Sunday, 30 July 2017

PCC – who needs them?

In a piece in the Times a few days ago Jawad Iqbal, a former BBC executive wrote' Police and crime commissioners, your time is up'. It struck me that it's taken the mainstream media a long time to realise that PCC's really never had time, it was an ill-conceived, dumb beyond belief, idea whose time had never come.

Of course we know what was behind the concept it was an idea that originated in the United States where they elect police chiefs, local dog catchers, and even dangerous and mediocre TV celebrities as President. The whole notion was designed to centralise political power over a public service into the hands of one person, which of course means that he or she is easily manipulated and will do what central government wants him to. PCC's are a shameless political appointment designed for greater central control and of course to allegedly save money.

The whole experience has been a disaster during the first round of elections the average turnout was 15%, during the second batch of elections the percentage went up to an average of 26%, because of course it was held on the same day as the county council elections.

We in Northamptonshire had probably the most inept and useless PCC in the short history of PCC's. His name was Adam Simmons, and his experience such as it was, he had been the political assistant a.k.a. gopher for the leader of the council, to the Tory group on the county council. Added to which it would appear now that he actually lived in Leicestershire, so much for being the local police and crime Commissioner.

Nationally PCC's control a policing budget of £12.5 billion and they have the final say in appointing a chief constable. They can also appoint their own staff and in Northampton shire's case that meant for instance one of the deputy PCC's just happened to be the Tory election agent for Simmonds election. You may have noticed by the way that Neil the PCC's deputy had any actual experience of policing, or indeed any experience of running a large complex organisation, but no matter they were loyal party placemen and women. Simmonds made a number of appointments to his staff which resulted for instance in him having the largest public relations department of any PCC in the country and indeed larger than any previous police authority.

He also had grandiose plans, to recruit hundreds, maybe even thousands of special constables, to create a policing college at Northampton University, to target crime and to bring down the crime statistics, to create a faith commission under his auspices and to pretend that he was the reincarnation of President John F. Kennedy and I understand he even installed a rocking chair in his office as well as a photograph of the late president and he called his office the West Wing.

And of course he decided to sell off the police headquarters, build a new one outside Northampton and indeed many miles away from the M1 motorway. Of course he wasn't simply moving the headquarters which by the way include a training suite, a training ground for practising riot control, a firing range and dog kenneling and motor vehicle repair shops. All of those as well as communication centre were to be spread all over the county and staff moved accordingly. Of course he wasn't going simply to close the headquarters he was going to convert the building into a free school based on religious principles (he being a passionate Evangelist) in an area where there is actually no need for extra school places. The fact that he got the county council(remember who you work for) to build a roundabout outside the putative school at a cost understood to be around a quarter of million pounds.

I suppose the creation of a super high powered mock presidential crime Commissioner might have been worth having had he not managed at the same time to reduce the number of full-time police officers, to demoralise those who still worked for Northamptonshire and all this while crime figures went up. The simple reality is that there are fewer police officers on the beat, and those that are are working larger areas with fewer officers.

Northampton-shire's experience is not unique, in Iqbal's piece he points out that crime figures in England and Wales show the biggest annual rise in a decade, with rising levels of the most serious and violent offences:
"All the more reason for precious funds to go into front-line policing – not into a discredited vanity exercise that flatters the egos of compromised busybodies and failed MPs".

Of course there has always been an argument to democratise policing in this country, in a county like Northamptonshire it is possible to organise a directly elected police authority with each district having one or two elected members who by the way could be elected on the same day as  county council elections and that way the entire county could have representation without maintaining the farce of a police commissioner that at best was a lousy experiment. We now understand that the PCC is going to take over the fire service – such a proposal is the way of madness. I hope that the next Labour government will move to a directly elected police authority and this tragic wasteful experiment will be ended for ever.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

A fable for our times

Once upon a time there was a garden with potting shed at the end of it, that was where the man who worked in the garden kept his tools. It was also where the other tools lived, and they were commonly known as the Cabinet.

Outside the potting shed there was a number of strange -looking orange pots, and in the middle of the strange -looking orange pots there was a little weed, she was commonly called a Mayflower, but the naughty boys and girls  who lived across from the potting shed and sat on rows of green leather toadstools will forever ragging the little Mayflower, who many regarded as a weed and every time she got up to speak to warn the naughty children across from her that she was strong and stable they just laughed.

Most of those naughty boys and girls were roses of one sort or another, and mix with them were a bunch of very jaggy Thistle's also jeered at the little weed and her strange orange pots that lurked in the shade of the potting shed where all her other little friends were hiding and plotting to chop the little weed down. They were almost no probably more naughty than the roses and thistles who sat on the green toadstools opposite. They her friends in the potting shed believed that she, poor little weed had betrayed them and had promised to be strong and stable and had turned out to be a heap of meaningless manure stop

The little weed could do nothing right, well that's not exactly true everything he wanted to do was right, indeed almost as right as her almost friend Nigel the poisoned fruit bat(sorry fruit tree) but Nigel was not in the garden, not even in the potting shed and in fact he had cleared off to be with his friend across the water Trump the termite(who thought by the way he was in fact the terminator but of course he couldn't spell that when he tweeted and so he settled for being a termite)

When the weed had decided that she was going to show all those naughty boys and girls who were bullying her and laughing at her shoes and making rude remarks about her expensive leather trousers and she decided that the best way to do that, the most austere way to do that was in fact to call all the naughty boys and girls bold the ones across from her on the green toadstools and the raggedy arsed mugwumps back in the darkness of the potting shed, to impose on all of them a day of reckoning, which she decided would be 8 June.

However things did not go quite to plan, and all those millions who lived outside the garden decided it was time to rain on her garden and instead of planting hundreds of new austerity plants and harvesting even more helpless, hopeless, homeless, unemployed, poor, useless mugwumps who would do their duty and lie down for the weed, the buggers listened to the bearded rose grower sitting opposite and they, the great unwashed mugwumps turned their back on little weed.

All the things she wanted to do like punish the young mugwumps and punish the old mugwumps and punish the sick mugwumps and of course build a big tower out of Lego to stand proud in the garden which you called a Brexit tree.

Four weeks she had been telling all the mugwumps that there was no such thing as a money tree, but there were hungry trees, poverty trees, austerity trees, coffin -shaped trees for the old mugwumps but certainly no money trees – zero, nada, absolutely zilch.

As her dreams fell apart like her friends in the Cabinet in the potting shed, she had even less friends than when she started, so she looked around the garden and saw standing grimly in their bowler hats and unusual orange sashes 10 likely looking new friends. And so while the garden fell into chaos and disorder she asked her strange pot -shaped new friends if they would like to play with her in the garden.

"Surely wee weed, we'll come and play in your garden,but ye ken we'll want to see your lovely money tree first. And we will need to shake that money tree a wee bit"

"Of course strange barrel-shaped orange coloured fellows and fellowess(by the way I view related to my orange friend across the sea?) What would you like from my lovely newly discovered money tree? A free ride in one of the Queen's aeroplanes? Would you like that my new orange friends?"

"Away to F**k, as our revered Master Dr Paisley would have said, we don't want much just a wee bit to get by on, so wee weed we'll settle for a nice round figure, give your money tree a good shake and we'll depart with a nice round billion poonds!".

And they did and nobody lived happily ever after in that garden until the weed was sprayed weed killer and the strange bowler hatted orange coloured men and women were returned to their box.