Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460 - 479)



Bob Russell

  460. Would you not agree that the reality is that community wardens, street wardens, are policing on the cheap?
  (Dr Henig) I think that they can actually play a valuable role. Having seen the six recycled, as I call them, traffic wardens in Lancaster, they are actually doing different things. The sorts of concerns that people voice to them are very low level issues. Some of them are not really policing issues, they are the sorts of concerns which people may not have passed on to the police but would have made them feel unhappy, they would have felt discontented. These wardens are actually addressing issues which the police may or may not be addressing but certainly not addressing very fully and I think, therefore, they are playing a different role. I think they are playing a very important role in addressing the environment, the quality of the environment, within which the police are operating. I think that they are not necessarily policing on the cheap but they are an extension, if you like, of a reassurance function.

  461. Are the Lancashire recycled traffic wardens still part of the police family?
  (Dr Henig) Well mine are, mine are employed by the police because at the moment traffic wardens are employed by the police.

  462. These recycled ones, are they still part of the police?
  (Dr Henig) They are employed by the police as such.

  463. Are they going to continue in the future to be employed by them?
  (Dr Henig) Well, what is happening at the moment, as I say, there is an evaluation by the University. We are going to find out what the public think about it, whether they are happy with the service, whether it needs to be changed and anyway we are going to do a full evaluation and then decide what the way forward is.

  464. Would it be possible for the Association of Police Authorities to send the Committee a note of what the 43 police authorities have done and are planning to do? Quite clearly what Lancashire are doing is totally different from what Essex is doing.
  (Dr Henig) Yes.[1]

  465. We might as well get the best practice there is and see what is happening between the two bodies.
  (Dr Henig) One of our Committees, which is called Partnerships and is chaired by the person who chairs North Wales Police Authority, is precisely engaged in this area, looking at partnerships, and has recently asked all police authorities to furnish information about the warden schemes in their area for precisely the reasons actually that you have just put forward, to see what best practice is, what works, what is happening around the country. So we are collecting that information.

  466. Are any of the street wardens or community wardens which have been introduced so far privatised policemen? Are they Group 4, Securicor or are they all part of the democratic process?
  (Dr Henig) Ours in Lancashire are local authority wardens or they are wardens who have been accredited in conjunction with the police so we have not got any—well, no, actually that is not true, the West Lancashire scheme, some of the wardens there have been recruited from the private sector but the police have vetted them and the police have overseen the way in which the scheme has been set up. So it has been a partnership.

  467. Finally to ask this question, we are getting so many different sorts of wardens, private sector, public sector, local authority, proper police officers, do you not think there ought to be some sort of distinguishing uniform which can separate the proper police officers from all the rest because in daylight it may be difficult, in dusk and night, people want to know whether they are dealing with a proper police officer or Group 4 or whoever?
  (Dr Henig) Again, to me, that is a local issue. Our wardens in Lancaster have very distinctive yellow jackets, very clearly marked "warden" and there has been a clear operation to make sure people know who they are, what their job is. I do think that if we do believe in local accountability then different local areas should be allowed to have the schemes that most suit them. It is our job to sell that I think and to make people aware of what is happening, how it is being delivered and what role people are playing, I think that is what we need to do.
  (Mr Peel) Chairman, may I make one point clear. In Essex the decision to pass the traffic wardens across was not a police authority decision.

  468. I appreciate that.
  (Mr Peel) What happened was the local authorities themselves said they wanted to see parking decriminalised. The police actually opposed it, we opposed it but we did not win that day and hence we are now passing all the traffic wardens across to the local authorities. It was not a police authority decision.

  Mr Russell: That is a fair point. The Hon. Member for Colchester agrees with the police.

  David Winnick: Press release.

  Mr Russell: I agreed a long time ago.

  Chairman: Right. Now there are some miscellaneous matters. Mr Watson.

Mr Watson

  469. Can I just say on a personal note, I am sure that chief constables quiver when they have got the two of you in their authority because there is not a lot you have missed in this. Is there anything in the Bill that you would like to see included that has not been listed?
  (Dr Henig) Yes. Can we mention one item that we would like to raise actually which is not there and we would like it to be there. We would very much like to see the repeal of the Riot Damages Act.

  470. Right.
  (Dr Henig) It is something that we have made representations about and we are disappointed that the Government has chosen not to use the opportunity to repeal what we regard as a very archaic piece of legislation. Can I say that we have come to this view, and we wrote to the Minister already five months ago, well before the situation had arisen in Bedfordshire but I think the Bedfordshire situation reinforces our strongly held view that whereas in 1886 this may well have been appropriate legislation, certainly it is not appropriate in 2002 to make police authorities responsible financially for any kind of disturbances that may happen to take place in the area. That is a piece of legislation that we would like repealed.

