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Archive for January, 2012

Tuesday
Jan 31,2012

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC – pronounced Mopsy by its friends) is fifteen days old.  It was launched with great fanfare – or at least a press release from City Hall – on 16th January.

There have repeatedly been assurances given that the new arrangements would be at least as transparent as those that existed with the now-abolished Metropolitan Police Authority.  Performance data and financial information would be placed on the web-site and everything we were assured would be open and visible to the people of London.

So what happens when you seek to go to www.mopc.police.uk?  You get redirected to the home page of the Greater London Authority web-site – not even its page on policing.

And where is the financial information and the performance data that was promised?

If it is there, I couldn’t find it.

Still it is early days and I am sure that Kit Malthouse AM will sort it out now that he has been formally appointed as the Deputy MOPC (a role specifically envisaged in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act).

But wait, is Kit Malthouse really in charge?

The press release says he has been appointed.

But, if you go to the Mayoral Decisions part of the Greater London Authority web-site, there is no Mayoral Decision appointing him.

If there is no formally recorded Mayoral Decision, any actions taken by Kit Malthouse as Deputy MOPC are invalid and ultra vires, because there has been no formal decision to give him the legal powers.

And if he has been properly appointed, the failure to post the relevant Mayoral Decision on the Greater London Authority web-site doesn’t bode well for the new era of transparency about policing that we were promised.

Or am I being pedantic?

Monday
Jan 30,2012

At the end of last week, I reported that Andrew Lansley was planning to change the status of the new local HealthWatch organisation so that patient representation could be put out to competitive tender.

The Department of Health has form on this: the organisations acting as “hosts” for Local Involvement Networks were selected following a competitive tendering process in 2007 and bids were sought from throughout the European Union and here, so I am told, is the text of the advert in the Uzbechistan Times:

Gloucester: health and social work services

Takliflar

Umumiy ma’lumot
Davlat: ??????????? ???????????
Shaxar/axoli punkti: GLOUCESTER
Kontrakt yoki xabarnoma raqami: eu:281809-2007
Chop etilish sanasi: Noy 30, 2007
Amal qilish muddati: Yanv 7, 2008
Xaridor: GLOUCESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
   
Original matn tili: ??????????
 
Bog’lanish uchun ma’lumot
Manzil: GLOUCESTERSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
GLOUCESTER , Gloucestershire
??????????? ???????????
Veb-saxifa: http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=14857

 (I am afraid the cyrillic script doesn’t come out very well in WordPress.)

The fact that the previous Government allowed this function to be tendered doesn’t make it right for the proposed new system, particularly as Ministers have complained about the cost of administering previous patient representation structures which were based on this “hosting” principle.

All in all it looks like “dogma gone mad” with no regard to the cost or to whether it will deliver more effective patient representation.

I have this afternoon tabled two Parliamentary Questions on the subject:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government:

    1. What would be the cost of requiring local authorities to put out to competitive tender contracts to run local HealthWatch organisations?
    2. What was the cost of putting out to tender contracts to act as hosts to Local Involvement Networks?”
Sunday
Jan 29,2012

John Naughton in today’s Observer has an interesting article on the proposed new EU data protection directive and the way in which Facebook is getting “its retaliation in first”.  The proposed “right to be forgotten” is likely to conflict with Facebook’s newish “timeline” facility.  And the retaliation?  This is how John Naughton puts it:

“The day before the commission made its announcement, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, gave a speech to a technology conference in Munich. Her menacing subtext was neatly summarised by the New York Times thus: “Concerned about privacy? Maybe you should be concerned about the economy instead.” Translation: mess with us, Eurotrash, and we’ll screw you.

Sandberg’s speech was revealing because it exposes the line of argument that Google, Facebook, et al will use to undermine public authorities that seek to control their freedom to exploit their users’ identities and abuse their privacy. The argument is that internet companies create lots of jobs and are good for the economy and European governments shouldn’t stand in their way.”

