Chairman of the British Transport Police Federation
Nigel posts regular blog comments of issues of importance to policing and the BTPF in particular.
Chairman's BlogLast month I remarked how it was sad, but inevitable, that it takes a series of incidents like those in Manchester and London to remind people why, as a country, we need to invest in and value our emergency and health services.
I stated that the Government should not continue to treat the public services with such obvious disrespect as can be evidenced over the last few years. I cannot put in to words how I felt when I visited officers in Manchester and London, and those recovering in hospital. I was so proud of all those involved and my sentiments were shared by many around the country showing support and praise for all the emergency services. As far as I and many others are concerned you all deserve medals, praise and admiration but more importantly you deserve to be supported and valued by your Government.
It is a disgrace that from some quarters of Parliament we still hear comments such as "they were only doing their jobs".
At the time of writing we await confirmation of the submission by PFEW to the Police Pay review body to determine if the proposal of a 2.8% pay increase is accepted or not. We are now informed of a delay in this decision and we will have to wait until September when politicians return from their summer recess. This does nothing to support the ethos that this Government values its police service. While some enjoy their holidays abroad, many officers will have their annual leave and rest days cancelled to continue to protect society, whilst struggling with finances and being unable to afford holidays.
It saddens me to start on such a sad note and unfortunately my next update follows on in a similar vein.
I wrote to the Scottish Transport Minister and the Secretary of State for Transport requesting that the Bill be suspended until the finer detail can be negotiated and consulted on, and received a response repeating the SNP's triple lock assurances. So, we wrote to all the Scottish MSPs to inform them of the level of uncertainty around the proposed integration and the lack of detail being provided by the Scottish Parliament.
On Tuesday 26 June 2017, we witnessed the Stage 3 debate of the Scottish Railway Policing Bill.
I was horrified by the refusal of SNP and Green Party MSPs to include most of the amendments proposed especially around the crucial aspect of training. I was equally incensed by the discussions around Police Scotland's ability to adopt the role of policing the railway. It appears to me that the Scottish Government refuses to take account of any evidence which highlights the pitfalls of such a transition. Even seasoned politicians attempted to suspend or stop the Bill but SNP MSPs followed the party line.
We are ready and willing to share our experience and expertise. We await our invitation to take part in discussions on the finer detail on the integration, including around the legal mechanism of the transfer, the future status of BTP officers transferring to Police Scotland, their terms and conditions and finally pensions.
I paint a very dark picture, but as my old DI used to say, 'point to the lies'. What I have stated in my monthly blogs, the submissions I have made to the Scottish Government and evidence I have provided to the Justice Committee have been corroborated, honest, professional, and respectful views and opinions. Clearly this is not welcomed by some in the Scottish Government and some of the correspondence that I have received post the debate can only be described as insulting.
Next week we will meet with the Scottish Police Federation to discuss and explain what our members expect and how they can assist with any future transition. This will not be an easy task, but one that ultimately will fall at the feet of our Scottish colleagues.
As I have mentioned previously, we are witnessing the results of the implementation of the Demand Review. We have been contacted about the continued practice of cancelling officers rest days especially at weekends, last minute shift changes to cover gaps in the roster, and the lack of resources at various times of the day throughout the Force.
We presented this evidence to the DRD team and the Chief Constable. The Chief Constable, the DRD team and the Divisional Commanders have now had two meetings to identify the problem and hopefully explore solutions to the continued poor practice of cancellation of rest days and last minute shift changes.
It is evidenced during these meetings that the absence of nearly 500 officers from the front line is having a major impact and we know this is due to retention, TDR, sickness, HGD and recruitment. The Chief has requested finer detail on the exact numbers on each and every roster setting out 13 different actions including consideration to making amendments or the introduction of a different roster.
He has also committed to ensuring that long term forecasting for rest day cancellations will be in line with Police Regulations and if there is an exigency there will be a full explanation provided. If the change is a forced change and it is a weekend cancellation you will receive a weekend back in lieu. A further meeting is to take place on Friday 4 August where we will see the exact detail that will assist all to understand the extent of the problem.
This is no easy task as the Force is simply short on resources. Home Office forces are also short and are recruiting, and the level of competition is high as they are targeting BTP, CNC and MDP trained officers that can be operational immediately. Also, all forces are increasing their own CTU/ARV departments (including BTP) so this also impacts on recruitment levels.
Clearly a message is filtering down to operations departments, OIC's and DMS teams that all attempts should be made to reduce the amount of rest day cancellations. Consequently, we are already seeing messages proposing to roster everyone on 12 hour shifts, especially during the football season and including on nights. What is evidenced by such messages is that certain managers don't think twice about the impact this is having on officers work life balance and wellbeing. There seems to be a trait of attempting to do whatever it takes to meet the demand of policing without considering the welfare of officers. Well acting unlawfully is not the answer and rostering you for 12-hour nights is exactly that.
This Federation does not have a Working Time Agreement. The one in negotiation proposes no more than 10 hours on night shifts. Until this agreement is signed and agreed the Force cannot roster 12-hour shift patterns on nights. Furthermore, a proposal to change all shifts to 12 hours is a change of your core roster and those proposing such changes will have to consult with this Federation for 30 days. To date there has been no such formal consultation.
As you may have seen there has been a lot of talk about the infrastructure Policing review. This is the proposal to merge BTP with CNC and MDP.
Following the Brexit decision, the Government's direction was that the review should be placed on hold for at least three years. Nonetheless during election campaigning we noted the proposal had been included in the Conservative Party manifesto, which caused some confusion. Not long afterwards the manifesto changed and the proposal was absent.
Weeks later, during the debates at Holyrood on the Railway Policing Bill, MSPs highlighted the Infrastructure Policing proposal and the UK Parliament's intentions to merge three police forces. What do they know that we don't?
Both we and the CNC Federation have asked the Government to clarify what the future looks like for the three non-Home Office Police Forces. We cannot continue with this theme of uncertainty. We will continue to seek answers on your behalf and provide you with information as soon as we have it.
National Negotiating Meeting:
We continue to negotiate on several points relating to pay and conditions. I have submitted a further report to DCC Hanstock about Overnight Allowance which I hope will assist in resolving the matter. We also await the outcome of the new Fuel Allowance policy. We have had discussions on the new Limited Duty policy, which is in draft form, and have provided our views and opinions.
The new TOIL policy has been introduced, which clarifies the three-month time period for taking TOIL or the Force will pay any outstanding balance. We appreciate this has caused some dissatisfaction but this policy is in line with Police Regulations and we as a Federation can only encourage and support the Force using Police Regulations rather than local policies or SOP's. The next NNM is on the 8 August 2017 and again we anticipate some of the outstanding items being resolved.
We're all facing a lot of challenges at the moment so I am pleased to be able to end on a positive note.
I had the honour of escorting PC Wayne Marques and his partner Suzana to the PFEW Bravery awards. It was something of a first for a BTP officer to be invited to this tremendous event, which recognises some extraordinary acts of bravery. Wayne received a well-deserved standing ovation and was praised by many during the evening.
Wayne is an inspiration, not simply because of his bravery on 3 June at London Bridge, but because he is humble, honest and a genuine gentleman. He restored some faith in me that there are still plenty of us who enjoy what we do and he certainly cannot wait to return to his role. He and the other award winners demonstrated the actions carried out by many officers on a daily basis. Without hesitation, you will run towards the dangers that society offers without consideration for your own safety. At the end of the evening I had a sense of profound respect for all the officers nominated. On a personal note, it was a career high for me to have met Wayne and a great honour to escort him to such an event.
Quote for this month:
"Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them".