Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Steven Mark and Georgina Holmes-Skelton, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Dame Anne Owers, Chair, Independent Police Complaints Commission
Councillor Mehboob Khan, Chair, Local Government Association Safer and Stronger Communities Board
Angela Mawdsley, Anti-Social Behaviour Manager at Leeds City Council, Local Government Association
Eamon Lynch, Managing Director, Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group
Rebecca Bryant, Director and ASB Services Lead, Manchester City Council, on behalf of Social Landlords and Crime and Nuisance Group
Chris Grose, Senior Consultant, ASB and Housing Services, Chartered Institute of Housing
Penelope Gibbs, Chair, Standing Committee on Youth Justice
Professor Shirley Pearce, Chair, College of Policing
Alex Marshall, Chief Executive, College of Policing
John Randall, Independent Chair, Police Negotiating Board and Police Advisory Board for England and Wales
Examination of Witness
Dame Anne Owers: I am Anne Owers, the chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. We very much welcome the opportunity to comment on the clauses relating to us. We are broadly supportive of them; if enacted, they will give us some of the additional powers that we have been seeking for some time.
The Chair: We will now hear oral evidence from the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Before calling the first Member to ask a question, I remind all Members that questions should be limited to matters within the scope of the Bill and that we must stick to the timings in the programme motion agreed by the Committee. I hope that I will not have to interrupt anybody mid-sentence, but I will do so if I need to.
You will be pleased to know, Mr Dobbin—I am sure Dame Anne will be pleased, too—that the Opposition broadly support the measures in the Bill and will broadly be giving the Bill a fair wind during its passage, but I want to raise a couple of questions to see where the IPCC stands on some of the issues.
Dame Anne, my first question relates to your report on corruption in policing and the recommendations you have made to the Home Secretary on those matters. How do you think the Bill compares to the aspirations of the IPCC prior to its publication? Are there any areas where there are still outstanding matters that you think the Committee should consider?
Dame Anne Owers: No. Broadly, the powers that we talked about in relation to our corruption report, which are the power to seek recommendations, the ability to get information from third parties and so on, are covered. One of those powers—the power to require police officers to attend as witnesses—has already been covered in the emergency legislation passed by Parliament before Christmas.
Q 34 Mr Hanson: Thanks for that. The Government’s statement of 12 February indicated that they were to transfer resources from forces’ professional standards departments to the IPCC to cover its additional responsibilities in the event of the Bill receiving Royal Assent in due course. Will you give us an update on where we are with resources, obviously given that over the past three years the IPCC’s budget has fallen by around £5 million? Where do you think you are in relation to these additional powers and your ability to execute them?
Dame Anne Owers: I do not think we have any difficulty in being able to execute these powers within our existing resources. I think the Home Secretary’s statement was largely about extending the amount of work we are able to do, specifically the number of independent investigations, but I do not think these particular clauses are resource dependent; they simply give us the tools we need to do the investigations. We are still discussing with the Home Office what the measures that the Home Secretary envisaged will actually mean. We have got no further than stating our very clear position that the resources available need to be monetary resources, not resources of personnel, since clearly as an independent organisation we need to be in a position to choose the staff who are going to work with us and for us.
Q 35 Mr Hanson: As I have said, we broadly support the clauses, so there is little difficulty. One of the areas I want to explore relates to clause 120, which allows for a requirement for a recommendation by the IPCC and a requirement for an organisation to respond to the IPCC’s statement of intent on whatever the issue might be. I want to be clear on your understanding of what happens in the event of an organisation failing to respond. As I read the Bill—again, the issue may be with me—there do not appear to be any teeth behind a failure to respond. They have to give a reason for why they do not respond, but essentially there are no teeth, unless I have misread it. Will you give me your view on where you think the IPCC stands in the event of an organisation or individual failing to respond?
Q 36 Mr Hanson: Failure to take action. Clause 120 is on recommendations and the requirement to respond, which presumably means the requirement to respond to the recommendations, and presumably to take action afterwards.
Dame Anne Owers: Within a specified time, yes. We will be in the same position as many other regulatory bodies. We will certainly be in the same position as I was during my previous job as chief inspector of prisons. We cannot force or direct anyone—any police force, appropriate authority or other body—to do anything. We are not in that position, but with the help of this power we will be able to get a response stating that the body either accepts or does not accept our recommendation and, if they accept, what they are going to do about it and by when. That will give us a great deal of leverage. If, for example, a body does not accept our recommendation, we would obviously want to take it further with them. We would potentially want to take it up with the police and crime commissioner, and we
Q 37 Mr Hanson: I have not formed a judgment on this, but I am interested in what happens when somebody refuses to implement a recommendation. Are there additional powers that we could consider with the Minister during the passage of the Bill that might strengthen the IPCC’s powers on those matters? Although I have not formed a final judgment, it seems that a failure to respond, other than “Thank you very much, we note the recommendation”, does not really move things on, even though the power of persuasion is there.
Dame Anne Owers: There is a power of persuasion. There is a power of shame as well, of course. A downside of being an independent body is that you are not part of the command structure—the management structure. You stand outside that, but the ability to require responses, and to publicise what those responses are, is a very powerful lever. I am not sure that, within the terms that the IPCC has, one could ask for any more. Certainly, it is a power that, as I say, served me very well in my previous role.
Q 38 Mr Hanson: The Select Committee on Home Affairs, as part of its consideration of extra powers for the IPCC, recommended that you should have the ability to hold interviews under caution for police officers. Do you have any views on that recommendation?
Dame Anne Owers: We have the ability to hold interviews under criminal caution with police officers. Perhaps the Committee was suggesting that we might use that power more often, but we do have powers of arrest and we can, where necessary, interview officers under criminal caution.
Q 40 David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): Thank you for coming along, Dame Anne; it is much appreciated. I have a general question, then a couple of more specific points that were raised by the Police Superintendents Association this morning. In general terms, how do the provisions of the Bill, combined with the new elements that have been brought together in the Police (Complaints and Conduct) Act 2012, help fill the gaps that you, as head of the IPCC, had in your organisation?
Dame Anne Owers: I think they help to fill some significant gaps—for example, the power over private contractors who are not operating either as escort or detention officers. That is a big gap and it will become an increasing one as police forces are contracting out more of their role. As I said in front of the Home Affairs Committee, if it is a policing function—if someone is acting in a police capacity—we should have the same
Q 41 David Rutley: On the points that were raised this morning, when the Committee heard from the Police Superintendents Association questions were asked about the IPCC’s powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Could you explain, perhaps with some examples, how the provisions in the Bill would help the IPCC carry out those investigations? The association was also clear in that it felt that, under the current arrangements, when police officers use powers there are safeguards. A senior officer who is not involved in the situation has to give a formal sign-off. Could you help us to understand, or give us reassurances, that under the proposals in the Bill there would be similar safeguards?
Dame Anne Owers: Yes, I hope I can answer both of those questions. The requirement for the power comes from the word “independence”—that, as I said in response to Mr Hanson, we have the power to arrest, to conduct searches and to conduct interviews under caution, but if we want to apply for a search warrant, we have to do so by getting authorisation from the police, who, of course, are the body that we are investigating. That seems to us to be inherently unsatisfactory. Of course, that does not mean that we can just go ahead with the search warrant. We still have to apply to a court, but we are the people who will be applying to the court, rather than having to go through the body that we are investigating.
In terms of safeguards, we will have a two-tier authorisation structure, so that the lead investigator in the case will require authorisation from a senior investigator and/or a deputy senior investigator to authorise the use of these powers. So that will separate the authorisation from the person who is leading the investigation, which I understand will be very similar to the position with the police now.
Q 42 Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): It is related. If you are calling private contractors to give evidence to the IPCC, what form of compulsion can you use to make sure that those people give evidence? We had a debate last year in which we were told that it is a disciplinary offence for police officers, under their terms and conditions, not to give evidence. Can you force private contractors, who do not have those terms and conditions, to give evidence? If they refuse, what can you do?
Dame Anne Owers: That is interesting. We will have the same powers of arrest, so we will be able to arrest private contractors in exactly the same way. In relation to whether they refuse to attend as witnesses, I do not think we would have that power, but I will need to get back to the Committee on that point. Whether a private contractor would insist, I do not know. Perhaps I can write to the Committee on that point. My instinct is that we would not be able to, but I will need to double-check.
Dame Anne Owers: I think that depends on who you ask and who the public are, but you are right to raise the question. There have been concerns, which we are very well aware of and which were very well ventilated in front of the Home Affairs Committee. Some of those concerns arise around the powers that we do not have, some of which this Bill will provide. Some of them, of course, have been about the way that we use those powers, and we are very alert to that. The reviews that we have been doing into, for example, the way that we investigate deaths have been looking very much at the way that we operate the powers that we have got and the powers that we are going to get.
Dame Anne Owers: As I said in response to Mr Hanson, we have not been offered that because these powers are ways to allow us to do what we already do better—to have the teeth that we need in relation to what we already do. That does not give us any power to do, for example, more independent investigations, which the Home Affairs Committee certainly felt would strengthen public confidence in our work.
Q 48 Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): The IPCC wrote a detailed report into the death of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter, which found that there was much already going on that could have prevented that tragedy from occurring. Looking at the Bill, and the proposals for a community trigger, how do you think that that might have helped in the situation that Fiona Pilkington found herself in?
