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 2020; a year in which we have faced controversy, a global pandemic, changes to our way of working and changes within BTP. Hopefully this blog will provide you with a final round up for the year regarding what your Federation has been involved with on your behalf.
I know that your job is a difficult one and on occasions its can be unrelenting. Sometimes it puts you under such pressure you may question 'why am I doing this?'. It can pull at your heart strings like nothing else and it can test your resilience to the max. The last nine months have been bizarre; an experience that none of us have witnessed previously in our history.
The COVID pandemic has impacted on us all and it has had a massive bearing on policing. Dealing with a pandemic on the home front has been tremendously difficult for us all, nevertheless, not only have you dealt with your personal circumstances, you have also dealt with policing the pandemic, policing the ever-changing policing posture and policing the ever-changing COVID regulations. I am proud to be part of this brilliant police force, where once again you the frontline officers have done an absolutely brilliant job. So, from all in the Federation I would like to say a humongous thank you. Thank you for everything you have done in 2020; you are all superstars.
New Chief Constable announced
I will start this month's blog by offering a very warm welcome to our newly appointed Chief Constable Lucy D'Orsi from the Metropolitan Police. Deputy Assistant Commissioner D'Orsi is an experienced police officer and leader with a vast amount of experience, particularly in the Counter Terrorism/firearms/Taser world, amongst many other areas. We obviously look forward to establishing a constructive and productive relationship when she joins BTP in February 2021.
Clearly this means we will witness the departure of Mr Paul Crowther CBE from BTP in 2021. Mr Crowther remains the Chief constable until February 2021 and we will hopefully get to meet him prior to his retirement to thank him for his long service; 40 years in BTP. He has been the Chief Constable for the last six years and what I have learnt about Mr Crowther is that he is a very proud man to his core, and he feels honored to be our Chief Constable. So, I suspect we all know that early next year will be a difficult time for him. Forty years in any organisation would be difficult for anyone to simply say goodbye and walk away from. Early next year, on behalf of all in the BTP Federation, I will show our appreciation for his time served and thank him personally for all that he has done in his career in BTP. I am sure you will all join me in wishing him all the very best in the future.
Public sector pay freeze
In other news, you may be aware the Government has made a decision regarding public sector pay and for now there will be a freeze on any increases, unless you work in the NHS. It has been confirmed that this freeze does not impact on incremental pay increases. We don't know how long the pause in pay rises will last and I do understand some officers' frustration about this decision, made by a government that assured us all that there would be investment in policing and the public sector.
We have, to a degree, seen a certain amount investment; we did receive a 2.5% pay increase this year, a year in which many have suffered financially. We have also seen certain investment in BTP by the Home Office for our involvement in the County Lines policing.
Regrettably, next year will be a difficult year for many. Whenever we negotiate on pay as a force, we always insist on pay parity with the Home Office, which we have followed for over 40 years. That works both ways so I suspect we won't receive a pay increase in September 2021. Is it the right decision? Well, it's debatable. Should we be grateful we have a job? Absolutely not; ours is a job like no other and we have suffered austerity for far too long without doubt we will yet again be expected to give more for less.
I believe we all know that and have to accept that over the next few years this country - and many others - will struggle financially, which will impact on us all in policing. What we need to drive home and continue to negotiate and debate openly is the requirement for continued and ongoing investment in protective equipment, investment in your career development and better investment with regards to your welfare and wellbeing. I suspect pay will remain on the agenda for many years and we can only hope the country, the public sector and the private sector recover quickly, and we can all then benefit from our hard work and dedication and make sure you receive the pay you all deserve.
Mileage expenses over Christmas
While on the matter of pay, you may be aware that certain train operating companies (TOCS) are offering a reduced rail service over the festive season for COVID-related reasons and this will ultimately impact on officers getting in and out of work. We have raised this concern with the Chief Officers, and it has been decided that the force will return to offering mileage for those having to use their own vehicle to travel to and from work due to reduced train services linked to COVID (rather than the usual reduced festive timetable).
Because this is home to work travel the mileage rate to be claimed for a return trip is 18p per mile for commuting travel. If you are planning to drive to work, please follow the instructions below:
You can also claim the cost of associated charges, such as the congestion and ultra-low emission zone charges, and parking near your place of work through e-expenses. A copy of these charge receipts must be submitted with the claim. Some stations or offices have been temporarily granted access to free parking.
