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 2018; a year in which we have experienced some major changes, but still seen our officers work creatively to achieve excellence. With Christmas just around the corner I can't imagine anyone in BTP saying 2018 was a quiet one!
This time last year I remarked that we had experienced a year like no other - this year has been very busy but for very different reasons. As difficult as the past twelve months have been for many I can honestly say, without hesitation, that I remain very proud of being a Police Officer and very proud to be a British Transport Police Officer. I hope that there are many of you who feel the same. Your continued dedication and commitment to the role and responsibilities of being a BTP officer is a vital and helps to build trust and confidence amongst staff and the travelling public. You should all be very proud. I thank you for your professionalism and determination to get the job done. Well done to you all.
Scotland and the integration of BTP Scotland into Police Scotland has dominated a lot of our time this year. This Federation, in partnership with TSSA, NARBTPO, BTPA and BTP, has worked tirelessly to influence the views and opinions of many. Thankfully that hard work is now paying off. We know that full integration is still the aim in certain quarters of the Scottish Government; nevertheless, we believe that exploring alternative options is the right approach.
Regrettably it has been a long slog to get to this point, but during the process we have learnt several valuable lessons that will help inform decisions in the future should we face other significant challenges. Hopefully BTP/A will learn from those lessons and I can guarantee you that this Federation has learnt a lot on the journey, especially around communications and engagement. I would like to thank everyone, but especially officers in Scotland, for your patience and more importantly your trust in those that represent you within the BTP Federation. The journey is not over yet, but I do believe we have reached a milestone in this debate that deserves some recognition.
Officers and staff in BTP Scotland have continued to deliver an excellent level of public service whilst living and working under a very dark cloud of uncertainty. Your motivation and hard work is a credit to you all.
BTP Scotland officers should now be in possession of a newsletter from the Joint Program Board. This follows an update provided by Cabinet Secretary for Justice to the Justice Committee in a letter delivered on 18 December 2018. We have also noted a letter that was sent to our pension providers RPMI informing them of the decision regarding integration and that no further work is to be conducted on pensions.
We must now wait to see the outcome of the consultation and discussions between BTP/A and SPA/Police Scotland. The timetable is still unknown, but I personally agree with the Cabinet Secretary who has said he does not want to rush into an alternative option and isn't seeking a quick fix. As the National Chairman of BTP Federation I would seriously encourage and invite all those involved in the discussions around alternative options to think long and hard about the future of BTP Scotland and what is expected of those discussions.
I genuinely believe there is a challenge on the back of the Cabinet Secretary offering up the opportunity to explore other options, a challenge that we can all achieve. It comes as no surprise that the proposed future option has to be a meaningful option, an option that meets the principles of devolution and it's vitally important we reach that threshold to secure the future of BTP in Scotland and preserve the excellent service provided by those officers and staff.
If the option chosen is viable, accountable and transparent and it works, how can full integration be re-considered? How could we, in the future, move away from an alternative option, which meets what is required and revert to full integration knowing what we now know around cost, risk and potential impact on officers and staff? Ultimately that's the challenge.
Finally on Scotland, I would like to thank the Federation Area committee: Dougie Brownlee, Gordon Wason, Stewart Cowan, Mike McEwan and John Paul O'Kane for their continued support and their motivation to provide fair and balanced representation to the officers of Scotland. A very big thank you from the Executive Officers of BTPF.
Lets hope that 2019 brings some level of certainty and some reassurances around the future of BTP in Scotland.
National Negotiating Meeting
The NNM meeting took place on Thursday 20 December 2018 at FHQ with the newly appointed Director of People and Culture, Rachel Etebar and DCC Hanstock.
One of the first items on the agenda was the limited duties policy and the removal of the X Factor. The Force have finally agreed to remove the X factor but in a total U-turn they are now questioning whether we require a limited duties policy given a national review by NPCC. Furthermore, BTP has other policies to address duty restrictions, disabilities and long-term sickness absence. The Federation has been invited to look at whether we need another policy or if the current policies suffice and/or whether we need to bring these other policies together resulting in one policy in line with limited duties. We will take that action away and update you on our decision but it's an interesting one.
Allard and Ors was next on the agenda and we were informed affected officers have been made an offer and have 21 days to respond. It was accepted by the force that 21 days over a festive period wasn't ideal and that officers have requested a breakdown of the calculations before deciding on the offers made. BTP has agreed to provide the calculations and the 21 days will commence once they have done so, allowing officers the time to decide as intended. Only 19 officers have submitted claims so far and the numbers were expected to be slightly higher. I would therefore encourage any officers who are or were previously involved in the specialism of DSU to submit your claims. The Force has a budget for this ruling, but they clearly would prefer to resolve everyone's claims prior to the new financial year. We are aware there is a potential class action being pursued by some officers in other forces but BTP is attempting to resolve this issue internally and any class action cannot proceed until all internal routes have been explored. So, if you haven't submitted your claim please do so immediately.