Dame Anne Owers: I am not really in a position to answer that in detail, but I would say that one of the important roles of an organisation such as the IPCC is not just to deal with things when they have gone wrong, but to make recommendations about how they could go right in the future. That is why the recommendations bit of the Bill is so important, because it allows us to draw conclusions from cases that we have investigated and to try to deal with any systemic issues underneath them. If this provides another route that we could go through, certainly we would be able to use it, but if the Committee requires further information, I am happy to write to you about it.
Q 51 Paul Maynard: In particular, will you consider whether the flexibility that it creates allows for the more nuanced nature of antisocial behaviour that relates to disability hate crime and emerging types of hate crime, such as that relating to learning disability, and whether the Bill is helpful in that context?
Q 52 Stephen Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire) (Con): What scope is there for savings in the professional standards teams of individual forces to facilitate the additional resource that you so clearly need?
Dame Anne Owers: I think that Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has been looking at the costs and is reporting to the Home Secretary on that. My response would come in two parts: first, clearly, we need more resource, and I think it would increase public confidence if some of the matters that we now have to refer back for local investigation were investigated by us. The second point is that we will nevertheless need—as police forces will—professional standards departments to be able to act as levers within local forces. Otherwise, if local forces are not dealing properly with complaints, we will get more appeals and that would defeat the object. Also, professional standards departments are the guardians of integrity within their forces. They play a very important role. So the question will be to find a balance between those two.
Dame Anne Owers: No, I do not think so. We are recruiting a lot of investigators just now, because of our current work and the Hillsborough work. We have a training programme for investigators and we have 33 trainees just starting, so we are growing our own. That is important both in terms of the skills that we need and in terms of independence and the perception of independence.
Q 54 Stephen Barclay: I appreciate that discussions are ongoing. I think the new powers are very welcome and clearly needed. Do you have any ballpark estimate as to how many investigators you will have in place in 12 months’ time?
Dame Anne Owers: No, not yet. The discussions are still at an early stage, and the staging of any proposals would also be a matter for discussion between us and the Home Secretary. How early can you build capacity? Resource does not equal capacity. You cannot send £10 notes out to interview people. There will be a gap between whatever resource we get and our ability to have people in place.
Dame Anne Owers: No, we do not. We deal with things on a case by case basis. We would agree with what the Home Secretary said in Parliament: corruption, where it exists, is very serious, but we do not have a corrupt police service. The issues of integrity are important, but there is a great deal of integrity already there.
Q 56 Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): Dame Anne, I want to follow up on one of Mr Hanson’s questions. He asked specifically in relation to clause 120 and pointed to the fact that there are no teeth. You can make recommendations, but there are no enforcement powers. I think that that is right in relation to all recommendations that the IPCC makes. You have no method of enforcement other than by way of judicial review.
I have two questions for you. First, do you think that the IPCC ought to have enforcement powers without the need for judicial review? Secondly, how many judicial reviews has the IPCC taken out in order to enforce its recommendations and what have the cost implications of those been?
Dame Anne Owers: I can answer the first part of your question, but I will need to write to you on the second part. We have certain powers in relation to the specific issues that we are required to make a determination about. For example, if we decide that there is a case to answer in relation to criminal prosecution, we pass it over to the Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions to make a decision about prosecution. That is like an enforcement power in the sense that we are giving it to the prosecuting authority. If we decide that there is a case to answer for misconduct, we have, and can use, the power to direct that there be misconduct proceedings. If the appropriate authority does not of itself have those proceedings, we can direct that they do so. Of course, the outcome of those is a matter for the internal disciplinary proceedings.
In relation to the matters which legislation requires us to make determinations of, we do have pretty strong powers. There are other areas like this where we do not. I can certainly check back with the legal team about the number of times we have needed to issue judicial review proceedings.
Stephen Phillips: That would be very helpful. May I ask you the direct question again? When you make recommendations that have to be enforced through judicial review, would it be helpful and beneficial for the IPCC to have the power to have those enforced without the need to take out a judicial review?
Dame Anne Owers: I do not think we envisage using judicial review in relation to recommendations. That is not a route that a body such as ours would normally go down. We would normally go down the route of expecting that a force follow our recommendations, and we would point out the risks to the force if they did not and the same thing were to happen again. We would use police and crime commissioners, and even report to Ministers, to publicise any area where we felt a police force was not doing the things that reasonably it ought to be expected to do in the light of the investigation.
Q 57 Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): This is a point of clarification. The previous panel said that there was not an appeal process for IPCC decisions, but you have just been talking about appeals. Is there a right to appeal, or not?
Dame Anne Owers: Judicial review is the normal way in which people challenge an administrative decision of the kind we make. With your permission, Chairman, can I add a little to my answer to Mr Mosley about private contractors? Obviously, this is going to be enacted by way of regulation. We will be having discussions with private contractors about a whole range of issues, including discipline, in relation to our work. That is something we envisage doing later down the line. However, I can provide more detail of that to the Committee.
Examination of Witnesses
Councillor Khan: I am Mehboob Khan, leader of Kirklees council, and chair of the Local Government Association Safer and Stronger Communities Board. May I start by thanking you for inviting us to take part in these proceedings this afternoon? As an introductory, very high-level message, we welcome the added flexibility to tackle antisocial behaviour. For many years, councils have been at the forefront of working to create safer and stronger communities, working in partnership very effectively with other agencies. As a councillor myself, I see on a daily basis evidence of those improvements, and occasionally, when things have not gone right, the ability to put things in order.
The legislation around antisocial behaviour was introduced in 2010. We see these as embryonic changes to the legislation and the next generation of tools that local authorities will welcome to be able to tackle some of the problems that occur in our communities.
Penelope Gibbs: I am Penelope Gibbs, and I am chair of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, which is an alliance of more than 30 children’s and penal reform charities campaigning for a better youth justice system.
Q 59 Gloria De Piero (Ashfield) (Lab): I think all my questions are directed at the local government representatives and those who represent housing interests. I start by saying that I think we all accept and we all know as Members of Parliament that antisocial behaviour is not restricted to those who live in social housing. Do those with expertise in the matter feel that the Bill is doing enough to tackle antisocial behaviour where there is a private landlord?
Councillor Khan: Thank you for the question. We believe that with some of the concerns raised in neighbourhoods that have large amounts of private sector housing, we often do not necessarily have the tools to be able to engage the landlord. There are some really good private sector landlords and some very poor ones. The poor ones are not necessarily poor because they do not want to help; it is usually someone who is renting out two or three properties that they own, has a day job and is bringing up a family. They are not necessarily as forthcoming in working with the local authorities and the police.
In Scotland, there are particular rules, which I believe—the Local Government Association fully supports this—we should look at implementing some form of. In Scotland,
Angela Mawdsley: It is very challenging at the moment to take action against private tenants. Something we welcome in the legislation is that the new injunction is tenure-neutral, which will help us significantly. One of the things that we are also interested in looking at is having the power to exclude private tenants from their properties if they have been causing significant antisocial behaviour.
Q 61 Gloria De Piero: Could you explain something? Say I lived in a block of flats and was unlucky enough to have two nuisance neighbours. On one side is a social tenant and on the other is a flat that was sold under right to buy and is owned by a private landlord. Both are nuisance neighbours. Can you, Eamon or Rebecca, explain whether the Bill protects me from both neighbours equally?
Eamon Lynch: If I understood the question the right way round, the answer is no. Our understanding of the Bill as it stands is—it is important to recognise that it is the court that authorises the exclusion; it is not just the landlord deciding—that that scenario could lead to a situation where the aggressor who lives in the housing association property is excluded, but the other, who does not, is not. That is one of our primary considerations around the Bill, which we have put in our submission.
Rebecca Bryant: Yes, I absolutely agree with that. You are almost creating a two-tier system where if you are the tenant of a social housing property, there are always more draconian powers that we can use against you, whereas it is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the increasing problem of antisocial behaviour in the private sector. It would be a very useful tool for us to have, particularly to offer respite to the most vulnerable of tenants and owner-occupiers in our communities.
Councillor Khan: Most local authorities have accredited landlord schemes and work with private sector landlords on a range of initiatives to try to help them to meet a minimum level. In cases such as antisocial behaviour, all we will really be asking is for the landlord to implement the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement. A standard tenancy agreement will contain clauses around antisocial behaviour and its impact on neighbours.
Q 63 Gloria De Piero: I want to move on to the community trigger, under which agencies will be forced to respond after three complaints about antisocial behaviour. Obviously, that does not take into account any measure
Rebecca Bryant: I do not think the community trigger is designed to deal with the kinds of cases where we have an initial report of antisocial behaviour. It is designed to pick up the very small minority of cases where perhaps organisations have failed. In Manchester, both the local authority police force and housing providers use a vulnerability matrix that assesses vulnerability from the outset of any complaint. If anybody is deemed to be particularly vulnerable, they will be given support. The community trigger is not designed specifically to look at people who are more vulnerable; it is more about looking at how we work together collectively as a partnership to respond to cases of antisocial behaviour.
Q 64 Gloria De Piero: Thank you very much. The positive requirements will be a new measure that was not available in the antisocial behaviour order. For example, an ASBO might have prevented someone from going into the town centre because they were rowdy and drunk in the town centre, but under this legislation it will be possible not only to prevent someone from going into the town centre, but perhaps to require them to attend an alcohol awareness course. That will have cost implications, and you will be some of the agencies that will have to fund it. Where are you going to get the cash from? Is anybody worried about not having the money to pursue the positive requirements with no additional cash?
