A New Year, a new Chief Constable………………… same old issues!
It is slightly depressing as I start this first blog of 2016, in which I will aim to provide you with an update on many of the issues we face, to reflect that they are many of the issues that we have faced for some time. Whilst progress sometimes appears to be made, we often find that we take one step forward followed by two more in reverse.
There is little doubt in my mind that budget issues underpin many of the problems that the service faces and all the indications are that this will just become a greater issue in the months to come. At a recent JNCC meeting, the service were unable to specify the exact budget deficit at present, suffice to say it is significant. Moreover the capital budget has been cut by about 50%. It is hard to provide policing services to the standard we would wish when these fiscal issues are constantly at the forefront of decision making.
As an Association, we have pleaded with the Government to release the service from the 17,234 restrictions and allow us to restructure in order to provide best value. It is hoped that some movement on that matter will result after the forthcoming elections have been concluded.
In the interim, the service has asked Commanders and Heads of Department to identify means of addressing challenging fiscal scenarios – given the impact of cuts to date, this is not good news. Whilst we cut and reduce, public expectation remains increasingly demanding as the fourth estate appear to seek any opportunity to criticise and label the service as ‘failing’. The impact of all of this is a significant contribution to declining morale.
A difficult landscape in which to start as our new Chief Constable. We wish Mr Gormley all the very best as he tackles the problems that we are experiencing.
There is no doubt we are all in this together and our role will be to support the Chief Constable and the service as we face the challenges ahead.
Pay and Tax
But the age of austerity does not stop at reducing the budget of our public services. We have seen a significant real term reduction in pay and 1% pay awards have become the norm for many years. As we enter the start of negotiations for the pay award 2016/17 we know that the official side will be looking for a similar settlement in the year to come. When changes in taxation are added to the foregoing we find that our members are working longer hours, with greater demand and responsibility placed on them for significantly less remuneration. That does not seem right.
We have grappled with Annual Allowance taxation on our pensions for some years now. From 6 April 2016 the impact of changes to Life Time Allowance will be felt by a great many of our members. These are complicated issues to understand. The Association are running a series of investment and taxation seminars in the coming months. I would advise all members to come to one of these, the information available may prove invaluable to you.
There is no good news here either. Indications are that the forthcoming UK budget will contain further changes to pensions and taxation. Some rumours abounding suggest that tax relief on pension contributions may be reduced. Added to that, the multiplication factors utilised for calculating pension pots may be increased from 20 to 29 bringing many more police officers into the band for application of Annual Allowance and Life Time Allowance charges. These changes will bring a real threat to the pension scheme itself as many will question the benefit of remaining in the pension scheme when contributions increase and returns diminish. The Association will stress to all that the police pension schemes as currently structured remain at the forefront of the public sector pension schemes available.
As factual information becomes available regarding future alterations to pension arrangements we will keep you updated.
It is with a heavy heart that I place this subject back in our blog. I thought the matter concluded some time ago but from the contact we have had recently it would appear the service has been slow in implementing the agreed changes to business travel.
In a previous blog I made it clear that the Association can influence and negotiate on this matter but ultimately it is in the services gift to decide what arrangements are put into place for travel. Thus, Sir Stephen decided that there would be no lease car scheme at this time due to financial pressures but that officers who did more than 8,500 business miles in a year would be provided with a car to utilise for the purpose. These cars have not been forthcoming!
Inquiries suggest that examination of mileage claims have identified that a very few number of employees exceed the 8,500 miles quota and of these only a handful are ASPS members. At the recent JNCC I asked when these people would receive their cars. In response the Director of People and Development, John Gillies, informed me that due to budget constraints this whole issue was being re-visited.
We will keep pressure on here. The Chief Constable agreed that, budget constraints or not, individuals should not be funding business travel from their own pockets. Moreover, we have long been concerned about double standards in this area as budget constraint does not seem to effect executive travel arrangements in the same manner.
Once again, we will keep you updated.
The Superintendents Review is coming to a close and the draft report is due later this month. There has been an excellent contribution by members and the hard working review team have met with over 70% of you to discuss your working environment in one to one meetings. The results have underlined the findings of our three ASPS surveys, which of course caused the review to commence in the first place.
Having so much evidence of the issues ASPS members face, the service must now ensure that the resultant report addressed these matters and improves the working life of Superintendents in the service making wellbeing uppermost on the agenda.
To its credit, the service appears determined to address the issues identified. Already we have seen the policy in respect of the generally unpopular CAV days addressed. Indeed, it would appear that the Chief Constable may be taking a refreshingly different approach to performance management, so positive change is on the way.
I intend to write to DCC Fitzpatrick, the Executive lead for this project, underlining the issues we think the report must address. Ultimately, though this is a service report not one commissioned by ASPS. We have always retained the right to disagree with the contents. Hopefully, given the level of consultation collective agreement will result.
I trust that the foregoing will be of interest to you.
Difficult times. Times for leadership to be at the fore. I remain available to answer any questions you may have.
Chief Superintendent President