General Secretary of the British Transport Police Federation
General Secretary's Blog
Colleagues, here is the Federation blog for July 2021. This month's blog differs slightly as it is a guest blog; I am standing in for Nigel whilst he takes some well-deserved annual leave. Hopefully I will do it justice.
I do hope that you are managing to keep abreast of all the constant changes. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we and the rest of the country will finally start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Monday 19 July 2021 saw the biggest change so far with the relaxation of restrictions such as face coverings and social distancing no longer being mandatory. The Force has obviously considered these changes along with many others and have liaised with the Federation. The decision to continue to wear face coverings was made with the best of intentions, that being the protection of you, the workforce. This may well be uncomfortable for some, especially during this hot weather, however, our priority is your safety which is why we could not disagree with the Force on this subject. Living in the UK, you will all know that this hot weather will not last (unfortunate but true), however, COVID is here to stay and many still have not had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated.
England reaching the final has meant a challenging few weeks for many of you and although the end result wasn't quite what we wanted, I think it gave the country a much needed morale boost, especially after the last 18 months. Unfortunately, the operational order for the Euros, did not do the same for the morale of our officers. The Executive and local reps have been bombarded with emails from disgruntled officers and it is disappointing that fundamental things are still being ignored.
The blanket cancellation of rest days is all well and good and we applaud the Force for trying to give officers as much notice as possible, which is only right. But let's be clear, if you are informed that a rest day has been cancelled, then you must be informed of your duty times. This means your shift start and end time must be displayed on the roster. If this is not the case, you can correctly assume that this is still your rest day and if it is changed with less than 15 days' notice, then it attracts the relevant payment. The Force has been challenged regarding this issue (and others) and all officers who are affected will receive the appropriate payment. We have previously discussed rest day cancellations with the Chief Constable, who is against blanket cancellations of rest days on a red day. The Force will be looking at this moving forward.
The Federation is not always consulted about operational decisions and sadly we only become aware of some such issues after they have happened. On balance and to be fair to the Force, some information affecting the decision making of the operational order were only known a day or two beforehand. Having said this, it is the basics that we have to get right. Basics such as following Regulations and the Working Time Agreement, when it comes to rest day cancellations, night working and appropriate notification and entitlements. If the basics are right, everything else will follow and that is what I asked of the Force when I attended the Euros debrief earlier in the month.
I also sit on the newly formed Force Planning Unit (FPU), which is a monthly meeting. Again, I will continue to push that officer welfare is at the forefront of each operation and again basics are adhered to.
Whilst we are on the subject of the Euros, I want to condemn the serious assault on one of our officers at Camden Town station. This was a cowardly attack on an officer who was rendering first aid to an injured member of public. I and all at the Federation wish the officer a speedy recovery. I would also like to acknowledge the public response to this incident, which resulted in swift action being taken and suspects being arrested. We can take solace in the fact that the majority of the public still support police officers and policing in general.
Our Management Board meeting was held at the beginning of the month and a packed agenda was discussed by the Executive and all Area Secretaries and Chairs. Ahead of the minutes being shared, a brief flavour of some topics discussed:
The operational order and event planning for the Euros was top of the agenda and I have already updated you on this so will refrain from going into any more detail.
The upcoming COP26 operation in Glasgow will have two Federation reps embedded in the planning stages of the operation and they will feedback to the Executive. Those reps are Stuart Cowan and Gordon Wason, both based on D Division.
It became apparent after the first report from the Manchester Inquiry was released, that our IT systems at Federation HQ are not quite up to the task. Sending out circulars on mass with sometimes crucial information for our members is very important and it is imperative that the system be able to cope with this. It has been agreed that an upgrade is required so that we can better serve our members in a timelier fashion.
We have been working very closely with Civil Nuclear Police Federation and Defence Police Federation and after much lobbying and writing to our respective government departments and the Home Secretary, we have now been included in the new Police Covenant, part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This is fantastic news and a brilliant result for all non-Home Office forces. This Federation will always seek parity with our Home Office counterparts and it was vital that we had parity on something as important as the Covenant.
The next step that we have to take is to see what the Covenant actually looks like and what it would mean for British Transport Police. We will of course seek a seat at the table to negotiate what is best for us as a Force, because I think it is fair to say that one size Covenant will not fit all.
Police Remuneration Review Body
You will have seen the news last week that police officers will not receive a pay increase this year. This wasn't new news, with a public sector pay freeze announced back in January, however it is still disappointing given the circumstances. Following an extraordinary National Council meeting, the Police Federation of England and Wales has withdrawn its support and engagement from the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB), labelling the current police officer pay mechanism 'not fit for purpose'.
There is no escaping the financial crisis that has resulted from the pandemic and we all know people who have been furloughed or lost their jobs. For police officers, a pay freeze equals a pay cut. We fully support PFEW's stance on the PRRB. For those of you who are unaware, BTP has had pay parity with Home Office forces for many decades. When PFEW presents the case for improved pay, they do so for all of us. The system isn't working; the 'independence' is anything but.