Chris Grose: You can see me itching to say something here. I think that is a really good point. It is a point that the Chartered Institute of Housing and our practitioners have challenges and concerns about, particularly, in the current financial climate, around resources proactively to tackle the root causes of the problem. We welcome the additional positive requirements, because they tackle the root cause of problems. Naturally, that is about long-lasting change.
There is already existing good practice tackling things such as alcohol misuse, restorative justice and all that type of stuff, and it is important that landlords and their partners start to think about how they can co-ordinate that and not reinvent the wheel or duplicate. It is partly about co-ordination and ensuring that we are aware of what is going on in our communities locally. I guess some of the problems may lie, from a landlord’s perspective, where you have got a large group that covers a large geographical area—perhaps 50 local authority areas, for example—in the landlord’s knowledge of the resources locally. That will rely not only on funding but on effective communication between partners.
Eamon Lynch: I think that everyone accepts that it is important to tackle the root causes. Many of our members would be concerned not so much about the resource considerations but, and this is where guidance might kick in, about ensuring that the ability to attach positive requirements is not somehow—perversely is the wrong word—construed, when cases get to court, as almost a requirement that there should be those positive provisions attached. In some areas the resources may not be available. We are anxious that it does not get misconstrued so the primary intention to protect victims and put a stop to bad behaviour is delayed or stalled because of the pursuit of services that may not be available.
Councillor Khan: The funding and commissioning of those types of interventions fall under the role of local authorities with their public health hats on and their public health budgets. Local authorities have an important incentive for ensuring that antisocial behaviour does not occur. As a result, their public health functions fall within that remit. It is down to local authorities to ensure that we have entry criteria into those interventions. One of the parts of the entry criteria that most have at the moment is the impact on the individual and on the community.
The biggest problem we have is of people not completing those courses. If there is a real incentive for them to start and complete the course, it can have a desirable, positive impact. Some of those individuals are known to us through other programmes such as the troubled families programme, or their children might have educational problems as a result of one or two of the parents having alcohol problems. There are wider implications, but we see this as a tool to ensure that parents start and complete those courses, which can be beneficial to their wider families as well.
Q 65 Gloria De Piero: Breach of an ASBO is a crime, as you all know. Breach of an injunction is not a crime, but it can be punishable through contempt of court. This morning we heard from the Police Federation. They were very clear when I asked whether, given their tight resources and time constraints, they might not have time to push for the breach of injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance. They said yes, that is a possibility. Can I throw that out to anybody who wants to comment on that?
Angela Mawdsley: From our perspective, it can be frustrating if you have injunctions with a power of arrest, because the police, when they are called, might not understand the history of the case. The advantage of this, to some extent, is that if a local authority has applied for the injunction, we will know its background. Therefore, as soon as it is breached, we have a little more control over what happens in court. That could be quite positive for us.
Penelope Gibbs: From the point of view of under-18-year-olds, we think it is a good thing that the injunction does not attach a criminal record to a breach, and that it is purely civil. For young people, having a criminal record can blight their lives, both as children and as adults.
Chris Grose: I echo that point. From a housing perspective, part of the IPNA—the injunction to prevent nuisance and disorder—or the majority of it, is based on the current injunction, the antisocial behaviour injunction. Housing providers are proactive in jumping on breaches, but it is about that partnership, working with the police, and ensuring that there are the resources to enforce the power of arrest. From a housing perspective, I would say no. From a partnership perspective, we must make sure we co-ordinate that approach so that we do not duplicate applications at the start, and so that everybody is part of that picture as they go forward.
Q 66 Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con): I wish to ask a couple of questions on part 5 about housing, and one or two to Ms Gibbs about young people. First, social landlords own about 4 million
Chris Grose: As a sector and an industry, housing providers are proactive in preventing eviction. That is probably the main reason for the small figure in proportion to the number of cases. Around 85% of cases are resolved through housing management, partnership working, warning letters and early intervention-type work. I would say that there are potentially some judicial issues, which are not necessarily due to the Bill but due to the costs of possession cases going through the court system, defence arguments—particularly on mental health and human rights—capacity within the judiciary and cases taking such a long time to get to court. Some providers have been put off by that and are using alternative ways through injunctions. I would say that the Bill actually strengthens the absolute ground for possession and tries to deal with some of the current issues that we have at the moment.
Councillor Khan: Quite often we say that evicting someone is just shifting the problem somewhere else, from one borough to another borough, and we would like to be able to deal with the problems. I absolutely agree that sometimes it can take 12 to 18 months to get an eviction, and in the meantime you have a whole host of other interventions to try to tackle the antisocial behaviour.
Q 67 Tracey Crouch: I was speaking to a housing association in my constituency on Friday that said that people quite often misunderstand the powers that are available. Victims of antisocial behaviour from neighbouring social tenants in particular find it very difficult to understand that those powers are subject to some limitations. Do you think this Bill will clear up some of that misunderstanding?
Councillor Khan: The Bill is very helpful in terms of streamlining the powers, responsibilities, duties and flexibility available to local authorities. What I was going to say when I spoke out of turn at the start of this session was that we see the Bill as a natural evolution of the previous legislation. It clears up some points and it helps us, more than a decade on from the original legislation, by making it much easier to implement. Particularly in times of budget challenges for all public services, the Bill removes some of the over-regulation that was originally put in because an element of protection was needed to ensure that it was applied fairly.
Chris Grose: To answer your question directly, in sending messages to the community and neighbourhoods we need to be very careful, partnership housing and partners alike, that although we see the proposed absolute ground for possession, we do not necessarily see that there will be a lot more evictions. As I said before, we are really good at nipping things in the bud and getting in there early with early intervention work. I think what we do not want to do is raise the level of awareness so that people assume that, if they have a noisy neighbour,
Q 68 Tracey Crouch: I have a final question on part 5. You have helpfully answered my question on the benefits of these changes, but is there anything in the Bill, specifically part 5, that you think should be improved in relation to possession? Is the time frame set out in the Bill suitable for you?
Chris Grose: Sorry—I am taking up all the time. I would say that it probably goes back to one of my previous comments on the judicial landscape in which the Bill sits. I actually think the Bill is very well thought out in relation to absolute grounds for possession, but there are still some fundamental issues on the judicial landscape, such as capacity and defence arguments. Landlords will need to be very well equipped to ensure that they are justifying their actions very well on reasonableness and proportionality, because else we might start to see some of those defence arguments. Perhaps a bigger problem on the judicial landscape is capacity and the time it takes to process these applications through the court.
Angela Mawdsley: It takes a significant period of time to get possession orders through the court. For a lot of these crimes or offences, we would be looking to take possession action anyway, so I do not think it will increase the amount of possession action that we take. I agree with my colleague that it is about the amount of time it is taking to get through the court, and it is very difficult to keep witnesses on board while a court case goes on for more than 12 months. It may speed things up, which would certainly be welcomed.
Q 69 Tracey Crouch: Ms Gibbs, in your view, how will this affect young people? I heard what you said to Gloria De Piero about the fact that it will take away the criminal aspect of ASBOs. We know that 38% of ASBOs are issued to 10 to 17-year-olds. Do you have a view on positive requirements and how they may help in future?
Penelope Gibbs: Positive requirements are, in theory, a good idea, but they have to be incredibly carefully designed, because breach is a considerable problem for under-18-year-olds subject to ASB orders of any kind. They are children who frequently have chaotic lives, mental health problems and learning difficulties, which mean that they often need a well-designed order and help to complete it. Breach is a failure, and at the moment the ASBO breach rate by children is very high. For us, only the positive requirements in the Bill could help, but even so, if they are not designed properly, they will hinder, and lead to more children being taken into custody for breach of ASB orders, which is a result that we are very unhappy about.
Q 70 Tracey Crouch: Do you think that this effectively gives youngsters a second chance, and that they have the opportunity to turn their lives around because they get a warning rather than a criminal record?
Penelope Gibbs: I hope that the warning would come way before a court appearance for an ASB order. One of our concerns about the Bill is that there is no ensuring in the case of teenagers that other remedies have been tried before an order is considered. It is not guaranteed that the youth offending team needs to be consulted as the order is being considered. There is also no provision that a mental health and welfare needs assessment must be completed for each child before that court appearance. We would say that because these children are frequently very vulnerable, all those things are essential.
Q 71 Simon Danczuk: Penelope, I have a couple more questions on your position. You said that you do not support the criminalisation of young people through ASBOs, but it does not stop there, does it? I was reading your blog at The Huffington Post on 26 July 2011, and it says:
“There is a real problem with knife crime in poor urban areas like Enfield. Recently two rival gangs fought with machetes, knives and guns there and a sixteen-year-old was stabbed…These are terrible incidents which traumatise the community as well as those actually involved.”
Penelope Gibbs: I believe that there is reason to lock up children for some knife crime. It was to do with the particular issue of mandatory imprisonment for possession of a knife, which is a different issue and in the youth justice system. What we are talking about here, which is part of the problem, is ASB. I would say that most of those incidents that are talked about as ASB are in fact crimes and are better dealt with, for under-18-year-olds, through the criminal justice system, which has the expertise of youth offending teams and where there is a much wider menu of remedies for when children get in trouble with the law.
What we are worried about is that the ASB system could catch teenagers, in terms of causing nuisance or annoyance. There is a lot of prejudice against teenagers in our society. In the British crime survey, the—
Q 72 Simon Danczuk: Let me stop you there, because I understand the road that you are going down. You were saying that young people under 18—17, 16-year-olds—who breach an ASBO should not be sent to prison or be convicted. I understand that; but I am reading your article. You also believe that young people of 17 or 16, running round with guns—it is your article I am referring to—should not be locked up either. That is what you have said. Let me ask you the next question. What about adults? Do you think adults who breach their ASBO should be convicted, or not?