Apparently, to back this argument Facebook referred to a report that they had commissioned from Deloitte which concluded that Facebook had  indirectly helped create 232,000 jobs in Europe in 2011 and enabled more than $32bn in revenues.

John Naughton is sceptical pointing out that Facebook itself only has about 3,000 employees world-wide and he continues:

“Inspection of the “report” confirms one’s suspicion that you couldn’t make this stuff up. Or, rather, only an international consulting firm could make it up. Interestingly, Deloitte itself appears to be ambivalent about it. “The information contained in the report”, it cautions, “has been obtained from Facebook Inc and third party sources that are clearly referenced in the appropriate sections of the report. Deloitte has neither sought to corroborate this information nor to review its overall reasonableness. Further, any results from the analysis contained in the report are reliant on the information available at the time of writing the report and should not be relied upon in subsequent periods.” (Emphasis added.)

Accordingly, continues Deloitte, “no representation or warranty, express or implied, is given and no responsibility or liability is or will be accepted by or on behalf of Deloitte or by any of its partners, employees or agents or any other person as to the accuracy, completeness or correctness of the information contained in this document or any oral information made available and any such liability is expressly disclaimed”.”

Although Deloitte is normally regarded as a respectable organisation, these caveats plus the rather tendentious conclusions should raise alarm bells.

Or as John Naughton puts it:

“The sole purpose of “reports” such as this is to impress or intimidate politicians and regulators, many of whom still seem unaware of the extent to which international consulting firms are used by corporations to lend an aura of empirical respectability to hogwash.”

Yet reports like this with sensational conclusions seem a particular feature of commentary on the internet.

And especially so in respect of information security, last year the UK Government published figures saying UK cyber crime was costing £27 billion per year and not to be out-done Symantec suggested that the global figure was $388 billion.  The reality is that all these figures are unverifiable – and whilst I am quite clear that cyber-crime is a very serious problem for the world economy these estimates are, to use John Naughton’s word, “hogwash”.

Spurious precision – whether it is Symantec’s $388 billion or Facebook’s 232,000 jobs in Europe – should always be treated with caution.

Friday
Jan 27,2012

I am hearing a most bizarre rumour – even by the standards of bizarreness fostered by the Health and Social Care Bill.

Apparently, Ministers have instructed civil servants to draft an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill (which begins its Report Stage in the House of Lords on 8th February) to change the status of the proposed new local HealthWatch organisations.  These are the local structures that are being set up to protect the interests of patients in the brave new world of the “reformed” health service after the Bill is passed.  (I have already warned that the proposals for HealthWatch are flawed.)

I am told that under this amendment, local HealthWatch organisations will no longer be “statutory bodies” but will instead become “bodies carrying out statutory functions”.  This sounds – as, of course, it is meant to – like a trivial semantic point and the amendment will no doubt be presented as a technical change of no significance.

The reality is very different.

In fact, the change of status is important.  It implies a downgrading of local HealthWatch organisations and they will need all the clout they can muster if they are to be effective.  Some of that clout would come from being a statutory body in their own right.

But the real reason behind this change is that the local councils who are to set up the local HealthWatch organisations will now be required to put out to commercial tender the work of HealthWatch.  (You cannot tender for a statutory body, but you can tender for a body to carry out statutory functions.)  And as each individual HealthWatch organisation will have a budget above the level at which EU competition rules kick in, the tender will have to be advertised across the European Union in the Official Journal, so that firms and organisations from anywhere in Europe can compete to provide local consumer representation services.

I hate to think what these multiple tendering operations will cost and I fail to see how it is likely to lead to better quality local patient representation.

If this were some new health and safety requirement or some equal opportunities expectation, no doubt the newspapers would be wheeling out the “This is political correctness gone mad” headlines.

In fact, this is another example of the Health Secretary’s privatisation-mania, so all together now:

THIS IS PRIVATISATION GONE MAD.