Maternity leave extension
The NPCC has finalised and agreed to extending maternity leave for police officers from 18 weeks to 26 weeks full pay. Again, this has been raised with the force and in line with pay parity we have invited the force to mirror this increase in line with the NPCC guidance. The suggestion - pending ministerial sign off - is that this new rule will come into effect on 1 January 2021 for any officer who is presently on maternity leave (since September 2020) to also be extended to 26 weeks.
This is obviously great news for officers planning for the future and it was pleasing to see that our newly-appointed Chief Constable was very supportive of this decision. Once we have an update, we will hopefully circulate further information.
This update is not for all BTP officers; it relates to those who have transferred into BTP from the Home Office since 2015. As you may be aware, the Court of Appeal ruled in the McCloud/Sergeant case that the transitional arrangements introduced as part of the pension reforms in 2015 were age discriminatory. As a result the government acknowledged that this ruling applies to all main public sector services pensions including the Home Office Police Pension scheme. Work has been done to find a resolution to remove the age discrimination and a consultation on the proposals has taken place.
Currently the Home Office police forces are awaiting secondary legislation from the Treasury in order to be able to move forward. Obviously, you will appreciate the scale of the work that needs to be completed by the Home Office is vast and complex.
In readiness for the next steps in this process, BTP will be proactively preparing as they now know the approach the Home Office forces will be taking. What is not known is the time scales involved.
What does this mean for you if you are one of these officers? Well again, no one in BTP or BTP Federation can give pension advice, but what must happen first is that the remedy in the Home Office must take place. Then, if there is a remedy that requires implementation in BTP, we will encourage the force to follow suit immediately. What must be understood is that whatever the proposed agreed remedy is in BTP, it must be agreed by the trustees of the pension and the BTPA; it is not an automatic given.
There are other pensions matters to share with you. This next update is relevant to any officer who has already drawn down on their police pension and has also joined the Railway Pension Scheme (RPS Staff Scheme). You should have now received a consulatation letter from BTPA regarding the introduction of a new pension scheme for Police Staff in April 2021. This new scheme is a Defined Contribution (DC) scheme rather than the current Defined Benefit (DB) final salary scheme.
Those currently subscribed to the DB scheme can remain in that scheme and will not be placed into the DC scheme, nevertheless the DB will become a closed scheme after 1 April 2021 for any new members. Anyone joining BTP or anyone wishing to draw down on their pension after that date will be auto-enrolled into the new DC scheme. Clearly this impacts more on police staff than police officers, nonetheless if it does impact on you please engage with the consultation process, which is a 60-day consultation, ending on 3 February 2021. Also, we would advise that any officer who needs guidance on this change should seek independent pension advice.
In October I updated you on the new pensions portal launched by RPMI, where you can access detailed information regarding your pension, its value, your nominations and much more. You do need to register when you first log on and it is advisable that you complete your nomination details immediately. We know there have been some technical issues for RPMI but these issues should now be fixed. So, for those that haven't gone on to the portal yet please do so and complete your nomination form (you can change this at any time if your circumstances change).
Regarding further change that is coming to BTP, we have been waiting for the introduction of the new Conduct and Performance Regulations 2020. I am pleased to report that these regulations have finally been agreed and signed off by all parties including the IOPC, the Secretary of State for Transport and obviously BTP/BTPF. However, we are waiting for the Home Office to sign them off and hopefully that will happen before 26 December 2020, allowing for them to be introduced on 4 January 2020. Please take note of these new regulations and the new policy that will come out from PSD; they will be published on the BTPA website and on the force intranet.
There is a lot to learn with these new regulations and whilst the Federation welcomes the changes because the focus is more on the learning from mistakes rather than apportioning blame, there is an added responsibility on our front-line mangers to deal with and address reflective practice. Supervisors should now be educating themselves on the new regulations, especially regarding Practice Requiring Improvement (PRI) and Reflective Practice (RP). The introduction of these regulations will require a culture change in BTP and throughout the police service. We will have to accept that we all can and will make mistakes and must have the confidence to admit to those mistakes. We must enter into the PRI and RP process, ensuring there is no blame culture and that as individuals and as an organisation, we can learn from mistakes made.