Penelope Gibbs: Personally I do not think adults should be imprisoned for the breach of an ASBO, but that is a personal position, as opposed to the position of the standing committee, which is about the youth justice system for under-18-year-olds.
Q 74 Simon Danczuk: Okay, that is fine. A broader question for the rest of the panel: the rate of ASBOs issued per head of population is nearly seven times higher in Greater Manchester than in places such as Lincolnshire or Wiltshire, so there is a real contrast between inner cities and rural areas, as you will know, Rebecca, coming from Manchester. Do you think the new proposals, the IPNA, will help to deal with the substantial contrast between the different types of areas that I have just described: rural versus inner-city?
Rebecca Bryant: I think the injunction as it is proposed will broaden our ability to tackle antisocial behaviour in the private sector, which is something that we have been lobbying for for a very long time; so on that basis I think you will see an increase in legal action being taken. At the moment we are quite hamstrung in what we can do in some of those cases.
Overall I think it depends on the message that you are giving to your residents in relation to what sort of behaviour you expect in the first place, and how confident you are in using whatever legislation, tools and powers are available to you at that time. Antisocial behaviour is more of a problem in inner-city areas than in rural areas, because we have a transient population, more complex issues and higher deprivation than is perhaps the case in rural areas. I also think that perhaps we are much more concentrated and better resourced in how we deal with the problem.
Councillor Khan: We have also got to see the proposed legislation in the framework of the other powers available to local authorities. You mentioned Greater Manchester, and are probably aware that it is part of a pilot on community budgets, and tackling antisocial behaviour and crime. It is about new issues and new topics: demand management, early intervention to try to prevent crime and tackling some of the root causes; but also a joined-up approach, so that we are able to deal with those things before interventions become much more complex and expensive, much earlier in a young person’s life, and to take a whole-family based approach.
Local authorities have learned a lot in the last 10 years about how to have a whole-family, peer or neighbourhood approach to tackling some of the problems. The financial savings are quite significant. The theory behind the Manchester pilot, before it is implemented and evaluated,
Q 75 Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): My questions are primarily directed at Mr Lynch, and they are to do with recovering possession of dwelling houses. As Members of Parliament, we have a special responsibility to taxpayers, as they are the ones who have gone out and earned the money, and paid the taxes, that pay for social housing. That responsibility is even more acute now, after the country has lived beyond its means for 20 years. Every penny counts, and we have to do more with less.
A little earlier, someone was talking about the private sector, where there are good and bad landlords. As we are responsible as a landlord, per se, in situations such as this, should we reflect on the very low level of tolerance that many of our constituents have for antisocial behaviour in the properties that their taxes have paid for? Do you think that the measures go sufficiently far in protecting people’s investments in social houses to ensure that the right sort of people use them in the right sort of way?
Eamon Lynch: To take the last part of that first, in terms of whether there are sufficient powers within the Bill, the general view from our membership is yes. There is no clamour for additional powers. We would like improvements around process or speed. We have heard about issues in relation to the time it takes to get cases through court, for example. But, in terms of gaps in the armoury, as it were, we have not identified any deficits in that respect.
Q 76 Richard Fuller: To put the other side of the political position, is there a risk that we might become too intolerant of people, and that the powers will allow people to come forward with claims because they think certain people are an irritant, rather than actually causing significant antisocial behaviour? Might they try to get them evicted because they do not like them?
Eamon Lynch: I don’t think so. To some extent we have always had people who are intolerant of others. Complaints are sometimes malicious, but certainly our experience is that those cases are very much in a minority. Where they are identified, landlords try to jump on them. They do not just dismiss them; they take action in the case of somebody who behaves maliciously by engineering complaints that are not justified.
Rebecca Bryant: In all cases of antisocial behaviour, there should be a good-quality investigation, which is about absolutely supporting the vulnerable—victims and witnesses—and supporting that complainant through the process, but it is also about making sure that you have the right evidence in front of you and that you are making the right judgment and decision. In any action that we would take forward, we would have gone through a long decision-making process to ensure that we had the right evidence in an investigation. Then, if it got to a court process, we would have to present our case and a judge would decide whether it was proportionate and whether we were being responsible in the action that we were proposing. It would be highly unlikely that a spurious complaint about somebody else would get through that process.
Chris Grose: To echo exactly that point, this is about good investigative work; it is not necessarily a Bill issue. It is about how we put that message out to our communities. We have started to see a cultural shift over the last couple of years to a more harm-focused or outcome-focused approach, rather than focusing on the type of problem. That is a benefit, because what is antisocial behaviour to one person is not to another. But we can use examples. Ultimately, a judge decides whether harm has been caused, but it does come down to good investigative work that is evidence-based, and making sure that landlords and our partners are realistic about what we can and cannot do, and what is antisocial behaviour and what is not.
Q 77 Richard Fuller: I am going to pick on that in my final question, which is on the issue of judges. Sometimes I hear that a social landlord may make the best case, in which it is clear that antisocial behaviour is going on, and take it to the county court, but the judge, for whatever reason, may not want to pursue it because they think it is too draconian. Is that something to do with the fact that a lot of our judges simply do not live in the same neighbourhood as some of the people they are trying to deal with, and that they do not understand what nuisance has been caused? Does the Bill do anything to address that issue, if indeed it is an issue?
Chris Grose: I hope that this Bill would, in some respects, in the way we are talking about it today. There are some excellent judges around the country who will walk around our communities and see the impact that antisocial behaviour can have. I would encourage you and housing providers to do that; that is a reality. It is up to the landlord to paint a picture of the harm caused and the impact that antisocial behaviour can have on a community. They can paint that picture through a variety of means, through the case management.
The community harm statement was an initiative that the housing industry came up with. It worked with Government and housing practitioners across the country to enable them to be better prepared to present their cases in court, putting the victims first, rather than just focusing on the rights of the perpetrator of antisocial behaviour. We are starting to see that shift, but I do think that your comment is correct: there are some judges who do not see the reality of the impact that this behaviour is having on our communities.
Councillor Khan: Also, we must remember that we need to put the victims at the centre of this. The victims are members of that neighbourhood; they are neighbours. Sometimes it is difficult for witnesses who are victims to come forward and give evidence in open proceedings in county court, because they are afraid of reprisals from those accused of antisocial behaviour and are at risk of losing their homes as well. In sensitive court cases, there are safeguards for victims, and the Bill Committee might consider how you safeguard those vulnerable witnesses who come forward and fear severe reprisals.
Angela Mawdsley: In my experience with judges I have always been lucky. If you put a good case forward, you often get a good and sensible judgment. To go back to the previous points on the unnecessary delays and the delays that happen a lot of the time, I have, for example, got an injunction case in court at the moment, and it has been adjourned twice, with no interim injunction
Q 78 Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab): I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Some of the cases of antisocial behaviour that I have dealt with in my area that are the most difficult and protracted to resolve involve private tenants. We have heard quite a lot about that already. Social housing providers are often very effective at dealing with antisocial behaviour and are more proactive. Are there any additional powers that you can identify that could help, in the legislation, in working with private landlords to tackle antisocial behaviour by their tenants? Is it the experience elsewhere in the country that it is sometimes cases in the private sector that are most difficult to resolve?
Rebecca Bryant: What makes it difficult to deal with antisocial behaviour in the private sector are two things. One is that we have a transient population, which perhaps means that there are not strong communities. It means that it is difficult to identify the people causing the problem in the first place. The second is that some landlords are irresponsible and absentee and are difficult to engage with. While they absolutely have that contractual agreement with their tenant, to persuade them to take action on behalf of the community is difficult. From a local authority perspective, we have a statutory duty to tackle crime and disorder and, in that respect, antisocial behaviour. Having an injunction in the private sector does help. As I have already said, it does not go far enough and we should have the ability to exclude people who live in the private sector, like our colleagues in the social housing sector do.
There is almost something here that might sound a little radical, which is looking at the cost implication to the taxpayer and the local authority of tackling antisocial behaviour in the private sector. The absentee landlord may be accepting rent for that property but is not managing it very well. Perhaps there could be something around us being able to recharge the cost back to that landlord for their lack of interest or inability to manage their property. In a world of finite resources, why should the local authority pick up that tab, when the landlord has a contractual agreement with that tenant?
Chris Grose: To add to your last point, Rebecca, there is some good practice out there. We have seen some proactive social landlords working with the police and local authorities to fund schemes that tackle antisocial behaviour in the private sector. Their vested interest is that there are pockets of antisocial behaviour that still impact on their neighbourhoods. The councillor sitting on the end suggested that there is some good practice around accredited schemes that private landlords can sign up to; they can almost go on a register of accredited private landlords to make them more suitable for private sector leasing schemes. There is that kind of approach. There is some good practice out there, but it is not widespread.
Councillor Khan: Local authorities can incur significant costs in trying to encourage some private sector landlords to work in partnership to try to tackle some of these problems. The idea of being able to recharge is something that we would certainly want to have built into the legislation.
The other point to make generally about private sector landlords is that they are the landlords who tend to have a small number of properties. Since, in many areas, we have an affordable housing issue, it is welcome to have good-quality private sector landlords who work with the local authority in taking part in accredited landlord schemes.
