Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Betrayal of Trust?

The following article has been submitted by a serving colleague. It reflects the disillusion and rock bottom morale within the police service and the frustration with representatives who are seen to have failed to act to support members or to prevent the end of the service as we know it.
 
 

The Police Federation of England and Wales - Representing Members or Self Interested Fat Cats?

Following recent high profile events like Plebgate, the national industrial rights ballot and the abject failure of the Police Federation to effectively counter Winsor's review, there's a strong argument that the Police Federation of England and Wales is no longer fit for purpose.

That's a view reflected by a growing number of angry, disillusioned and frustrated officers nationwide. It's something the PFEW are waking up to themselves - their recently announced 'root and branch' review recognises the fact.

But, it could be that this inward soul searching will be seen by the membership as being too little, too late - especially as this much vaunted review is anticipated to take a year to unfold and longer to implement if the hierarchy deem that any change is necessary.

On the front line, officers are asking how it is that the organisation responsible for representing them has become so detached from its members. The answer lies in the Federation's national structure, which is a throw back to before the dark ages. By way of highlighting its broken structure, it's well known that the Constables, who comprise around 70% of the membership, suffer a disproportionately minuscule number of votes in any decision making processes undertaken at national level. Neither fair, representative, nor democratic....

It's also an open secret that a handful of centrally located people hold the vast majority of the power, none of them having been elected by the rank and file. They receive generous allowances and 'pension-related honoraria payments' that leave their members with the perception that although everyone is equal, some are more equal than others. The perception from those on the front line is that it must be really difficult to fight for your members when you are not affected by what is happening to them....

But what grates most for members is being ignored, or worse, being treated like children and this is an ongoing issue. When questions are asked, they routinely go unanswered, and the recent ballot is a case in point. Even whilst the ballot was live, it wasn't widely known that a 50% + 1 voting threshold had been arbitrarily imposed, and the reasons behind that decision remain a mystery to this day. It's hard to think of any organisation, trade union, or other public or private body that imposes such restrictions on a supposedly democratic process.

Looking at the voting stats throws up more questions than answers. It looks like more than 50% of officers nationwide registered to vote. That means officers took the time to engage with the process and found a computer to log on to. So, if more than 50% registered, why didn't they all vote? There were HUGE variances in some regions between those who registered and then those who eventually voted. We know FOR A FACT that there were technical issues early on - did this stop the process being effective? We may never know. We do know officers have come forward saying that, having registered, they never received their voting email, despite repeated contact with the electioneers. Given that, prior to the ballot, Federation officials were adamant that everyone who wanted to vote would get the opportunity, their silence now on this issue is baffling. Where is the transparency, scrutiny and accountability?

Several recent national examples show our ballot up for the farce that it was. National elections recently secured jobs for Police Crime Commissioners who gathered as little as 8% of the popular vote. 
The civil service union has just announced that its members are to take strike action based on a ballot that only secured votes from 28% of its members.
 
So just why is it that we were required to achieve a 50.1% turnout? For the same reason, many suspect, that turkeys don't vote for Christmas. Obtaining industrial rights would bring with it the opportunity to join a trade union and that would sound the death knell for the Police Federation. It's hard for the national leadership to counter such cynicism, especially when they seem incapable of communicating with their members even at the most basic level. It took them a year to organise a ballot because they said it 'needed to be credible'. Criticism of the ballot has been as vociferous as it has been widespread, but the most damning verdict was delivered by the Met Fed, who openly described the ballot as 'bizarre', stating they were 'appalled'' at the National Fed's stance. Such criticism is unprecedented and some predict is the opening salvo of a civil war that could tear the organisation apart.
 
Records show that the PFEW is sitting on a cash pile of over £20m, but there is scant evidence of this being used to launch an effective campaign to fight the harsh realities of Winsor. Their financial records are a matter of public record and they certainly bear closer examination. How many officers know that in 2011, £1.4m of their money was spent on furnishings? What percentage of officers realise certain fed officials receive honoraria payments and 'elected officer enhancements' to their salaries - bonuses that start at £15K per annum? So how can all of this be justified if you are on the wrong end of a complaint and the fed decide they won't pay to legally represent you because you don't have more than a 50% chance of winning in their opinion? How do such bonuses sit with front line officers having their pay cut in April, with more financial misery to follow?