Thursday
Jan 26,2012

Today’s Home Office Statistical Bulletin, certified by the Office for National Statistics, gives definitive figures for police numbers throughout the country.  And the figures for London are particularly striking:

  • Police officer numbers in the Metropolitan Police were 32,900 in September 2010, fell to 32,441 by March 2011, with a further fall to 31,657 in September 2011 – a loss of 1,243 officers over the year.
  • Police staff numbers were 14,047 in September 2010, falling to 13,688 by March 2011, and then to 13,126 in September 2011.
  • The number of Police Community Support Officers also fell over the same period: from 4,387 to 4,009 and then to 3,903.

Now I don’t believe that police numbers should be the only goal of policing policy.  Many duties are performed by warranted police officers that could be performed by police staff or by PCSOs, but these figures show big falls in all three categories – so, if anything, more police officers will be carrying out roles that could have been performed by people other than warranted police officers, as police staff jobs are back-filled by police officers.  The reduction in PCSOs will also impact directly on the uniformed presence on the streets.

These figures are not going to be good news for the Conservative Party who have been trying to pretend in their campaign to re-elect Boris Johnson as Mayor that police numbers are really improving and, of course, that there is no problem on London’s streets with violent crime and gang crime.

Thursday
Jan 26,2012

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime has, of course, its own acronym: MOPC (which I keep reminding everyone is pronounced Mopsy).

But the acronym has, of course, a number of other (longer-established) uses, such as the Mount Olive Pickle Company and Mouse Plasmacytoma Cells.

However, the acronym MOPC is also used widely to denote mobile body armour in the form of Condor’s Modular Operator Plate Carrier, pictured here:

Not to be confused with the standard issue anti-stab MetVest:
I just thought you’d like to know …..
Wednesday
Jan 25,2012

I was in meetings most of the day and did not get a chance to catch up on Prime Minister’s Questions.  Having seen the letter that Ed Miliband has sent to the Prime Minister, I am not sure I’ll bother.

The list of inaccurate claims made by David Cameron is extraordinary.  If any other politician was this “misleading” in their answers, they would be pilloried in the newspapers the following day.  However, I am not holding my breath.

Here is the text of Ed Miliband’s letter:

“Dear Prime Minister,

I wanted to write following this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions to draw your attention to some inaccurate claims you made today.

In an answer to me, you said that “There are more people in work today than there were at the time of the last election”. In fact, the most recent employment figures from the Office for National Statistics show that total employment between May-July 2010 and September-November 2011 fell by 26,000.

In an answer to Lindsay Roy MP, you said that the Merlin agreement “actually led to an increase in bank lending last year”. In fact, the latest Trends in Lending report from the Bank of England, published last Friday, said that “the stock of lending to SMEs contracted between end-April and end-November 2011”.

In an answer to Paul Maynard MP, you spoke of “the real shame… that there are so many millions of children who live in households where nobody works and indeed that number doubled under the previous government”. In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics, the number of children living in workless households fell by 372,000 between April-June 1997 and April-June 2010.

In an answer to Rt Hon Anne McGuire MP, who said that your Government was planning to cut benefits to disabled children, you said that “The Hon Lady is wrong”. In fact, according to page 28 of the Department for Work and Pensions’ own impact assessment on the introduction of universal credit, your policy of mirroring for disabled children the current adult eligibility for Disability Living Allowance means that the rate paid to those disabled children who do not qualify for the highest rate of the DLA care component “would be less than now (£26.75 instead of £53.84)”.

I am sure that you will want to take this opportunity to correct the record.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Miliband”

And  - just for the record – here are the sources:

1) Employment statistics: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/january-2012/table-a02.xls  And see also: http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-cameron-nailed-on-job-claims/9250

2) Bank lending – Bank of England “Trends in Lending” report (see p.4): http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/other/monetary/TrendsJanuary12.pdf

3) Figures for children in workless households: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/working-and-workless-households/2011/table-k.xls

4) Disabled children’s benefits – DWP impact assessment on universal credit (see p. 28):  http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/universal-credit-wr2011-ia.pdf

Tuesday
Jan 24,2012

It is well known that there has been a major drop in crime in New York.  What is more that drop in crime was twice the rate of fall in crime across the United States and has been sustained over a twenty year period.