On the earlier question about encouraging those who want to improve their standards, this should not be about forcing—I guess that is a very strong way of describing it—but about having the powers to be able to ensure that landlords take part in accredited schemes, and that they comply with and abide by the conditions.
Q 79 Bridget Phillipson: Accredited schemes can be very helpful, but in one ex-Coal Board street in my constituency, there are a number of absentee landlords, and it took the council a very long time even to identify who those landlords were; some of them were based in Hong Kong. Clearly, that meant that, in the intervening period, they were unable to tackle the antisocial behaviour as effectively as they would have liked. Do you think that a register of landlords might help to identify those people and tackle antisocial behaviour, where it is happening, at an earlier stage?
Eamon Lynch: The short answer is that a register is bound to help. Not to lapse into too much detail about personal experiences, I spent weeks and weeks on two or three occasions trying to trace who owns a property to try to engage them, so anything that speeds up those sorts of processes is bound to help. However, those who are least likely to volunteer for accredited schemes perhaps present the biggest obstacle.
At the beginning of the session, there was reference to the new regime introduced in Scotland, which we are watching with interest. As I understand it, that regime empowers the local authority, by whatever process, almost to take over the management in particular circumstances. Something like that may be worthy of further investigation.
Rebecca Bryant: I have something to add on the difficulty of managing antisocial behaviour in the private sector, compared with the social housing sector. Social landlords are set up in a different way, in that they hold that tenancy agreement and can therefore set the clauses of that agreement; for example, they will have a clause that holds their tenant responsible for the behaviour of others who visit their property, or others who live there.
In the private sector, we have no such thing. You might be able to identify who the tenant is, and even who the landlord is, but you are not necessarily in a position to identify the other people coming and going from that property, because the community is transient, so if the injunction being proposed had a clause that meant that we could hold the person who is responsible for that property—the tenant or owner-occupier—responsible for the people who came there, that would allow us to manage that in a better way. I imagine that is one of the reasons why it was so difficult to manage your particular case in the private sector.
Angela Mawdsley: I completely agree with that. In Leeds, we have a massive student population and we have recently taken on the management of the domestic noise service. It is extremely difficult when we cannot even identify which students are living in which property, and which landlord owns the property, because it takes
Q 80 Bridget Phillipson: In terms of the community trigger, I am interested in how we make sure that we consider the qualitative nature of antisocial behaviour, not just the quantitative. We need to consider the vulnerabilities and risks of those affected by antisocial behaviour, not just the numbers. Will the legislation affect that, or will it not have an impact?
Rebecca Bryant: Coming from an area where we have trialled the community trigger, I would suggest—I speak for the majority of the people who work in the antisocial behaviour field—that when we get a complaint about antisocial behaviour, we try our best to deal with that complaint. If it is a very serious complaint, which involves the use of, or threat of, violence, we are pretty well geared up to get immediate protection in place.
What we are talking about more, which has a more negative impact, is that lower-level antisocial behaviour that has a drip, drip, drip effect, rather than a more serious incident. The legislation as a whole, by having an injunction, gives us a wider power to tackle antisocial behaviour. The trigger is there to deal with the small minority of cases where we have failed to act responsibly, reasonably and working in partnership. Partnership working—certainly in the Manchester area, but much more widely—has developed significantly over a number of years, so that we are better placed to solve problems locally in cases of antisocial behaviour, and to use the resources of our partners to resolve it as quickly as possible by putting the victim at the centre of what we are trying to do, and by using our early intervention and prevention methods much more than taking legal action, which does not necessarily have the long-term impact that we are seeking for our communities.
Councillor Khan: It is a very interesting concept: when should we intervene on the community trigger? Is it three or one, or is it about the seriousness of the issues? There are examples of local authorities that have not always intervened, particularly when vulnerable adults or adults with disabilities have been involved. I think that we all know of one particular example in which that occurred, but it should be put into the context of the literally hundreds of thousands of complaints about antisocial behaviour that local authorities have each year.
We have duties around the safeguarding of adults and children that would trigger earlier action far more quickly than the community trigger. We welcome the community trigger, because we welcome the challenge that it poses. I think that most local authorities will say that they are very good at having interventions in place and acting swiftly in cases of antisocial behaviour, because they know that councillors and MPs will get that casework and will want to know why no action was taken. It is an added safeguard in the system. I believe that in most cases, with the exception of vexatious and other types of unsocial behaviour that do not warrant it, it will hardly be used. In the pilots, it was hardly used, but if the Bill Committee wants to build in that safeguard, that is helpful.
Angela Mawdsley: I do not mind going first. There are some elements of it that will strengthen the tools and powers that we have already, and there are other elements that cause concern. For example, I would have concerns in relation to the use of the dispersal powers without the duty to consult with the local authority. Some things are not as helpful; I do not think that that is particularly helpful. Quite a lot of the time, a dispersal order involves young people, and working with the local authority, youth services and youth offending teams will allow us to build in an action plan. That would be really helpful, but overall, we certainly welcome the injunctions, maybe because they are tenure-neutral. That is a good thing.
Chris Grose: Broadly, we welcome the reforms, and we think that they add more strength to our powers to tackle antisocial behaviour. I want to re-emphasise the point that about 85% of the work that we do is through non-legal sanction. We are effective as an industry, and with our partners, at tackling the causes of antisocial behaviour. Where we do need to tackle antisocial behaviour with a legal sanction, the new Bill is strong in that it recognises from a housing perspective that antisocial behaviour is not just a social housing problem; it is an issue that we as partners all need to tackle. We see the focus on extending what works with the current ASBI to partners so they can use it as a positive thing.
Yes, there will be challenges around information sharing, communication and costs, but we could also see them as opportunities. We have talked briefly today about the current financial climate. Rather than duplicating work, we can hopefully work better together to share costs and resources and tackle the issues. In terms of that perspective around partnership working, although there will be challenges, in the long term we hope it will force us to work better together in tackling those issues.
Penelope Gibbs: I would agree with that. Our concern is that in some ways the Bill makes the ASB powers stronger. Particularly on the injunction, it moves from causing harassment, alarm and distress, to nuisance and annoyance. My colleague Chris talked about harm caused, but we have moved away from that now in the definition of ASB. In the case of teenagers, where there is already a lot of prejudice, and often the perception that they are causing nuisance and annoyance when they are not necessarily doing so, we are concerned that the threshold is now too low.
Eamon Lynch: The Minister asked whether we are fearful. The short answer is, not any more. Prior to the Bill being formulated, we had some serious concerns. We have listed three or four areas, particularly with reference to the injunctions, where we would like to see the Bill improved further.
Our fear—if that is the right word—and concerns lie not so much with the Bill. We are anxious to urge that everything possible is done to preserve the case law that has grown up around the existing antisocial behaviour injunction, so we do not get into a situation whereby we have to go through High Courts and Supreme Courts to get rulings on fundamental points of principle, as we did with the ASBO and the current injunction.
I should say we are completely non-political, but our other fear was that the police representatives suggested that they may treat breaches of—I cannot remember whether it was the criminal behaviour order or the IPNA—less seriously because it is non-criminal. I am not suggesting that would be the case, but if it plays into reality it would be a serious concern.
Councillor Khan: In direct response to your comments about the Sunday Mirror article, if the community trigger is set at three—three complaints triggers action—unless there is a local agreement between the council and the police, a one-size-fits-all solution might leave some families more vulnerable. At a local level—and the Government are completely signed up to the principle of localism—we want to be able to build into criteria elements such as the vulnerability of those who are making the complaint, whether they are known to us as people with disabilities, behaviour problems, in need of safeguarding, etc. At a local level, having those criteria and the ability to agree with the police about how the community trigger will work will be helpful in trying to safeguard those who might become vulnerable.
Q 85 Mr Browne: On that very subject—this is directed particularly at Rebecca Bryant, because yours was one of the pilot areas—do you want the new community trigger to be as envisaged in the proposed legislation, or would you rather retain the existing system, where there is no backstop, and, in theory at least, somebody could complain a dozen, two dozen or three dozen times to the authorities and be ignored without any sense of redress? Do you think a flexible community trigger, able to be operated as fits that area, is a better solution?
Rebecca Bryant: I think the current regime as it stands—where, if somebody complains to the local authority or the police, or a social landlord, and they are not satisfied with the response, they can go through a formal complaints process and complain to the ombudsman, whether the local government ombudsman, the housing ombudsman or the IPCC—is there to challenge and check the way that we deal with complaints of antisocial behaviour.
The way that the community trigger is designed is, for the first time, to hold the partnership to account. My view—this is a personal view—is that the way that the trial was set up was that we were going to have the PCC acting as our appeal. The legislation does not have the PCC acting as our appeal, so, fundamentally, if the vulnerable person is not satisfied with our response as a partnership, there is nowhere now for them to go, because the PCC is no longer acting as the appeal.
I understand that the idea is that this will be based on local agreement and local issues—and depending on who your PCC is and what local authorities are working in that area. But does the community trigger stop people falling through the cracks? It does to a degree, if they are able to use the community trigger and understand it. One of the major things for us in the future, because we are going to continue to use the community trigger while waiting for legislation to go through, is to work with adult services and people who work with mental health patients, to see if they are vulnerable in the community, and get them to enact the trigger on their behalf. With the best will in the world, those are the people who we need to make sure are safe in our communities, not the articulate worried well, who would know very well about the community trigger.
