HC 1456 Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Association of Police Authorities

The Association of Police Authorities (APA) represents police authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It has two main functions: to act as the national voice of police authorities and influence the national agenda on their behalf; and to help police authorities do their job locally through the development of guidance and advice on national policing, criminal justice and community safety related issues.

Executive Summary

1. The APA welcomes the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) inquiry, commends the response of the police service to the unprecedented events witnessed in August and would highlight the following points:

(a)Contrary to the assertion of the Home Secretary police authority members, both during and after the recent disturbances, were actively reassuring communities and supporting Chief Constables and police officers, thought out of the media spotlight.

(b)Consideration should be given to the way the IPCC and the police engage and keep informed those families who have been involved in an IPCC investigation, with a view to minimising any community tension.

(c)The APA welcomes the Prime Minister’s intent (as stated on 11 August) that the Government would meet legitimate claims arising from the cost of the disturbances. The APA continues to press the Government to meet the other, extraordinary operational costs of the disturbances in full.

(d)Police authorities who have been prudent with their financial management in recent years should not be penalised by being expected to meet the costs of the disturbance.

(e)The APA endorses the recommendation of the HASC in 2002 that the Riot (Damages) Act should be repealed because it is out of date.


2. The Association of Police Authorities (APA) welcomes the inquiry by the HASC into the recent disturbances experienced by a number of our cities in August 2011 and the impact that this has had on policing.

3. The APA commends the response of the police service, including the professionalism of individual officers up and down the country in managing the unrest in such difficult circumstances, the support of “back office” police staff, as well as the spirit in which mutual aid was so swiftly forthcoming from across the UK at such short notice.

4. In light of the disturbances, policing numbers should be put into context: we have 140,000 police for 60 million people; this is fewer police per head of population than many other European countries. Concerns remain whether the police service could respond to such incidents in the future after cuts of up to 20% have taken effect.

Community Engagement

5. The APA, as HASC will be aware, was perturbed by the Home Secretary’s assertion that police authorities were invisible and ineffective during the disturbances. We are pleased that HASC challenged the Home Secretary regarding her assertion that only by being visible is a public servant being effective. The APA letter to the Home Secretary is attached at Appendix A.

6. We are aware that the HASC will be speaking to the Chair of West Midlands Police Authority in terms of the work undertaken by WMPA during and after the disturbances. Similar activity was replicated by police authority colleagues across the country.

7. Police authorities, as with the rest of the country, were taken aback by the spread of the disturbances. As outlined below, areas where disturbances and looting took place were not in areas in which one would normally associate with community tensions.

“We (Leicestershire) would say that community relations were good in all areas before, throughout and after the events. It would be difficult to categorise the disorder as an uprising from any specific community or any specific group within a community, which would tend to support our view that the violence and disorder which took place was spontaneous copy cat violence with a view to thrill seeking or personal gain. In as much as this is the case it is different from previous public disorder where there had generally been an identifiable common trigger point or cause.”

8. HASC may also want to consider how the IPCC and police forces and authorities can best work together to manage risks arising from potentially controversial investigations. Feedback suggests that the lack of response from the IPCC and the police to a peaceful vigil following the death of Mark Duggan; was alleged to be a key factor in initiating the recent disorder. Media reports suggested that the police felt they could not speak to the family before the IPCC had. The IPCC and police must of course be independent of each other, but they must both be aware that their actions can have an impact on levels of community tension. We believe that there may be lessons to be learnt about how the police and IPCC relate to the families of those who are the subjects of IPCC investigations.


9. HASC will be aware of the Metropolitan Police Authority’s work regarding their scrutiny of public order policing in London following the G20 demonstrations.

10. The HASC may wish to be aware of similar work undertaken in other areas as highlighted below.

“In October 2010 the City of Leicester was the venue for a large EDL protest. Several lessons in respect of command and control were carried forward from that protest and were contributory elements to a more effective command and control process when dealing with the more recent disorder.”

“GMPA recently undertook a comprehensive scrutiny review of major events policing in Greater Manchester. Whilst this did not specifically encompass the policing of riots, it did identify significant and relevant good practice on the part of GMP in dealing with potential disorder (eg policing of protests). The review won a national award this year at the Centre for Public Scrutiny’s Good Scrutiny Awards. Links to the main report and the update report are provided below.”