Officers feel that they are effectively being held hostage because there is no alternative to the Police Federation. To access associated benefits officers HAVE TO pay voluntary subs. They then, at additional cost, get access to health care, insurances and other benefits. 99% of officers join the Fed when they sign up for service. The benefits are competitively priced thanks largely to the Fed's bulk buying power and the fact that when they join most officers are comparatively fit and healthy. To pull out of paying voluntary subs, for example with twenty years service, means members lose access to all the benefits that they have signed up to.

Without the financial support of the Federation, the fear of a malicious complaint putting an officer in court at their own expense is tangible, especially when coupled with the loss of health and life cover, which it is virtually impossible to source competitively elsewhere if you are in your forties of fifties. The fact that despite these pitfalls officers ARE withdrawing their subs should be ringing alarm bells at national HQ. Many believe that if there was ANY competition the Federation would be abandoned by its members and bankrupted virtually overnight. It's a sad indictment that many now see the Federation as a necessary evil, rather than their guardian angel.

Officers are left with what is effectively a two tier representative body. At local level fed reps represent officers, influence management and help those who are doing an impossible job. The work of these reps is often heroic and goes largely uncredited, but the bigger picture has them, and those who rely on them, hamstrung by in-fighting and petty politics, the likes of which means that, at national level, communication is chaotic and the message mixed.

On the one hand we're told individual branch boards won't share their details with each other, which means the National Federation don't know who their members are, yet at the same time officers are being 'mail shot' at home as the Fed desperately attempts to entice officers to take up various offers designed to plug the financial gap created by those leaving.

The most current example of this confusion is the constables branch website (www.policeconstables.org). Just to officially launch it and have a link to it off the main National Federation website proved an onerous task. It was heralded as the voice of the rank and file. A chance for the majority to have their say and to be kept informed and up to date with all matters Fed related. Officers were encouraged to register so the Fed would finally know who their members were and so that they could share questions and ideas on the forums found there. Typically, things started well, but soon descended into farce. Though over 8,000 PCs have registered, the site has yet to trail blaze to any degree. Months and months of questions being posed and left largely unanswered by Fed officials has left the site looking like a post-apocalyptic ghost town. The few posters left (there are a hard core of about ten) are treated with contempt, chastised and threatened with bans. The site is plagued with technical difficulties and its news section is so out of date as to make it a contradiction in terms. The largest ongoing joke is the insistence of Fed officials from within the site that they have 'a plan'. It must be a corker of Baldrick-like cunning because it has been 'a work in progress' for nearly two years and is yet to show itself. The site is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with the Police Federation, all wrapped up in one sad, semi-abandoned bundle.

This April's pay packet will bring with it the double-whammy of a pension contribution increase and the reduction in CRTP. It will be a defining moment for officers and the PFEW. Until now officers have largely only lost the opportunity to receive something that was becoming due...we've missed out on future pay rises, or the next stage of an increment rise that was on the cards. From April, for the first time, we will start to see our hard earned money being deducted at source from our pay packets.

Nationally, it isn't something PFEW have prepared officers for. It will come as a shock to many and will affect us all. There will be welfare and financial issues that will need addressing - officers should be in no doubt that this is the start of actual hardship for many. How ironic that at their time of greatest need, officers will be considering withdrawing from the Federation to try and claw back some of the cash that the Federation has allowed the government to snatch from their members.

As a Post Script, it seems PFEW are not beyond being petty either. Having recently withdrawn my subs, I have been denied access to the Constable's website forums, despite the fact that even having withdrawn my voluntary subs I remain a member of the PFEW whilst I continue as a serving police officer. If that doesn't guarantee me access, then the fact that I have paid subs up to my next pay packet does. It's a small thing, but it's also indicative of an organisation perceived by some as rotten to its core. Needless to say, emails surrounding this issue have gone unanswered.

There is little doubt that within the next six months events of seismic proportions will overtake the Police Federation. With voluntary redundancy ratified and live, compulsory severance on the horizon, fitness testing, reductions in pay for restricted officers, the possible introduction of A20 and a new comprehensive spending review imminent, it's beyond time for the national PFEW to clean house, draw a line and start again. Officers need their help and have done for some time.