We were provided with an update on the Chief Constable's visit to Northwick Park on the back of complaints that we have shared with the Force. Federation Rep Peter Kingham attended the accommodation in company with the Chief and assisted in pointing out some of the concerns of our officers. The Chief acknowledged that certain creature comforts are absent, such as Wi-Fi, kettles with tea/coffee in rooms, the weekly cleaning of bedding and rooms, and TV's. Work is underway to determine the cost of introducing these to make your stay a better experience. The Force is also looking at whether sections of the accommodation can be used solely by BTP rather than having officers scattered in various blocks where there are differing facilities and levels of cleanliness. This is obviously a welcome approach and while there is no overnight fix it is on the Force's radar and being addressed. I thank Peter for his work and let's hope improvements are made soon in the New Year.
We raised officers' concerns around the single patrol strategy, particularly following the incident at Ilford station. We were informed that the current position has not changed, nonetheless the policy is being reviewed, especially around critical locations where it is known that violence is on the increase. There is currently a dynamic assessment being conducted and CT teams are being deployed to assist in locations where the risk is higher. The Force is to put comms out regarding assaults on officers and will re-publish the Force Policing Pledge. I believe it is a positive move that there is an assessment being conducted and the Force is aware of the concerns, and we await the outcome of the assessment.
Finally, it was pointed out that in my last blog I made mention that the attendance policy was being reviewed, which is factually incorrect. The policy under review is the DMS Policy and that consultation continues into the New Year. I'm sorry for any confusion caused.
Over the last couple of months we have been invited to observe the Chief Inspector boards. The Force has indicated that they are testing candidates against key leadership qualities and I appreciate there were doubts around the new process and criticism that some officers did not fully understand the skills and behaviours being tested. Hopefully those thoughts and views will be received and delivered in future de-briefings.
Both Darren Townsend and I sat as observers in a couple of the interviews and yet again saw our officers fully committed to the role, demonstrating a real desire to improve on their own performance and development, whilst also seeking to bring something different to the role of Chief Inspector.
We now know that 13 applicants have been successful to date and have been posted. Congratulations to all who have been promoted and commiserations to those who, on this occasion, were not successful. Hopefully your time will come very soon. I look forward to meeting and working with all successful candidates. Don't forget your Federation is here to support you as well as challenging you on occasions.
Darren and I also had the pleasure of attending FHQ on Wednesday 5 December for the unveiling of the Gallantry Roll of Honour in acknowledgment of PC's Wayne Marques and Leon McLeod's honours. You will recall HM The Queen recently awarded PC Wayne Marques the George Medal and PC Leon McLeod The Queen's Gallantry Medal after they confronted armed terrorists at the London Bridge attack in 2017.
Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, formally unveiled BTP's Gallantry Roll of Honour back in April 2017. It displays the names of BTP officers and staff whose bravery has been recognised by way of a gallantry award from the First World War to the present day. Earlier this month Rail Minister Andrew Jones unveiled the plaque to which Wayne and Leon's names have been added. Congratulations to them both.
It's always a pleasure to catch up with both officers and pay recognition to their brave acts of valour. I will never get tired of telling them both how proud we all are and how many of us owe them a debt of gratitude. It was also a good opportunity to speak with Andrew Jones MP. Being the MP for Harrogate it was interesting to hear the praise around the Police Treatment Centre in Harrogate and the excellent service it provides for our officers.
We were also introduced to the new Force Director of Finance and Commercial Services Tracey Martin. We welcome Tracey to the Force and I hope we can work closely together especially around police pay and entitlements.
In other news you may have heard that one of our officers was stabbed at Ilford station in London at the end of last month. It is shocking when any officer is assaulted but my heart never fails to miss a beat when I receive the news that it is serious, especially when weapons are used. Thankfully I can report that the officer was very fortunate to have colleagues from BTP and the Metropolitan Police in the vicinity who came to his immediate assistance. I can't imagine the outcome had he been on lone patrol. I am pleased to report that the officer is recovering and being supported by the Force and the Federation. We all wish him well and hope he makes a full recovery and returns to the role he enjoys.
Regrettably assaults on police officers are on the increase. The rising level of violence is shocking and shameful and being assaulted on duty is not simply 'part of the job'. It is wholly unacceptable that people who serve to protect their communities should face senseless violence while doing so. The minority who commit these offences must be made to face the consequences of their actions. We have supported the Protect the Protectors campaign and it is now time the courts did the same. I am pleased to report that BTP is exploring further items of protective equipment that can assist our brave frontline officers. Hopefully we will hear news of these developments in the New Year.
Justin Casson, a Federation Representative from Preston, has been working closely with PC Carl Palmer from Stevenage to assess whether BTP's uniform is fit for purpose and if it is cost effective to continue purchasing the current items. They have also visited other Forces to compare their uniform with that of BTP. They have presented a business case to the Force suggesting changes should be made for various reasons including cost and quality. I believe it to be a detailed business case and invite the Force to give it serious consideration. Again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Carl and Justin for taking valuable time out of their daily responsibilities to undertake this work in the interest of improving the standards of our uniform. Well done both and a very big thank you from all in the Federation.
There is little more that I can report on for 2018. Thank you for reading this blog and 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 like to offer an extra thank you for everything you have done during 2018, 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 really 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 2019.
Quote of the month:
"Last minute gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To every child, a good example. To all, charity. To yourself, respect".