11. Following the recent disturbances, the HASC won’t be surprised to learn that reviews have been commissioned by police authorities, but clearly at the time of writing it is too early to report on any findings.


The Prime Minister was clear in his statement of 11 August that “the Government will ensure the police have the funds they need to meet the cost of any legitimate claims”.

12. The APA welcomes the Prime Minister’s intent that the Government would meet legitimate claims arising from the cost of the disturbances. The APA continues to press the Government to meet the other, extraordinary operational costs of the disturbances in full.

13. Clearly the recent disturbances have been a significant drain on police resources. The final cost will run into hundreds of millions (combined operational and R(D)A claim costs) at a time when policing is facing front loaded budget cuts of up to 20%, following the spending review settlement announced in October 2010.

14. The final costs of the disturbances will not be known until the 42 day RDA claim deadline has passed and all police officers have submitted their time sheets. A fuller picture of the final costs will be known by mid-late October.

15. The APA continues to seek a blanket policy of 100% claw back of all costs of these unprecedented disturbances from HMG. At the time of writing, although the Home Secretary has commented that police authorities will be supported and are being encouraged to apply through the Special Grants process, there is still no clarity whether HMG will pay the final bill or if a threshold will be imposed on any special grant payment.

16. As HASC will be aware, the disturbances not only impacted on those who had incidents in their areas, but for those areas that put in place preventative measures and provided mutual aid. The pressure therefore was felt across policing UK, and as such the following is of note as it reflects on the ability of the service to respond in such a manner in future years once the funding cuts have taken effect.

“Cheshire was only able to mobilise the officers it did because of the numbers currently in place and even then, had the disturbances continued or spread more widely, the service would have been severely stretched and would rapidly have reached a critical state. Therefore, the Authority has grave concerns about continued reductions in police numbers to meet the current financial constraints.”

17. As HASC will be aware, the majority of police forces sent officers to help those impacted by the recent disturbances. This operation has once again reminded policing that arrangements for mutual aid must be robust and fit for purpose. Some police authorities are expressing concern with the current system, and still HO have not confirmed with police authorities to what extent HMG will support police authorities with these exceptional costs.

“Durham would wish to express concern at the extremely slow progress which is being made with regard to the recovery of costs.”

18. HASC will also want to be aware that those police authorities, who have exercised prudent financial management over recent years, could potentially be penalised as a result of the recent disturbances. The existing procedures for allocation of HO special grants, is predicated on an assessment of authorities’ existing budget and reserves. In such circumstances those with healthier reserves would be expected to pay more.

19. In a context of cuts, as police authorities are increasingly drawing on their reserves, the APA has requested that the HO should confirm a blanket policy of total cost recovery for all police authorities.

“It is clear that the financial impact that settling pertinent claims will have on police authorities and forces affected by the riots will be significant. Though this is not altogether clear, it seems that police authorities that have exercised financial prudence in building up their reserves will be penalised for such prudence.” (GMPA)

“The (Leicestershire) Police Authority, with foresight, established a £1m public order reserve intended to meet the additional costs of anticipated public order issues through to the 2012 Olympic Games...approximate £525k (of this fund was used)... to effectively bring these disturbances under control...The use of half of our public order reserve for less than a week of an operation highlights the risk to mainstream budgets of policing significant disorder in the future when cuts will really start to bite.”

Riot (Damages) Act 1886

The APA endorses the recommendation of the HASC in 2002 that the Riot (Damages) Act should be repealed because it is out of date.

20. The APA’s view is that if the Government wishes to retain provision for reimbursement of those impacted by riotous disorder, then the Act should be reviewed and clarified to ensure central Government and not local public services meet liabilities incurred under the act.

“To provide cover to insured parties seems an inappropriate adoption of risk by the public sector and to provide support to those who are not insured without any excess or premium seems a perverse incentive to people not to insure. If the Government feels for political reasons that now is not the time to change the allocation of risk away from the public sector we (Avon and Somerset) would urge them to adopt the risk within Central Government - it is disproportionate and risks severely affecting the local delivery of vital public services if this risk remains at a local police authority level.”

21. The HASC may reflect that the Act has serious flaws (it does not include cover for motor vehicles parked on the street as there were no motor vehicles in 1886), and it was introduced at a time of much lower levels of insurance provision by the private sector. Today, the RDA only really compensates insurance companies and those who do not pay their insurance premiums. This cannot be right.