Sad indeed that whilst I remain proud of being a police officer I am ashamed and embarrassed of the organisation that is supposed to represent and protect us all.

 

29 comments:

  1. An interesting article rendered ineffective through the plethora of factual inaccuracies. A tiny bit of research would have helped.

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  2. Funny, the Fed said the same, but declined a right to reply and declined to point out just where the inaccuracies were..ll

    Perhaps the poster above would like to explicitly point out the 'plethora of factual inaccuracies'?

    No, thought not...

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  3. It should surprise nobody that UK police morale is low following a spectacular collapse of a long held reputation for reliable and decent public services, lex.

    In the aftermath of the Hindenburg disaster (a comparable spectacle) sabotage theories were put forward by the craft's designers whilst the wreckage still smouldered! That situation is constantly mirrored when the culpable of any import refuse to be blamed for tragedies of their making. Well, not in their own lifetime, anyway.

    Many police have frozen like rabbits caught in car headlights. Public spectators are also trapped in a helpless situation. We have passed the tipping point and nothing can be done or rebuilt until the fires are extinguished and all useless remains scraped from the tarmac.

    You know, part of the problem is a police reluctance to hear these views. We citizens are 'mad' to hold them and damnable for expressing such heresy.

    Is it only three years ago I warned of a forthcoming cull for the worst of UK police and the demise of the arrogant, libelous police blogger? In the last few weeks I predicted the downfall of Gadget on this very blog. That was not a result of 'insider' information or 'influence'. It was simply rational thinking from first principles.

    That further damage and erosion is inevitable, is very unfortunate for police and public alike. Just as Volgograd was rebuilt and renamed, we are likely to witness something comparable in UK law enforcement.

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  4. 10 miserable years to go13 March, 2013 10:22

    We already have, they are called pcso's

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  5. The PFEW 'root and branch' review is not being carried out to appease members. It is being carried out by the Federation before the Government does it for them, following Plebgate.

    I am not sure if you understand the structure and workings of the Federation properly. Constables, Sergeants and Inspectors are each equally represented with one third of the representatives. Constables obviously lose out as they have the greatest numbers. If it was a free vote on numbers, sergeants and inspectors would never be represented. Personally, I think the role of Inspectors has changed to such an extent that they should now sit with the Superintendents, but that is another issue.

    The Joint Central Committee, who are the national representatives, are elected by the Force representatives.

    The £20m sloshing around at Fed HQ belongs to the Constables Central Committee, not the Joint Central Committee. So it is the constables that have failed to invest as you suggest.

    I have to agree that the ballot was a farce. The National representatives did not want it. They dithered and then when pressed went ahead with it. They should never have gone ahead with it while the decision of Government to postpone compulsory severance was still outstanding.

    The conduct of the ballot was a disgrace. Every effort should have been made to persuade officers to vote. The minimum was done in the hope that the vote would fail.

    The outcome is that the Government can continue to walk all over us knowing that we won't do anything about it.

    Regarding Fed subs covering legal representation, you can buy legal cover for a lot less than the subs. Bulk buying at Force or national level would make it much cheaper. I am not sure that the Fed will take the lead on this though.

    One final thought. Despite all I have said, police officers bickering and criticising the Fed will be music to the ears of Government. If Fed members stop paying subs and the Fed starts falling apart it will simply help the Government walk all over us. The answer is for members to start taking more interest and vote for those that represent them rather than their own interests.

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  6. Firstly can I position my stance in relation to this subject. I am a civilian who works with Police Officers and have attended several Annual PFEW Conferences... I have witnessed, heared and experienced this all before in the Public & Private sector. It's called change !! I totally empathise with and agree with the articles' comments. Watching from the sidelines,the issue is a total lack of proper communication and intregration by the PFEW with it's members, it is too distant from its members. I cannot believe there is not a single date base of all it's members! Why not ??? The whole system and set up is outdated. You need some business people in there who know how to run these things. The PFEW and local Officials are too self serving and have lost touch with the mood of the members and reality of the society and world we now live in. The British public in the main love and trust our Police Force and so they should!!!. But the Force cannot and should not be immune to the realities of the financial world we live in. The PFEW has become like a Trade Union in the 1980's, but it's 30 years too late. Spending £1.4 Ml (if true) on furnishings is madness...you do not need to do that to be an effective body !! Its not good business. It's not too late, you just need less top heavy format with more accountability, less committees and Baords and lots lots more engagement with the rank and file. Listening is a start...Miltancy is not the way, understanding and discussion helps. Getting your voting system sorted is a start. Engage with the rank and file and become one big team all singing from the same hymn sheet before it's too late. !!!! Good Luck.

