Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Text of speech by Jenny Jones AM to PCS Met Police group conference

PCS Met Police group conference
Brighton, 16th May 2011 – 20 mins

Thank you for the invite to your conference. Brighton is my home town, so this is a particular pleasure.

I have been asked to talk to you about my involvement as a Metropolitan Police Authority member in the Met’s budget process this year. Specifically about the loss of traffic warden and PCSO posts.

I am also going to talk to you about the MPA more widely, and the big changes we are facing in London.

First, the MPA powers and its job:

The MPA – role and how staff can engage

MPA role and remit:
-         Policy, not operational decisions
-         Cannot intervene in every internal matter, but must be consulted on major policy changes and the budget
-         Scrutinise decisions / actions and holding the Met to account

What we can do:
-         Questions – written questions for detailed answers or can raise in person at a meeting
-         Members can request briefings on particular topics

How staff can get involved:
-         Contact all MPA members about specific issues of concern – good to be kept in the loop – can be useful to provide briefings on your members views on particular issues
-         Ask MPA members to ask questions on your behalf – to get factual information or views from Met management
-         All meetings are open to the public and papers are put online – if there is an issue that concerns members, could attend the meeting and let MPA members know you are coming

The 2011-12 budget process
The MPA receives budget proposals from the Met and we then go through months of meetings and detailed scrutiny before we are asked to agree the budget.

This was a particularly difficult year due to not knowing government cuts until the last minute and lots of other information missing throughout the process.
In the budget papers there was a proposal to remove all 210 traffic wardens and 300 PCSOs from the Safer Transport Command. As well as other reductions in PCSO numbers from areas such as Safer Schools.

It seemed to include an assumption that removing PCSOs and traffic wardens to allow for fewer police officer posts was obviously a good thing – I completely disagreed that this was obvious and began to ask questions.

I was particularly concerned about what the losses would mean for roads policing and safety.

Transport is an important part of my work as an Assembly Member. I am passionate about encouraging people to use public transport, cycle and walk in London.

I know how important the work of traffic wardens on the red routes is to keeping buses moving and helping keep cyclists and pedestrians safe.

Scrutiny work
Your representative Martin McKinnon contacted me to alert me to the proposals, which I’d already noticed, and then provided very useful information and questions, as did others who got in touch.

§       I asked detailed questions and circulated the responses to try to help keep you informed.
§       I also raised the issue with the Acting Commissioner at the MPA meetings to question the logic of the move and what it would mean for enforcement.
§       This meant that other MPA members also took an interest in the situation.
§       In answer to a question from me at an MPA meeting held in public, Tim Godwin described traffic wardens as the “unsung heroes of road safety” in London.

As a result of my pestering, I was offered a briefing meeting with TfL and the Met. This was a great opportunity for me to put forward my concerns, and those you had shared with me.

I was reassured on some points about how the work would be done within the new structure.
But we did discuss how poor the communication with staff had been and I told them that traffic wardens and managers had been contacting me as they just didn’t know what was going on.

In the end -

§       I couldn’t change the decision, but hopefully helped to keep people better informed and to challenge the Met to account for their decisions publicly
§       I voted against the budget, along with some MPA colleagues, as I was not sure that decisions had been fully worked through in terms of value for money or the impact on the service provided, particularly for Safer Neighbourhood Teams and Safer Transport
§       My understanding is that negotiations are ongoing between PCS and Met management about the offer of traffic wardens becoming traffic PCSOs - very best of luck to those of you taking up this offer in your new role.

Job cuts and civilian staff

This was a difficult year for the Met to balance the books, with major cuts to funding and upcoming challenges to consider such as the 2012 Games.

The political imperative to keep police numbers up, along with the difficulty of managing budget cuts without being able to make officers redundant has meant a greater impact for police staff. I am worried that the Mayor’s delight that the Met, unlike other forces, have started officer recruitment again is short sighted.

The budgets for 2012-13 and 2013-14 include further significant cuts and if the Met get into a position where they have more officers than they can afford then staff will again bear the brunt.

The Met made statements about a “strategic ambition” to reduce reliance on PCSOs and traffic wardens – but I have not heard this before and I am worried about moving in this direction.

We are seeing a loss of other civilian roles.  There are proposals to replace local authority park patrols with police officers in Redbridge and Wandsworth - as a result of the Mayor’s buy one get one officer free offer to boroughs.

I would have thought a buy one PCSO get one free offer would have made more sense for this type of function. But again we are told that having officers instead is obviously better, but I simply don’t agree in all cases.

The annual London survey for 2010 showed that the Londoners asked had similar levels of confidence in their local PCSOs as they did in their local officers.

I am sad to see a move towards just having police officers and the public, removing other layers of uniformed presence that can be more focused on visibility, reassurance and interacting with the public or specific tasks such as red route enforcement.  

These staff can be
§       less intimidating than police
§       often a more settled work force
§       focus on specific local tasks
§       build up local knowledge
§       get to know local people
We risk losing these benefits

HMIC report on Sustaining Value for Money in the Police Force – recommends greater mix of staff, using specialised staff and PCSOs where warranted officers are not needed, to “help police forces save money and improve performance”.

Surrey police is an example of mixed investigation teams, led by an inspector but including specialist staff handling the administration etc.

I am going to continue to challenge the Met on whether they have got the mix right and whether they could make better use of a range of staff positions in future.

The MPA – looking ahead
These are very uncertain times, the policing and social responsibility bill is aiming to get rid of police authorities and establish elected police and crime Commissioners. This could be as soon as October in London, depending on the progress of the legislation.

In London this would mean:
§       the end of the MPA
§       creation of the Mayor’s office for police and crime
§       creation of a scrutiny committee in the London Assembly – which I hope to be a part of. The committee would hold the Mayor to account for policing decisions and investigate particular issues of concern to Londoners.

Committee members will welcome information and contact from staff, but will be important for you to also be in touch with the Mayor’s office for policing and crime – as the decision making body.

Gov cuts agenda, most savage cuts since 1930’s, will damage society, not only job losses but through pay and pensions, and fewer services to everyone. More equal society benefits us all, rich and poor.

Thanks again for the invite
Communication and information from traffic wardens and managers was so helpful in my questions and holding the Met to account for their decisions during the budget process.

Encourage you to keep in touch to let me and other MPA and London Assembly members know about policy issues that members are concerned about.

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