22. In terms of the current disturbances, the APA has worked closely and constructively with HMG, both in introducing the central claims bureau for uninsured claims and in the ongoing engagement and liaison with police authorities regarding insured R(D)A claims and operational costs.

23. However, whilst the APA is committed to rapid resolution of all claims under the Riot Damage Act (RDA), in the fullest spirit of the Act, HMG must be aware that if it does not honour the commitment of the Prime Minister to meet the costs of the disturbances, friction may develop and authorities may have to resort to the letter of the law.

24. Police authorities cannot meet the costs of these disturbances alone, and if HO help is not forthcoming, authorities may have no choice but to meet only those claims which are strictly eligible under the terms of the Act, in order to protect their local policing budget. For example the R(D)A 1886 makes clear that to meet the legal definition of a “riot”, a disturbance must involve at least 12 people.

“It remains Leicestershire’s position that there is some difficulty in applying the definition of ‘riot’ as determined under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886. There were a series of disturbances involving damage to property and where property was stolen.”

25. Such a regrettable but unavoidable step (to limit claims to those within the strict definition of the act) would only be taken reluctantly not least as such a decision would have an obvious impact on public perceptions of HMG and other agencies’ response to these awful events.

September 2011

Annex A


Home Secretary,

Your speech yesterday (“The urgent need for Police Reform”) included quite extraordinary allegations about the work of Police Authority Chairs up and down the country:

“In London, the Mayor was on the streets of his city, working with the Acting Commissioner and representing Londoners to central government. The contrast with unaccountable, unelected and invisible police authority chairmen in other parts of the country could not have been clearer.”

This un-evidenced, London-centric assertion was either regretfully ill-informed or wilfully inaccurate. In either case we believe it to be unbecoming of a Secretary of State. It has caused not only bemusement but anger amongst police authorities and our partners across the country.

Quite simply, your allegations are completely untrue and a cursory conversation with the relevant Chief Constables, Council Leaders or representatives of local media could have confounded it.

The facts are that not only Chairs, but the full range of diverse police authority members were out listening to communities and reflecting their concerns to the police at the highest levels in GOLD meetings across the country. Authorities provided both support and appropriate challenge to forces. We worked closely with Chief Constables to ensure that they had all that they needed to police confidently, with full operational independence in defence of the public. Both in public and in private, we simply got on with the job. Police Authority Chairs were out on the front foot; convening meetings with the leaders of other emergency services, local councils, local media and community leaders, as well as visiting affected areas.

It is a matter of record that a number of Police Authority Chairs actually cancelled their leave to ensure that the police could respond to public concerns. Before any politicians could tour the streets of London with TV cameras in tow, Police Authority Chairs from across the country had agreed the mutual aid which played an indispensable role in restoring order to London and ensuring that those streets were again safe to stroll. This was done without fanfare, but quietly, in the national interest.

It did not escape our notice that having insinuated that Police Authority Chairs did not represent their communities to central Government, in your speech you also said how helpful the Chairman of Greater Manchester Police Authority had been in relating the concerns of his community to you, and how his personal representations led the government to issue directions from COBRA.

Police Authority members are the much talked of “big society” in action; groups of diverse politicians and independents giving their time to the community, irrespective of the publicity that they attract. I’m sure you would agree that we are in a sorry state if the worth of public service is only measured by the number of column inches it fills in the newspapers or the minutes it merits in national media.

It goes without saying that the APA and the Government have completely different views on the future of policing governance. But that disagreement is no justification for an inaccurate, and what some have seen as a politically motivated attack on our response to this emergency.

Police authority members have not only given dedicated service but helped deliver results to the public, namely; falling crime, rising public trust and confidence and a meeting or exceeding of every government efficiency target to date. As the recent HMIC inspections made clear, of the 22 of 43 authorities inspected by HMIC, none failed and over 97% of 110 HMIC assessments were scored Excellent, Good or Adequate.

Whilst others may command the airwaves, authorities continue to get on with the job; delivering savings, preparing for cuts, holding constabularies to account, planning for any possible transition and highlighting the public’s concerns to both politicians and the police at the highest levels.

The APA has no desire to “pick a fight” on this issue with you or the Government—we remain as committed as ever to working within the Tripartite to shape policing in the public interest. But we could not let such inaccurate comments pass without response. Our sincere hope is that they were more ill-informed than maliciously meant.

Prepared 22nd December 2011