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  7. Re the furnishings - it is true, but so unbelievable, that is why it is a hyperlink within the article so folk can see the accounts for themselves...

    In times gone past severe questions would be asked about such expenditure....

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  8. Brontosaurus,

    Voting rights should be proportionate.

    Constables are 70% of the membership and therefore should have 70% of the votes.

    You cannot have it both ways. You can't say fewer Inspectors and CIs should have double voting rights because there are fewer of them. You can't say that is fair, but the ballot was a joke because National didn't want it...

    If the voting rights issue had been sorted, there would have been no way that National could have imposed the 50+1% threshold for the ballot...

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  9. melv - obviously, you are on a much higher plain than us ordinary mortals. If only we had the same insight and foresight as yourself, the world would be a very different place. We would have to rename the planet we lived on.

    I am constantly disappointed that someone with your obvious academic ability appears to be too naive to understand when the Government is softening up a target for cuts and 'reform.'

    Despite your assertions, the vast majority of the public support the police and understand that they are just trying to do a difficult job in more and more trying circumstances. Those who repeatedly rant on about endemic corruption will be labelled mad by most sane commentators.

    If you read this blog you will know that I have always advocated that the police apologise for mistakes they have made. What I don't support is history being rewritten to blame the police for everything, a la Hillsborough.

    You sometimes hark back to the days of Dixon of Dock Green when the police were respected. You seem to have no understanding that policing in those days was pretty appalling. Fabricating evidence and violence was endemic.

    Changes to move away from that culture have not been recognised. It has been lost in the myriad of changes imposed by Central Government including political correctness, irrelevant targets and irrelevant private sector management practices.

    You must get a job as a soothsayer melv. As well as using your incredible insight it might get you out of the house and off benefits. Culling the police and the demise of a blogger. No one else could ever have foreseen such a thing.

    Is predicting the end of a police blog such an amazing fact to be so proud of melv? On a positive note, at least you are not claiming responsibility for the demise like that other idiot Rehill.

    So you predict there are more changes coming to the police. How do you do it melv? No one else can see that coming.

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  10. There is one answer to Constables un-representation and that is to have their own association. In Ireland they have and the Sergeants & Inspectors Garda Association have their own too.

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  11. Plod are scum and will meet their demise at G8. We have long memories. Now **ck off and protect some nonces;)

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  12. Good evening, lex.

    Gosh. Nine paragraphs of concentrated vitriol! In your traducing haste you omitted the obligatory references to drug dependency, witch, 'peedo', nigger, "Dr", drug dealer, pimp and let me see, leper?

    Do have a lie down before folk think you have just discovered personal losses in another Dodgy Dan Collins venture.

    "So you predict there are more changes coming to the police. How do you do it melv? No one else can see that coming."

    In the kingdom of the blind...etc. Well, for starters there is much more to emerge of the Gadget departure. It may be a few weeks before the grisly details are public knowledge and I trust this small offering of 'clairvoyance' is to your liking, old sport.

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  13. Good news Major Melvin as two more "top" twats are to go! Jeez at this rate we won't need to have a G8 riot!

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    Replies
    1. It's not likely that you'll be there anyways. I don't believe you have the necessary moral fibre.

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  14. Melvin can I have next weeks lottery numbers please?
    Jaded.
    PS can you predict how much everyone laughs at you?

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  15. melv - 'nine paragraphs of concentrated vitriol.' A slight exaggeration me thinks. You need to get out more. Come out on patrol on a Friday night and you will see what vitriol really means. And all you will have to do is tell some drunken moron to behave themselves.

    I do have an offer for you. Readers of this blog have put up with you ill informed sniping for many years. Some of us have been asking for you to explain yourself and give a lucid and constructive explanation of your vitriol for the police. If you can manage to do so, e-mail me and I will publish it.