Also at the PFEW meeting, there was overwhelming support for a vote of no confidence in the Home Secretary. While we have pay parity, BTP is not governed by the Home Secretary, hence why we haven't shared a view on PFEW's no confidence vote.
BTPA Quarterly Meeting
This month saw us meeting up with the BTP Authority and having positive discussions about the Police Covenant, assaults on police and Scotland, to name but a few. It was agreed by the Authority that the inclusion of BTP in the Police Bill, is resounding success and good news for all officers and staff alike.
The number of assaults on our officers is always very worrying and the Authority asked our opinion on how we could possibly reduce the number of assaults. Obviously at the top of our wish list, was to recruit more officers, but running alongside this is better recruit training. What we mean by this is making sure new recruits or student officers are helped to understand the nature of the role that they are undertaking. We are public facing and with that comes an acceptance that at some point you will be involved in conflict. This, coupled with more practical, realistic scenario-based Officer Safety Training for all officers would better prepare them for those situations of conflict. Lastly we also made it clear that more officers should be Taser trained and that there should be Tasers available for all those that are trained.
As a side note to this, we have been working with Learning and Development with regard to rolling out improved and more immersive Officer Safety Training. If approved then the training will be based around using clips from BTP body worn videos, showing real incidents, and therefore making the training more realistic. This will be quite impactive, but anything that will improve the welfare and wellbeing of our officers and hopefully reduce the number of assaults, will always be supported by this Federation. If this updated training is approved, general roll out will be from January 2022.
Concerns around resourcing in Scotland were raised, especially that of front line officers. There has been a decrease in those numbers over the last few years and we feel that this not only sends out the wrong message to Police Scotland, but more importantly has a detrimental effect on those officers on the ground, where their welfare and safety is in question. This Federation is urging more investment into increased resources for our D Division colleagues, therefore reducing the pressure that they are currently under.
Senior Leadership Forum
This month saw myself and Nigel receiving our first ever invitation to attend a Senior Leadership Forum. This gave us a very interesting and informative insight on how the SLT discuss and make decisions on subjects that will affect the workforce. The theme for this forum was very much around forming new Force values which will be used moving forward. Hopefully the Federation will have a hand in shaping these values. Although it is still early days and no final decision has yet been made, it was clear that these values had to be something that everyone in BTP could work towards and be proud of. We should have an idea of what the Force values will be when they are launched in September.
This forum also gave an opportunity to discuss the Williams-Shapps Report and the proposal to form a GBR or Great British Railway, by 2024/2025. The Force sees this as an exciting opportunity for BTP to take sole charge of the safety and security of GBR and to that end a request has already been made to the Rail Minister for the Force to have a seat on the steering group from the start. Obviously this would be an ideal situation and one that we will watch closely.
Moving the Needle
I took part in the tactical working group this month, which incidentally, was Chief Superintendent Murrays last one before moving back to his home Force for challenges anew. I would like to congratulate Mr Murray on the hard work that has already been achieved in such a short space of time and wish him well for the future.
Listening Circles was discussed, amongst other topics. The Chief Constable wants to introduce Listening Circles for groups from a Black/Asian and minority background. The process behind this is for an independent external company to run three sessions of these listening circles. Each will consist of 20 attendees and the idea is for experiences, problems or concerns to be aired in an open and honest forum. The independent company will then compile a report to be submitted to the Chief Constable.
Whilst the Federation welcomes anything that is going to improve diversity and inclusion, this was met with some scepticism by some on the meeting. What I would say is that the workforce as a whole is suffering from survey fatigue and are tired of expressing their views and either not being heard or seeing no action taken. We need to target and change what can only be described as mistrust in these sorts of groups, or surveys for that matter, being seen as lip service. If we can get past this mistrust and get people talking freely and more to the point, with action being seen to be done, then I wish this success and urge people to participate. Who knows, perhaps it could be rolled out to other groups in time.
Although Mr Murray's replacement has yet to be decided, we have been assured that a comprehensive handover package has been completed which means the ongoing work on this project will not stall or fall behind.
National Police Memorial Day
A small service will be held at Lincoln Cathedral on Sunday 27 September 2021. Although many of you will not be able to attend in person, you can view the service via a live stream, which was very successful last year. It is a humbling experience and if you have the chance to watch, then please do so.
I am currently undertaking a virtual running challenge in aid National Police Memorial Day, which is a registered charity. This challenge involves running a distance of 1083 miles, which is the long route from Lands End to John O'Groats. At the time of writing this I have reached 845 miles and intend to finish this prior to 27th September. My aim is to raise £2000.00 for the charity, so any donations, however big or small will be welcomed and appreciated. I have added the link for my JustGiving page just in case any of you are feeling generous.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope I have managed to at least keep it on a par with Nigel's efforts. We are now in the main holiday period and if you are taking some time off then I wish you a relaxing time to recharge your batteries. For those of you still working, thank you for your continued efforts and hard work and please, stay safe.
Quote of the Month:
"Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something"