Clearly there will be some teething issues, but if you do have any dealings with these regulations after 4 January 2020 and you are unsure, please contact your local Federation representative, who should be able to guide you or point you in the right direction. I would encourage you all to buy into and embrace these new regulations because they are better, they should make a difference and if handled correctly, we should see less officers facing PSD investigations for minor matters.
Compendium of Terms and Conditions
I should report that the discussions regarding the Compendium and your terms ans conditions continue. We had another meeting this month, which I believe was a positive discussion and I think that finally the force understands the importance of what we are asking for. We now wait for the force to decide if they will adopt our way of thinking and allow us all to have one single point of reference, which will explain our conditions of service and clearly show which are contractual and which are not. Hopefully the New Year will bring us some positive news. I am sure many of us will be pleased when this particular issue is finalised and signed off.
Specials joining the Federation
From January, BTP's Special Constables will be allowed to join BTP Federation. BTP's Specials are extremely committed to supporting our members, dedicating many thousands of hours of their time each year. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic their work has been even more visible and crucial.
Specials face the same dangers and challenges as our members and should have access to the same representation, protection and support. So, I am very pleased that we are now able to support and represent them in the same way as regular officers. It is also very pleasing that BTP and the BTPA have agreed to pay for the subscriptions of all Specials who wish to join the Federation. Specials are volunteers and are not paid for performing the role, so they should not be out-of-pocket for carrying out their policing duties. BTP provides uniform, equipment, PPE, and pays reasonable expenses which now includes membership of the Federation.
Specials' membership will commence on 4 January 2021 and information on how they can join has been published on our website along with a new Frequently Asked Questions page. This information will be beneficial to existing members who can encourage our specials to join the Federation whilst out and about working with them.
Inclusion and diversity
Staying with positive news and we have had an opportunity to meet with Chief Supt Denis Murray who is now seconded to BTP for three years as the force's lead for Trust, Legitimacy and Community policing. He is working with Barry Boffy, Head of Inclusion and Diversity, who you should all know. Our meeting with fellow support associations focussed on the new policy, Moving the Needle.
Clearly Mr Murray, Barry Boffy and the force have some fantastic plans in place to address issues relating to race both operationally and organisationally. We welcome these proposed plans but do have concerns about inclusion more widely and raised these with Barry Boffey, who told us:
"One of our main commitments has always been to ensure that BTP remains a police force that welcomes everyone from all walks of life and is as attractive to as wide a range of different communities as possible. We also want all of our officers to feel included and recognised for the individual values and knowledge that they bring to the organisation; some of which will be their own cultural heritage, identity or understanding of a particular community. After all, it's at the core of the policing by consent model that we're so proud of in the United Kingdom.
The commitments outlined in the 'Moving the Needle' action plan only go to complement the work we've already been doing for a number of years in this area, and none of this activity is designed to remove equality of opportunity for anyone else; no matter what their identity, background or identity is. We understand that there are many ways that our people at BTP could feel excluded and we want to make sure that everyone can have the career at BTP that they want and feel happy and valued for the many diverse skills that they bring to BTP."
There is a lot of work planned and it starts with Moving the Needle. I invite, encourage you all to listen, contribute, learn and play your part in eliminating racism in our society, communities and our workplace.
Whilst on the subject of equality, diversity and inclusion, BTP has produced its workforce diversity data report for 2019/2020. It makes for interesting reading and provides an insight in what still needs to be achieved in BTP. Please have a read and take some time to understand some of the issues we all face, let's stop ticking boxes and let's make change which is meaningful and beneficial.
There is little more that I can report for 2020. I appreciate there is a lot to digest and take in and it seems like that has been the theme for the majority of this year; a lot of information with very little time to understand it. It has been that or the term "you are on mute" that has plagued us throughout. While 2020 may go down in history as a year that many people would prefer to forget, let's not forget what we have learnt.
It has been a year where we have realised the importance of friendship, families, caring for each other and appreciating what we have and what we have lost. Keep that thought throughout the festive season as it's not going to be easy for everyone. We still need to stay safe, look out for each other, support those who need it most and stay honest to ourselves. Thank you again for reading this blog and please do not hesitate to contact your Federation if there are any concerns or questions regarding its contents.
To round off the year, on behalf of everyone in the Federation, I would like to offer an extra thank you for the hard work, commitment and dedication to duty that you have all displayed during 2020, 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 2021.
Quote of the Month:
"When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too."