    It's a serious offer and would obviously reach a much wider audience than your own blog did or your comments in The Mail.

    So you are trying to claim credit for Gadget's demise. It is not difficult to guess what has transpired. Still, I am sure the new book deal will make it worthwhile, eventually.

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  16. "I do have an offer for you."

    An offer almost identical to Dodgy Dan's but without any cash, eh? Call me naive again but I will have to sleep on that and get back to you.

    "So you are trying to claim credit for Gadget's demise. It is not difficult to guess what has transpired."

    Crikey, this is exciting. Shades of a Cracker style Colin-Stagg-fit-up but do guess away. Dodgy Dan is desperate for stock material of any quality and a darn fool with his Nudes of the World hush money.

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  17. Strange, you have both your resident loons claiming responsibility for the demise of Gadgets blog.

    Like some sort of half arsed terrorist groups. Claiming responsibility for something neither had a hand in. It's quite sad really.

    I'm surprised you allow them to spill their ill informed nonsense and (in the odious Rehills case) bile

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  18. I can't understand why anyone is replying to MTG (or Rehill). They are trolls whose aim is to wind up those who have genuine matters to discuss. Trying to reason with them gives them a boner and insulting them means they run out of tissues sooner than they planned. Hiding behind the anonymity of the web allows them to say what they know will wind people up. Don't scratch and it will stop itching. Ignore them and eventually they will go away and annoy someone else.
    Good posting by the way. Now out of it (and so glad) but I fear for those still serving.
    Plodnomore

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  19. Two points - first Ferenda I know how nasty the public can be when boozed up, I did door work in Bristol and Belfast for almost a decade and never in that time did I use racist language nor target "ethnics". I did not have armed response, I did not lie on oath about what some poor sod had done to get hi jailed either. Now to trolling - you troll left wing sites so why should we not reciprocate?

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  20. Rehill - I have never used racist language or targeted ethnic minorities or lied on oath. I have never seen it happen either. I know one police officer who used racist language. He was reported by collegues and rightly sacked.
    I don't read or troll left wing blogs. Why would I? That is the difference between you and normal people.

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  21. What are peoples views on the Fed? I am not seeing much support for them, nor am I seeing any view that agrees with the post. Is lethargy still ruling in the police?

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    Replies
    1. I left the job back in 2009 but, from what I read, I'm glad I did. I know a lot of blokes back where I used to work are pissed off with the Fed and are talking about removing their subs.

      T_SG

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  22. I was a fed rep at 3 ranks. I left when I discovered that to my mind they were too close, way too close, to the chief.

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    Replies
    1. That's because you keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

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  23. With all that has happened over that last couple of years and the PFEW's poor response I can only surmise that it is corrupt, incompetent or both. I know which I am most inclined to believe...

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  24. I feel the Fed at local level are too cosy with the management.
    I've never known a situation like now where loads of PC's are planning to leave.When I joined it was for 30 years and few officers resigned.
    My team Sergeant has just gone part-time to start his own business as he only has 12 years in and is getting shafted over his pension.I overhear conversations all the time with PC's digging escape tunnels.
    Never mind there's plenty of newbies on £19,000 queuing up to get in,no experience or skills but who cares?
    Jaded

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  25. As a serving police officer how can the FED be representative when it is almost entirely made up of people with less than 10 years left and movements within it are based on being part of a masonic lodge? Younger members are fogotten as the Fed rows to shore with their protected pensions so they can afford a few more Freemason shindigs when they go. Younger members just dont have the contacts or the knowledge how to shake someones hand properly to be heard or cared about

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  26. Before some of you ridicule this blog, my partner of 24 years Service was submitted for IHR to one of the Met CMO's....she was supported by her GP, and Consultant for IHR but the CMO told her that 'if she was that concerned about her health she should resign, and that people like her cost the Met alot of money to retire, and that there are other procedures coming in that she will have to leave the Met under'. I actually witnessed it. His conversation was reported to line management a Fed Rep and an OH clerk. Rightly my partner asked for another assessment citing the CMO's comments as unprofessional amongst other things. The result so far....she is no longer allowed to make comments on her Personnel Page without it first being authorised by her supervisor. One of the reasons givem - we don't want to upset Occ Health!!

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