Q 86 Mr Browne: On a related question on a different aspect, people have made representations to every Committee member that there should be specific measures on dogs—dog control notices—and others who have said that the flexible powers could be used to achieve the objectives that people wish, in terms of restraining—constraining—dogs. I am curious to know whether you feel, any of you, that you need a specific, branded dog control notice or that, looking at the six strands of the antisocial behaviour powers, those would enable you to do what you needed to do to protect people from antisocial behaviour perpetrated by dogs/their owners.
Councillor Khan: From a local authority perspective, the extension of the legislation to private land will help councils and the police to be able to respond to those issues as they arise. We would like the proposals to remain in the legislation and to be able to direct irresponsible owners to undertake training and provide greater protection for the public.
The dog charities have also lobbied the LGA on this matter and, as I understand it, probably yourselves as well, so they should be involved in helping to draft the appropriate guidance that assists local authorities in having a consistent national approach, wherever possible, on this matter.
The tongue-in-cheek thing I was going to say, but it might not go down well here, is that in this room we are all activists, delivering lots of leaflets around particular times of the year, so anything that helps control dogs while we run down that garden path to get those leaflets through the letterboxes will be welcomed by thousands of councillors, activists and MPs.
Critics of the Bill accuse us of watering down the protections for the community against antisocial behaviour. To what extent do you feel that that particular conveyor belt was an effective way of tackling it?
Penelope Gibbs: The standing committee is concerned that such orders are not the best way of preventing and stopping the antisocial behaviour of teenagers. We feel that the best way of doing it is outside the formal justice system, using social services, the police, informal work and proper restorative justice. Where it is felt that those have not worked—but there is no provision in the Bill to say that they have to be tried first—at that point we would say that, yes, there is a huge problem of speech and learning difficulties, learning difficulties in general, high welfare needs and mental health problems among the kind of teenagers who are in the justice system, whether that is ASB or criminal justice. Thus it is essential that this assessment is done, that the orders are designed very well, and that the children subject to them, particularly if they have mental health difficulties, are helped to comply with the orders. There is no provision for help to comply with the orders in the Bill.
Q 88 Paul Maynard: Previously we heard about how an IPNA can comprise a positive requirement, which I am sure we all agree is welcome. You have just added the point that you want pre-order assessment of health, welfare and mental health needs. Just to help the Committee in shaping how we view the legislation overall, could you speculate on how you might be able to incorporate these pre-order assessments into a positive requirement? Could the two accompany each other in some way?
Penelope Gibbs: They do relate to each other. I would say that I think positive requirements should be imposed as part of the order only when it is felt to be truly necessary. If, say, there is something that a child needs for welfare reasons, or health reasons, it is better to try to do it voluntarily than to impose it as part of the order. If it is felt that it is impossible for that to work, and a positive requirement is put into the order, it is essential that there should be funding, that what is provided should be delivered by a specialist in children’s needs, as opposed to a generalist, and that it should be totally appropriate for that child.
Finally, can I direct a question at the two representatives from Manchester? In the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the last Labour Government introduced what were called individual support orders. Those were essentially the positive requirements that we are now going to insert into the IPNAs. Clearly, the last Government were not great fans of their use, because only 367 were issued
Rebecca Bryant: Speaking from a Manchester perspective, the majority of the young people we were taking out antisocial behaviour orders against were already well known to the criminal justice system or already had a youth offending service officer, and already had support needs being catered for; so an individual support order was not necessarily the right thing when that kind of order was already in place.
The antisocial behaviour orders taken out against young children—which I have to point out is a very small minority of the antisocial behaviour orders that we take out in Manchester, although we may be seen as the capital of antisocial behaviour orders—were because they committed quite serious antisocial behaviour. That was affecting the quality of life of significant numbers of people in the community, who were often vulnerable, and often violence or threats of violence were used. That is why we are in the position of applying for an antisocial behaviour order in the first place.
While I welcome the idea that there will be positive requirements, that is something that we try to do anyway, because we have a whole-family approach that looks at not only the individuals causing the antisocial behaviour, but the parents and the younger siblings in the family, to try to prevent the antisocial behaviour escalating. To answer the question why, in our view, individual support orders were not used, it was primarily because the support was already in place.
Rebecca Bryant: We would have applied them to young people who did not already have a support package in place, but usually before it had got to that stage. Certainly, when you are looking at an antisocial behaviour order, you have a duty to consult in relation to that order before you apply. When you are talking about a young person, the consultation process would involve the youth offending service. You would look at the behaviour that was being perpetrated and what sort of support you could provide, regardless of whether you were going for an antisocial behaviour order.
It is not just about stopping the antisocial behaviour, but about challenging and changing that behaviour for the long term. I have to say I disagree with the idea that an antisocial behaviour order is some draconian order that criminalises young people. I believe that the antisocial behaviour order was almost like a final warning to that young person. If they complied with that order, they did not face being criminalised, because they were being told how to behave in the community. It was almost like setting a boundary that any responsible parent would set for their children. In cases where perhaps the family is chaotic, perhaps the parent does not set the boundaries and say, “No, you can’t hang around with those people.” The antisocial behaviour order would clearly say, “You cannot hang around with those people, because you will get into trouble with them.” It is quite a complex issue and individual support orders and parenting orders
Angela Mawdsley: I am in Leeds at the moment, rather than Manchester. I will just clarify that. Before I worked in Leeds, I worked in Wolverhampton, where we had quite a few problems with groups of youths. I personally took a couple of groups forward for antisocial behaviour orders. I completely agree with what Rebecca said. The majority of those youths were heavily involved with the youth offending service, so they were already on reparation orders—or supervision orders, as they were at that time. The court did not deem an ISO as being appropriate. There were a couple of cases where we thought an ISO was appropriate, but the court, even though they were not with the YOS, decided not to grant them.
We were slightly more successful in getting parenting orders. I am not sure whether that is a provision that is available as a positive requirement in the Bill, because you get an injunction on the young person rather than the parent. I do not know whether that is something that could be explored. To reiterate, as an ASB practitioner, legal actions and sanctions on a young person are a last resort, and there is a massive amount of resource that goes into every case involving a young person in a family before you would even consider taking legal action. From our experience, it is exactly the same. The YOS is already involved, so there is no need.
The Chair: Before we bring anybody else in, we are expecting a vote in a minute or so. For those who do not know the procedure, the Division Bell will ring. I intend to suspend the sitting at that moment for 15 minutes and then move on to the next panel at 4 o’clock.
Chris Grose: Just to echo a point, to make it really clear that legal sanctions are seen as a last resort, the amount of work that goes into tackling the problem is where the work lies. When we talk about a requirement to tackle the issues around mental health and the reasons why young people are causing a problem, that is normal standard practice as we see it in the profession. The risk of having something like that in the Bill is that where there is a significant risk of harm to the victim, which is what we are trying to focus on here, that might delay matters from preventing further risk of harm, so perhaps that is more of a guidance issue rather than a Bill issue.
Q 91 Stephen Mosley: The Minister asked earlier whether this was tougher than existing regulations. One area that definitely seems tougher is part 4, the community protection notices. Under the Bill, local authorities and social housing providers will be able to issue community protection orders. If those orders are not complied with, it is a criminal offence, and they can be issued for a wide range of behaviour. The document describes it as any behaviour that is
It gives a case study of having rubbish in somebody’s garden. This gives local authorities’ housing associations a huge amount of power. I was wondering what checks and balances you think need to be in place to ensure that that power is not misused.
Chris Grose: The proposed introduction of the community protection notice is welcome, because the way I look at it is that landlords can use that tool, if they get delegated authority from the local authority. They can use it as a more proportionate response to tackle the low-level antisocial behaviour and nip it in the bud with the fixed penalty notice. Sometimes, as we see currently, there is a big jump from warning letters and joint visits with the police, for example, to legal action, such as injunction or possession action. The CPN is almost a middle ground and a more reasonable way of tackling that problem. The difficulty lies where there is not a clear boundary between statutory nuisance and noise nuisance, for example, as we would see in the housing industry. That area might need attention, which may be guidance or something in addition to the Bill.
One of the issues that I see with delegated authority is that, where you have housing providers with lots of stock spread across the country in 50 or 60 local authority areas, we would not want to see that provider being restricted to using the CPN in some local authority areas and not in others because the local authority has not delegated authority to them. I could see that creating some issues.
Councillor Khan: The second part of your question was about ensuring that these powers are not abused. The Local Government Association would work with the Home Office to ensure that guidance is issued to local authorities on the use of these powers. [ Interruption. ]
The Chair: Order. I suspend the sitting for 15 minutes. I ask Members to be back in their places then so that we can see the next set of witnesses. I thank all the witnesses for their contribution. If there is anything that any of you feel you have not been able to point out or contribute on, please feel free to write to the Committee.
Examination of Witnesses
Q 92 The Chair: Order. We will move on to questions to the next panel of witnesses. We will hear oral evidence from the College of Policing and from the independent chair of the Police Negotiating Board and the Police Advisory Board for England and Wales. Welcome. Will the new witnesses please introduce themselves for the benefit of the Committee?
Welcome, Mr Randall. My first question is a general one. You are being abolished and replaced. Do you have any regrets about that, any points of concern or any issues that you think we need to reflect on, given that I understand the need to reduce the size and scope of the current Police Negotiating Board?
John Randall: Yes, of course. There are strengths and weaknesses in both negotiating machinery and pay review bodies, which I am happy to go into if you would like me to. There are difficulties with the current structure of PNB—I hope you will have seen my written submissions on that—relating particularly to size and to the terms on which there is access to arbitration.