  471. Anything else?
  (Dr Henig) The second issue we would like to see in the Bill that is not there at the moment is we would like police authorities to be statutory partners in the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, the local community safety partnerships. There is a provision to bring in health authorities as statutory partners. We have been pressing for some time for police authorities to be statutory partners. In a number of parts of the country they are there, not of right but we have made sure we are there but it is not true of all parts of the country. Given the evolving importance of the local agenda, and particularly I am thinking of local strategic partnerships, these are to some degree going to cut across if we are not careful the policing plan and the financial responsibilities that police authorities have because the local strategic partnership will have the local Crime and Disorder people there and we have to make sure everybody is pulling in the same direction. So we have asked for police authorities to be statutory partners and we were very much hoping that this might be one point on which the Government did not feel that it would be too difficult to agree perhaps.

  472. If I can take you to police pay and conditions which I know vexes a lot of people. To what extent do you think the pay and conditions package will impact on police reform? Will it affect the delivery of reform if that bit is not got right?
  (Dr Henig) Can I make a general point. I do not want to go into the detail of this. It is quite clear to me, it is quite clear to anybody that given what happened last week on the pay and conditions in the vote, clearly this decisive vote was delivered by the Police Federation. The issue for me is the issue of confidence. I think that at the moment, for whatever reason, rank and file are lacking confidence. I think if you want to take people forward in a process of reform, and a lot of us have done it perhaps in different arenas at different times, people have got to have confidence in you. Once they have got confidence in you, you can go forward together and implement reform. I think the problem now is that clearly there has been signalled a lack of confidence and that is then going to make it perhaps more difficult to move forward in the way that we would have liked. I do not want to go into the details because clearly at the moment the package is now in conciliation and I would not want in any way to undermine that.

  473. In terms of rising police confidence it has been said that we need reform to raise confidence in the first place because the institution we have now does not allow the flexibility that modern policing requires.
  (Dr Henig) I go along with that. I come at this from a number of different points of view. There is a general trend, and has been for the last few years, to try and increase productivity in the public sector, to make people in the public sector across a whole range of areas, if you like, more productive, work harder, and I am coming at this from the education sector but it has been a general trend. By and large people will go forward if they have confidence. If they feel at the end of the day that things will be better, that there will be an improvement in the way things are delivered, that the quality will improve, in my own case that students will benefit or in other professions that services will improve in quality then I think people will move. I think they need that confidence. My worry at the moment is that confidence has got to be built up because the reform will not be effective unless there is confidence.

  474. Would an increased pay offer increase that confidence?
  (Dr Henig) I am not sure that it is all to do with pay actually. I think there are wider issues. When the Police Federation were making the point about police officers having been perhaps talked about in terms of being lazy or not doing their job or whatever, I think there was a general sense they were being got at, that perhaps in some way they were being devalued. I am not sure it is just a pay issue, I think that is an element. I think if you are trying to increase people's productivity, and as I say this is a general point, there is going to be a morale issue and that has to be addressed in some way. I am not against reform, I support a lot of the reforms, but if we are going to make them work we have got to address the confidence issues because otherwise I think there will be a danger that people will then fight the reforms and they just will not work.

  475. Taking pay out of this reform package, have you managed to do any guess work, and I understand that it is only estimates, about what the actual cost of implementing these reforms would be?
  (Ms Leech) We have done some very broad thinking about that. It is difficult because, as written on the face of the Bill, there are enabling measures and, therefore—I do not want to repeat the conversations—the amount of funding that is put into that will depend on the way it is made available and so on. We have tried to reach an estimate on that but it is difficult because of that reason and because, frankly, we are in parallel trying to run a process around the spending review. We have made our best estimate of the additional cost of the reform package over and above the existing known pressures on police authorities in any case over the next five years and in addition to some of the other things that are outside the reform package that the Government wants to take forward. We have tried to put all of those things together in our spending review submission to the Home Office and we hope the Home Office will be arguing that case to the Treasury over the next few weeks and months.

  476. Have you got a figure off the top of your head or will we be able to see the information that you have submitted?
  (Ms Leech) I do not have a figure off the top of my head. May we perhaps give you a note on that.[2]

  477. That is very helpful. One last clarification on my cars point again. Did you actually say there is an audit of vehicle purchases in police authorities?
  (Ms Leech) No.

  478. And there is no current national purchasing scheme?
  (Ms Leech) I believe there may be one or two regional schemes.

  479. No national ones?
  (Mr Peel) There are regional ones but not a national one.

  Mr Watson: That is very helpful.

1   See Appendix, Ev 159-162. Back

2   Note by witness: We have made a very broad-brush attempt at this, and our figures suggest that initial costs may be at least £700 million with on-going costs of at least £1 billion. These figures include major expenditure items such as investment in IT and infrastructure but equally exclude significant proposals currently under discussion including improvements to the wider criminal justice system. Back

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