HC 1456 Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Birmingham City Council

The majority of the terms of reference of the Home Affairs Committee inquiry are police specific. A few are particularly relevant to Council services, due to their broader nature. These are highlighted in bold in the table below and then considered in turn in this response.


Police relations with the communities where violence took place before the riots, including similarities with and differences from previous public disorder events:


The role of social media in spreading disorder and in the response to it;


The role of organised groups in promoting disorder;


The role of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), and Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)/National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) public order guidance;


The techniques used by the police to quell the rioting, including: a) Decisions taken over the deployment of police officers (availability of officers, response times), b) The use of standard techniques: containment, dispersal, specialist public order officers, dogs, horses, c) The deployment of non-standard techniques: armoured police cars, baton rounds, water cannon, curfews


Variations in the responses of different police forces;


Lessons to be learned from the police response to previous public disorder incidents;


Training of officers to deal with riots;


Whether there were any constraints on the police such as limited resources or powers;


Whether there should be any changes to the legislation regulating normal policing processes during times of major disorder;


Whether the age of many of the rioters constrained the police in their use of anti-riot technique;


The application of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886; and


To revisit relevant recommendations made in previous Home Affairs Committee reports into Policing the G20 protests and Knife crime, and other relevant recommendations, to assess if they have been implemented by successive governments.

Whilst it is appropriate for West Midlands Police to comment on the detailed issues around policing, the Council would like to record our appreciation for the close working between the Police and Council during the disturbances. Council officials were engaged in Gold Command and the Control Room which was very helpful in ensuring an effective and coherent response.

Community Relations

West Midlands Police and Birmingham City Council (BCC) have sophisticated networks to engage with different groups in this extremely diverse city. Whilst West Midlands Police have established a Community Reference Group in consultation with the City Council, the City Council already has long established Community Networks as well as a Faith Round Table which enables it to gather intelligence regarding tensions between and across communities. An area that we may have to look at more closely for future developments is our relationship with young people. Consequently, the City Council is working closely with its Youth Service to ensure that we develop networks with young people in general but in particular with those who are disengaged.

Social Media

BCC and West Midlands Police provided regular updates to internal and external contacts via a range of communication methods, including social media.

The Birmingham Resilience Team (bhamresilience) twitter account saw a significant increase in followers throughout the week, and received over 200 direct messages of support and appreciation for accurate, trusted and speedy tweets. Birmingham Resilience twitter account was utilised to reinforce police tweets to counteract rumours and incorrect information.

BCC appreciates the challenges that social media presented in these events. The use of social media in emergencies is increasingly regarded as a valuable addition to the range of warning and informing methods used to communicate with the public. The www.birminghamprepared.gov.uk website, which was also regularly updated, received positive feedback and experienced its highest number of hits since its launch. This reinforces the role of the internet in providing a source of information and advice during emergencies.

Role of Organised Groups

Whilst organised groups do not appear to have had a significant role in initiating the disturbances, some did respond to the disturbances in an opportunistic fashion. West Midlands Police will be able to provide further details in their response.

The Techniques used by the Police to Quell the Rioting and Issues Around the Age of Many of the Rioters

Upon notification of the disorder and that a Police Operation was being established for the West Midlands, The Council’s Resilience Team (BRT) immediately linked with the Police and activated the relevant Corporate Major Emergency Procedures. As per agreed multi agency procedures, Birmingham Resilience staff were based at the Police Events Control Suite 24 hours a day throughout the police operation. This enabled swift deployment by the Council in support of the police operation. For example, Resilience officers liaised with Council fleet and waste management colleagues at 4am each day, to relay information about sites affected by disorder so that street cleaning / debris removal could be undertaken without delay and in line with police forensic confirmation that their site investigations were complete.

Police strategies were shared with multi agency partners and were necessarily adapted as a consequence of a highly dynamic situation.

Senior Resilience officers from the Council attended all Police led multi agency Strategic (Gold) and Tactical (Silver) Meetings, which included input into the Multi Agency Gold Strategy. There was also strong political input, notably from the Deputy Leader. BCC officers worked in the Control Room itself.

Based on the information available at the time, the police response was appropriate given the age and behaviour of most of the looters.

We are concerned at the apparent mismatch between media images of what was happening in London and the actual nature of the disturbances in Birmingham—which led unnecessarily to heightened fear and public/media calls for stronger interventions.

Application of the Riot Damages Act

One of the key concerns of the Council was the perception that claims for compensation depended on a decision by the Police on whether to declare the recent civil disorder in Birmingham as a “riot” within the context of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886.

Our understanding now is that this decision is not a prerequisite for affected parties to make claims for damages, however the initial perception (together with the lack of an early decision on whether to declare a riot) caused concern particularly for local businesses and made it difficult to process financial support by BCC under the High Street Support Scheme.

The Government has, in their guidance notes, advised that to give claimants more time to submit their claims the normal deadline of 14 days is being extended to 42 days. This is welcomed.


Birmingham has robust emergency response and recovery arrangements that have served us well in dealing with the recent public disorder. The police were faced with a highly dynamic situation that was further challenged by the apparently disparate groups that converged into large scale organised criminality.

As per usual practice, single and multi agency debriefs will identify any lessons learned that can be taken forward to continually improve our arrangements.

BCC continues to work with multi agency partners, communities and businesses to restore business and community confidence as part of recovery activities. It is anticipated that the joint efforts of the Council, our communities and partners will bring about lasting trust and stability for the City.

The Council is considering how best to investigate the underlying causes of the disturbances and hence the medium and long term actions appropriate to ensure timely recovery and reduce the risk of further occurrences of this nature.

September 2011

Prepared 22nd December 2011