Do I have regrets? I have some slight regrets, in that I think that it would have been possible to reform PNB, but a debate has been going on for several years now about the relative merits of the two systems, and it is entirely right that the Government of the day can take a view on which one they think best serves the public interest. It is a finely balanced argument, so from that point of view, I do not have regrets. My prime concern at the moment is to ensure a smooth and seamless transition to an effective working arrangement in future.
I have one particular concern that I think is probably more significant than the simple transition from a negotiating body to a pay review body: we will no longer have an overarching United Kingdom mechanism for determining conditions of service for police officers. That is probably inevitable, given that policing is now devolved in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. Since the Winsor report related to England and Wales only, we have begun to see a divergence in conditions of service. Scotland has decided that it wishes to maintain a negotiating machinery, and I understand that provision for that will be in legislation to be introduced in the Scottish Parliament later this month.
“Consideration should be given to whether a duty should be placed on the police remuneration review body and the new Scottish negotiating body to have a regard to facilitating interoperability and career movement on a UK-wide basis.”
John Randall: Not in the Bill. I do not think that that is necessary. I do not think you can legislate to get people to behave with common sense, and common sense is what is required. In Northern Ireland this week, we have 3,500 officers from the rest of the United Kingdom, some of whom are on slightly different conditions of service relating to overtime and allowances. That can give rise to an unnecessary complication in an already complex policing operation.
We have movement between forces in different parts of the United Kingdom. The last two Chief Constables of Northern Ireland came from Leicestershire and the Met respectively. The current chief constable in Scotland started his career in the Met. One of the assistant chief constables from Northern Ireland is moving to North Yorkshire. We need to make sure that those sorts of things can continue to happen. We do not need a position in
For the review body, I believe that that can be done not necessarily in primary legislation but by making use of the power that is already in the Bill for the Secretary of State to send a remit letter to the review body. That could be a standing item in general terms: “Please have regard to what’s happening elsewhere in respect of these matters.” If a matter was becoming particularly difficult, it could be dealt with more specifically. There is a power in the Bill; it is a question of making sure that it is used intelligently.
Q 95 Mr Hanson: The Police Federation and the superintendents, in evidence this morning and in comments prior to the evidence, both made clear their concern about some aspects of the new review body and the lack of engagement that it might have. Do you share their concerns that they will have as a police staff less engagement with the new proposed body than they did with the previous body?
John Randall: I understand that, and it comes down to the difference between the two ways of determining pay. The strength of a negotiating body is that it engages directly both sides, and they have to live with the consequences of what they agree, so there is a greater sense of ownership as well as a sense of engagement. The strength of a pay review body is that it is more firmly evidence-based and that it is perhaps better able sometimes to take a dispassionate view simply because its members do not have to live personally with the consequences. A review body may be better at dealing with the major changes that are sometimes needed to conditions of services, whereas a negotiating machinery is sometimes better at dealing with more incremental change.
Mr Hanson: On that point, how do you feel that the Police Federation, given the discussions this morning, will interact with the new body and indeed, potentially, in the crossover later on for our other two colleagues, with the new College of Policing on issues to do with terms and conditions, salary levels and other things which are now, in a sense, taken away from the Home Secretary and the Police Negotiating Board?
John Randall: I think they will behave in the same way as the trade unions, which work in sectors where there are now pay review bodies. They will develop the expertise in submitting persuasive evidence. They have a good research team that will enable them to do that. What I would say to them is that if you look back over the past 30 years of pay determination, there has been a marked move away from national pay bargaining. Perhaps the Police Negotiating Board is one of the last manifestations of that. We have seen instead a growth of a dependence on people gaining qualifications and expertise, so that they become too valuable for the employer to want to underpay them or to treat them badly.
Trade unions have been trying to get a hold on the levers that allow them to influence that. They have done that to an extent through sector skills councils. They
Q 96 Mr Hanson: Would it be fair to characterise the situation, rightly or wrongly, in the following way: the current procedures mean that the Police Federation is at the table; the future procedures mean that the Police Federation is outside the room presenting through the door to the table?
John Randall: So will be the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the police and crime commissioners. It is in the nature of a pay review body that both sides will be outside the door making their submissions. There remains an equality of arms between the two sides. It is not that one side has been pushed outside the door while the other is in the room. Under the present arrangements, both are in the room and around the negotiating table. Under what is proposed, both will be at one stage removed, but there will be some equality of arms in that they will both be making submissions that will stand or fall on the quality of the evidence they present.
Q 97 Mr Hanson: Just as a proposition for consideration as the alternative model, at the moment ACPO, the police authorities as were and the police commissioners as are, and the Police Federation are around the table negotiating for things that they ultimately will have to deliver. The police pay review body may well not have the level of ultimate responsibility to deliver what it agrees. Is that a potential area of difficulty?
John Randall: That is in the nature of review bodies. Many of the review bodies have found that not to be a problem. For example, if you talk to the First Division Association about the Senior Salaries Review Body, it is very enthusiastic about it. On the other hand, if you talk to some of those who have to deal with the Prison Service pay review body, there is in that area sometimes a feeling that it is now harder for management and unions to engage directly with each other because it has to be mediated through the pay review body. I think that much depends on what other channels will be open to people. One of them will be the channel that the college will provide, or what are now some of the non-negotiable conditions. Others will be a case of the staff associations dealing directly with ACPO, whose members now take on the main employer role anyway.
Q 98 Mr Hanson: It has been put to us that because the Police Federation does not have what would be normally understood as industrial rights, it has a special position to be heard as part of the table rather than outside the room. Do you have any views on that?
John Randall: Yes, I believe that there is a trade-off between the lack of what are called industrial rights and the way in which police officers are treated in terms of pay determination. Under the Police Negotiating Board
Of those three, the independence of the mechanism will remain, because of the independence of the membership of the pay review body. In terms of arbitration, you will see from my written submission that I think that that had begun to get in the way and that there needed to be a change, so that it was access by agreement rather than unilateral access, which would work better in terms of supporting the negotiating machinery. In terms of the arrangements being entrenched in statute, you are now looking at precisely that, in the form of the Bill that you are considering.
Q 99 Mr Hanson: I just have two questions with regard to the College of Policing issues, because—broadly speaking—the Opposition support the model and will give the Bill a fair wind on those issues. However, I am interested to hear from both Professor Pearce and Chief Constable Marshall as to how they would define the areas where the college now has a responsibility under clause 105 of the Bill, versus what the Home Secretary may want to stop, decline or veto downstream. Where do you see the boundary from your perspective, because that independence is enshrined in the Bill? I just want to get a sense while you are in front of us as to where you see that independence being the dividing line.
Professor Pearce: I come to this from the position of a member of the public with a background in education and a commitment to evidence-based professional practice. What is different about the college is that we will be setting standards and using the very best available evidence, and we will be giving advice to people in forces and setting codes of practice that are based on best available evidence. In doing that, we will ensure that we have consulted widely, and the Home Office and the Home Secretary are part of that consultation process.
We recognise that there is an inherent tension, if you like, between the independence that we need to have, and the duties and responsibilities of the Home Secretary to ensure that the right things are delivered. It is incumbent on us, on her and on the Home Office to ensure that we work closely, that we challenge where appropriate and that we use the force of evidence to make sure that the best standards are set.
Alex Marshall: Clearly, the Home Secretary has a responsibility for the safety of the citizen and therefore needs to retain that power, where necessary, to ensure that the right standards are set or that the right area in policing is covered. Having said that, our independence is already clear in the way that we are constructed and in the way that the board does not have anybody from the Home Office. The professional committee that receives the work from the business areas has nobody from the Home Office and we are already producing guidance with people from across policing, and therefore we are already very inclusive. For example, the federation and the Police Superintendents Association have been very supportive of the college’s early work.
That seems to be very much the old favoured Henry VIII approach of “If I don’t like it, I can veto it.” I am interested in what you would perceive as the Secretary of State deciding that something you did was “wrong to do so”. What would be your definition of that?
Professor Pearce: I would be very surprised if that were used, and I would be very surprised if it came at us out of the blue. We would hope that we had engaged in discussions so that we never got into the position of having standards turned down.
Q 101 Mr Hanson: Am I, as a Member of Parliament, to trust a future Home Secretary of any political hue or none in that, if they wish to, they can choose any reason that it would be “wrong to do so”, by vetoing anything you decide to do without giving any reason because under clause 105(1)(c)
Professor Pearce: That is a matter of interpretation you might want to consider. It would be very ill advised of anybody to take that line unless they could clearly justify it. I should be surprised if anything came out at a late stage that we had not discussed, and had expected and avoided.
Alex Marshall: The preparation of guidance and standards to be rolled out across all 43 forces takes many months and working through with experts in that particular area. It would always involve notifying the Home Office and making sure that we understood its early impressions and thoughts about the ongoing work. As Professor Pearce said, it would seem very unlikely that we would reach the eleventh hour and have that particular standard blocked.
Q 102 David Rutley: I have one question for Mr Randall, following from the conversations about the PNB and the proposed successor body. You talked about the pros and the cons. As you look at them and think about the new review body, do you anticipate that any changes to remuneration and pay and conditions would come through quicker as a result of the new proposals?
John Randall: Not necessarily, because review bodies tend to work on an annual cycle. Things would be included in a remit letter. There would be a programme of work, and that would result in an annual report making a set of recommendations. One of the greater flexibilities with a negotiating body, although it is often characterised as working slow, is that there have been
Q 103 David Rutley: One of the concerns expressed by Mr Hanson was about voice, and whether staff associations would get a voice in the process. I want to clarify your thoughts on that. Clearly, there would be a process and people outside the process would include the Home Secretary and the staff associations all trying to get to the table to talk about such things but then—hands off. Would that process give staff associations a voice? They have been used to it. Will they still be able to have their views put clearly on the table?
