending on your policing experience or qualifications and we are told 75% of new joiners to BTP start on spine point one, which is obviously great news, but we the Federation have invited the Force to consider that all new starters should commence on spine point one rather than spine point zero.
This proposal has been declined because currently BTP does not have a problem with recruitment. In my personal opinion this decision is very short sighted. Once the Home Office Forces begin recruiting the 20,000 additional officers, I can guarantee you that certain Chief Constables will use their discretional powers and place these newly recruited officers on spine point one. The competition for new starters will be harsh for all in the Home Office forces. They have all suffered a reduction in numbers and all want desperately to rebuild and increase those numbers back to pre-austerity days. I believe BTP will yet again be reflecting on this decision in time to come.
Also disappointing is the decision to not increase the current £7.50 meal allowance. Again, the Federation had submitted a paper requesting the current allowance be reviewed and increased to enable officers to purchase an adequate meal; especially officers who on event days, pay inflated main line train station food prices. Unfortunately, the Force believes that £7.50 is still adequate and consequently will not change to a higher amount.
However with the introduction of the new E-expense program being announced in February 2020 there is a view that if officers pay more than £7.50 then the amount of £7.50 will be paid automatically without delay and there won't be any future refusals of your entire claim as previously experienced with paper submissions. Furthermore if officers have to submit receipts that show they are paying more than £7.50 for their meals, then within six months of E-expense being launched there will be a review and the Federation proposal will be re-visited by the Force to determine the need to increase the amount. So, we will remind the Force in summer of 2020 to review what is being claimed especially during the football season and event policing.
Other matters discussed at this month's NNM include the current absence of a bilateral pension agreement for all on a CARE Scheme pension. This impacts mainly the 82 officers who have transferred from the Home Office forces to BTP with a genuinely held belief that their pensions - albeit a mix of final salary and CARE scheme - would also transfer with them. However, that is not the case and currently these officers' pensions sit in their Home Office pension pots and not BTP.
The Force will again write a letter to every officer affected by the lack of a bilateral agreement explaining the outcomes of their discussions with BTPA and DFT. In summary, BTP will not be making good the pension arrangements for the 82 affected officers, there are no changes currently in legislation that will address the lack of bilateral agreement due to Brexit and other legislative priorities and finally, BTP is willing to offer each officer £250 to seek independent pension advice. Please don't laugh its true; £250 per officer.
Clearly this is not great news and I have personally contacted John Apter, the Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, to see if there is anything PFEW can do to assist our former Home Office force colleagues. I have asked if he and his team are willing to approach the Home Office and see if there can be a request for a rule change regarding the five-year threshold, especially in light of the recent court decision for Judges and Firefighters regarding age discrimination. We have asked that our officers are supported, with their Home Office colleagues, in respect of reversing the decision where officers of a certain age and length of service were tapered from a final salary scheme and placed into a CARE scheme, which has now been deemed unlawful.
The intention of these two requests is the hope that if the five-year rule can be extended within the pension rules, that will allow time for the pension challenge (regarding the tapered system) to be argued and hopefully allow officers to return to a final salary scheme. At this point those officers affected in BTP will then be able to transfer their Home Office pensions into BTP because currently the Force does have a bilateral agreement for final salary pension holders.
Again, we appreciate time is ticking and those affected are getting very nervous, but I do want to offer reassurance that this Federation is doing all it can.
Finally, some will recollect that this Federation has been requesting a compendium of our terms and conditions and we have now met with the BTP Authority to discuss what looks like the final draft, of which the Authority is very supportive. The delay in its delivery is that some of the contents are not contractual terms and conditions. The Force cannot change any contractual T&Cs without conducting a negotiation process through the Machinery of Negotiation (MoN). However non-contractual conditions can be altered and changed in consultation with officers and staff; these are force policies and sit with the Chief Constable.
The Force will now deliver a final draft that will identify what they believe are contractual and non-contractual conditions. Call me skeptical, but I suspect the debate could go on for some time. However, once we have an agreed the final draft we, the Federation, will send a copy to our employment barristers for the final legal view before signing off. The aim of all parties is to have a signed final version of the compendium ready to be announced and shared at our annual conference in March 2020.
Post Incident Procedure
In light of the most recent terrorist attack at London Bridge I would like to remind every officer to refresh themselves with the Post Incident Procedure (PIP). If you are ever involved in any Death or Serious Injury (DSI) event, especially a terrorist attack where there has been force used, then there will be consideration/a decision by BTP and/or the local Home Office force to have a Post Incident Procedure.
This is where all evidence is captured in one place and everything you say and do following that event is recorded. This is for your benefit as well as for police forces to show transparency in their actions on such occasions where there will be media/public interest and where there will be either an investigation by the IOPC or an inquest/public enquiry.
The reason I wish to remind all officers of this procedure is that it is not just for firearms or Taser trained officers. Any officer involved in a DSI incident could find themselves in a Post incident Procedure suite and if you do then part of that process is that every officer is entitled to a Federation Representative and a criminal lawyer.
If you do find yourself in a PIP suite, be it a BTP or a Home Office suite please ensure you request a PIP trained Federation representative and a lawyer. Do not hesitate to call immediately even if you know or believe you have nothing to worry about and you know you have done nothing wrong. The protection, but more importantly the support, from the Federation and the lawyer is a necessity rather than a case that "you can have representation if you want." Do not go through a PIP process without the correct representation.
Staying with investigations into police officers, I had the pleasure of joining officers and staff from BTP's Professional Standards Department in York this month. I was joined by Mark Bishop, a Federation Rep from B Division, and Ryan Griffiths, a Federation Rep from C Division, to participate in a PSD development day. We were asked some difficult questions regarding our representation and we explained our roles and responsibilities.
We also discussed the new conduct regulations being introduced in 2020 across all forces including BTP. As yet we have not entered into the negotiating process around these new regulations, but we welcome the vision, which is more focused on reflective practice rather than seeking blame and punishment. Once BTP has agreed a set of regulations mirroring those of England and Wales there will be some serious changes in the conduct world and officers should find that line managers and HR personnel become more involved in local minor matters rather than full blown investigations by PSD/IOPC. Investigations that could result in Gross Misconduct and which are potentially job threatening should be the only investigations conducted by PSD and IOPC and these will be your more serious misconduct and any criminal matters.
In other news..
I hope you have all participated in the BTP staff survey and I look forward to receiving the results from Durham University in the New Year. We would like to see the results of this survey published in a more accessible location. Additionally, the National Welfare Survey, which is being run by the NPCC, is another important survey that will assist in bringing about changes that will benefit you the frontline officer.
Finally, we will launch the BTP Federation app in the New Year which will enable you to easily access information such as contact numbers, who your representatives are on your areas, what to do if served a notice of investigation and much, much more. One it's in use we will welcome constructive feedback on how you're using it, whether any information is missing and what more content you would like available. We intend to trial the app for at least 6 months to see what the engagement is like and if you the members are getting benefit from such. I hope it helps.
There is little more that I can report on for 2019; thank you again for reading this blog and do not hesitate to contact your Federation if you have any concerns or questions regarding its contents.
To round off the year, on behalf of everyone in the Federation, I like to offer an extra thank you for all your hard work, commitment and the dedication to duty you have all displayed during 2019, regardless of your role, where you are stationed or what rank you are. You have all made a difference and we the BTP Federation are proud to represent you all.
For those officers who are working over the festive season, what you do truly matters and I salute you all. I wish you all a safe return to your families. Finally, to all in BTP once again we wish you and all your families a very Merry Christmas and all the best for a prosperous 2019.
Quote of the Month:
"Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely."
Roy T. BennettNigel Goodband