John Randall: The experience of trade unions working in the field covered by pay review bodies has been that they can have quite significant influence. A lot of that comes down to the professionalism of those bodies. It is a different approach, and I shall illustrate just how far outside the system even, say, the Home Office can sit. In 2005, Home Secretary Charles Clarke asked me to review the machinery. I published a report, to which I referred in my evidence. In the course of that, I took views on whether there should be a pay review body. At the time, there was very little support for it. Interestingly, one of the bodies that did not like the idea of a pay review body was then that of Home Office officials who said that we had two bites at the cherry under the current arrangements because we were involved in PNB and then our Minister still had the final say at the end of the day.
Perhaps there was not a total equality of arms in the existing arrangements. It is a different approach. It is a more evidence-based approach. A decision now needs to be taken because we have had slightly longer than three years since Clive Booth recommended that there should be a pay review body when Jacqui Smith was Home Secretary, and that has rather hung over the whole machinery since then. It would be healthy for it now to be resolved, so that there is a clear way forward.
The Bill cleared Second Reading unopposed and, as Mr Hanson said in the Second Reading debate, there are matters to be probed but a fair wind is being given. I am working on the basis that my role in all this now is to try to ensure that there is a smooth and effective transition to new working arrangements. Yes, people will have to get used to them, but trade unions and employers who work with pay review bodies have, in general, been able to make them work and have felt they get their say.
Q 104 David Rutley: I have a couple of quick follow-up questions to Professor Pearce on the college. Now that the college is finally moving forward, do you think that means it will have the same influence in the professions of policing as other professional bodies would have elsewhere? Do you think the powers are sufficient to enable you to have that authority?
Professor Pearce: The powers are an important next step in creating an independent College of Policing that is a professional body for all in policing. We welcome the powers. We recognise that there is still a lot more work to be done to get the fully independent royal
There is some real excitement about the distinctiveness of the nature of the professional body that we are creating—that it is for all in policing and it has the public interest at the core. It is not about professional protectionism, but about supporting public interest.
Q 105 David Rutley: One further point of clarification. On Second Reading, the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee suggested that police officers would be required to pay £1,000 for what he termed a certificate of knowledge. Does that figure ring any bells with you?
Alex Marshall: The College of Policing does not set any fees at that point in the recruitment process; therefore we have no direct responsibility for it. The College of Policing does set the standards for those wishing to join the police service, and in the case of some forces it requires people who are applying to join to come along with a certificate in policing, which is sometimes delivered by an outside provider, perhaps a further education college or a university, and it is at that point that the fee is therefore charged.
Q 106 Mr Hanson: I was going to raise that last point. Potentially, post-2015-16, there is a budget shortfall in the college funding. I am interested in how that budget proposal is likely to be met downstream, given where we are in the comprehensive spending review. In a sense, I was going to touch on Mr Rutley’s point about what is the regime for charging.
In relation to the clauses that the Committee will discuss in due course, there is no mention of charging or not charging in the draft regulations. I wanted some clarity from the professor and the chief constable as to the likely trajectory of those matters and the budget shortfall in relation to the services in the Bill.
Alex Marshall: Obviously, as Professor Pearce said, we seek royal charter status ultimately. That would give us greater freedom to operate financially and commercially. We cannot move towards royal charter status until we can demonstrate that the majority—51%—of our funding is coming from other than Government grant. At the moment, we generate about 24% of our income from other than Government grant and we are now modelling how we can reach that 51%.
There are likely to be opportunities around licensing and accreditation. We already do quite a lot of work in the international field and there is scope to increase the international market. There are opportunities to use our intellectual property to generate income. On membership, while at the moment there are no plans for compulsory membership fees, we could look at options for voluntary membership for particular skill areas and perhaps associate membership. We are currently modelling that future commercial position to get us the 51%.
Q 107 Mr Hanson: I am interested in the same model in relation to the new police negotiating body. How do ordinary rank and file members, through the Police Federation, the Police Superintendents Association or
Professor Pearce: In a number of ways. The board is constituted in such a way that the interests and issues that face people in different parts of policing are understood by the board. In addition, we are operating in as transparent a fashion as we possibly can, with our board agenda and minutes being open. We are also committed to, and have already demonstrated, open public consultation on the work that we are doing. As part of that, in the summer we are producing a strategic intent document—it is deliberately called “strategic intent” rather than strategy—so that we can engage the public and all parts of the police in the final development of the strategy. We will have an open consultation strategy for all parts of the police and the general public.
Alex Marshall: On the professional committee, where the national business areas bring their expertise to bear and look towards new guidance and standards, the federation, superintendents association, unions, special constabulary and all parts of policing are represented, so they always have a voice in the creation of standards and guidance. We also have offline relationships with the federation and all the other staff associations.
I have travelled around the country, meeting groups of constables, sergeants and inspectors, to make sure that in this phase where we are designing the College of Policing—the design is still ongoing and not due to complete until the end of the month—we hear the voices of everyone in policing. By far the largest majority are represented by the federation, and they are the officers who are on the streets and have the most direct contact with the public.
In forming an organisation that raises skills and standards in policing to the benefit of the public, it is essential that I hear the voices of practitioners and I have made every effort to do so. Both formally and informally, they are engaged in the board, the committee, the design and ongoing communication.
John Randall: The college will inherit some functions from the Police Advisory Board in relation to consultation on certain regulations. Those functions are now dealt with by a sub-committee of the advisory board, and Alex Marshall and I have spoken about how the arrangements might be taken forward. It is very much my hope that we will simply hand over a functioning sub-committee in which the Police Federation is a very active participant. It meets only three times a year, but it does work, and that would be another piece of machinery that, if the college thinks fit, would enable it to carry forward an existing consultative mechanism.
Q 108 Mr Hanson: My final question is on the territorial scope of the policing college. For example, the Bill mentions the National Crime Agency, which, in theory, operates in Northern Ireland as well as in England and Wales, but in practice, it does not because of the lack of a legislative consent motion from the Northern Ireland Assembly. Do you have an assessment of the geographical scope of the policing college and whether there are challenges with devolved Administrations that we need to explore in Committee or outside the Committee?
Alex Marshall: Our starting position is the police forces of England and Wales: the 43 forces. We clearly have an ongoing relationship with other policing organisations,
I have already been to see the chief constable of Scotland to discuss how we make sure that the standards complement each other; in some cases, they may be the same standards. I will be in Northern Ireland on Thursday to spend a day with the Chief Constable there, and we are talking to the National Crime Agency to make sure that, for example, when we train detectives, the detective training matches up across the areas. But our starting remit is within the Home Office forces of England and Wales.
Q 109 Mr Hanson: My bottom-line point is whether the legislative framework in the Bill gives you legal cover to do that. The Bill mentions the Secretary of State, England and Wales, then there is Scotland, and the National Crime Agency that will cover Northern Ireland, but not yet. Is the legislative consent sufficient for you to have an operation wider than simply England and Wales?
Alex Marshall: It is sufficient to operate within England and Wales and, in two cases, the measure specifically references that we must consult the National Crime Agency before bringing forward regulations in those particular areas.
Q 110 Mr Hanson: But at the moment it does not operate in Northern Ireland because there is no legislative consent for the crime agency. In a sense, you are negotiating and setting terms under the Bill that would not necessarily be adopted by Northern Ireland but could be, in relation to the National Crime Agency’s operations there.
Q 111 Tracey Crouch: I want to ask about police remuneration. I have the pleasure of living next door to a police constable and have two more police constables living on my street. I also had 150 letters on the Winsor reforms. Should I be hiding, given the changes proposed in the Bill? Is there anything in particular that will upset them, or is it just a structural change, and as federated ranks they will not notice much difference in their day to day business?
John Randall: Any national pay determination machinery is bound to be remote to an extent from the individuals who are directly affected by it, because their representatives —in this case the Police Federation—will deal with it.
It is probably true in any walk of life that if you talk to your neighbour, who is not an active member of their staff association or trade union, they will feel some remoteness from the body that determines pay. I think a lot of the attitudes that I have come across from individual police officers have been on the lines of, “Will somebody please just go away and sort this out? Whether it is a negotiating or pay review machinery, we joined because we like the job. We want to be able to get on with it and do it to the best of our ability and we want to be treated fairly.” That is how they will judge the outcome, whether it is from Tom Winsor, the Police Negotiating Board, an arbitration tribunal or a pay review body.
Q 112 Tracey Crouch: This is effectively a structural process change. Ultimately, the way a police constable’s pay is determined, though decided by different people, will still be beyond their control. What is in their pay packet at the end of each month is really nothing to do with them, as is the case at the moment.
John Randall: If they choose to become involved in the federation, they are able to influence the stand the federation takes in negotiation. In future, they will equally be able to influence the nature of the submissions that are made by the federation to the pay review body.
I think that your characterisation of it as a switch from one mechanism to another is fair to an extent, in that we have two main ways of determining pay in large parts of the public sector: either through a negotiating process or a pay review body. The proposal in the Bill is a switch from one to the other. As I said before, there are strengths and weaknesses in both. No system is perfect. I hope that the outcome would ultimately be felt fair by the sort of officers you refer to, whichever mechanism was used.