So what was the secret of success?  And could it be translated to the UK and to London in particular?

Professor Franklin Zimring of the School of Law at Berkeley has applied scientific analysis to the figures and has come up with a number of interesting conclusions.  The improvement was not so-called “zero tolerance” policing, focussing on stopping the spread of crime into new areas.  Instead, the results were delivered by “hot spot” policing – robust, sustained policing of those areas with the highest rate of crime (especially violent crime).

The aim should be harm-minimisation as far as things like drug use are concerned (disrupting public drug markets where associated violent crime tends to happen, for example, rather than trying to eliminate drug use itself).

Crucially, he also finds that police numbers matter – provided those numbers are directed to the areas with the highest crime and, when there, officers police “robustly”.

He is also not convinced that simply locking criminals up cuts crime.  As he puts it:

“We used to think that all we could do with high-rate offenders is lock ‘em up or they’re going to offend on the street. But NYC has 28 % fewer people locked up in 2011 than in 1990. And it has 80 % less crime. The [individual] criminals didn’t go anywhere. They’re just doing less crime. So the bedrock of prediction on which incapacitate imprisonment was built, has turned out to be demonstrably false. And the proof of that is in New York City.

The data shows that the criminal activity of people coming back to NYC from the prisons dropped as the crime decline proceeded. In 1990 the odds that a prison released from prison coming to NYC would get reconvicted of a felony over the next three years was 28 %. But over the next 17 years, the odds of being reconvicted of a felony dropped to 10 percent.

The street situation changed and so had the things that their friends were doing. People were now smoking marijuana and drinking wine. Cocaine use was down. Street robbery has gone down 84 %. Burglaries 86 %. And that meant that the people that the released offender used to hang out with as a persistent offender from a high-risk neighborhood, are no longer doing those things. So he’s not doing crimes with them.”

This obviously has implications for the current debates on prison numbers and suggests that Kenneth Clarke’s approach is potentially right, if – and it is a big if – the rest of  Zimring’s conclusions are taken on board.

So what else does his work mean for policy here?

It certainly implies that police numbers are important and that the last Labour Government (and the last Mayor in London) were right to boost the number of police.  The cuts envisaged by the present Government and those that are being carried out quietly in London by the present Mayor are therefore almost certainly unhelpful. (The lack of certainty derives from the fact that it does, of course, depend on what the police officers remaining are actually doing and whether their activity is in fact robustly tackling crime hot spots.)

It also suggests that policies favouring policing the suburbs at the expense of the areas with higher crime that tend to be in the inner cities are misconceived.

I suspect that the robust and sustained “disruptive” policing of crime hot spots is consistent with the approach that Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe would wish to follow.  It will be interesting to see whether this is encouraged by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC – pronounced “Mopsy”) or whether the MOPC will be nervous about the political implications in the run up to the Mayoral elections in May.

 

Monday
Jan 23,2012

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations states that:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and right.  They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

The words are familiar, but the reference to dignity perhaps does not get as much attention as it might – particularly for those who are in hospital or residential care.  The Social Care Institute for Excellence has published its own guidance on the subject which says:

“Dignity is at the heart of personalisation. Dignity means treating people who need care as individuals and enabling them to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control over their own lives. It means that professionals should support people with the respect they would want for themselves or a member of their family.”

I recently met representatives of the National Dignity Council who persuaded me to become a Dignity Champion.  As they explained:

“A Dignity Champion is someone who believes passionately that being treated with dignity is a basic human right, not an optional extra. They believe that care services must be compassionate, person centred, as well as efficient, and are willing to try to do something to achieve this.

Dignity Champions are willing to:

    • stand up and challenge disrespectful behaviour rather than just tolerate it;
    • act as good role models by treating other people with respect, particularly those who are less able to stand up for themselves;
    • speak up about Dignity to improve the way that services are organised and delivered;
    • influence and inform colleagues;
    • listen to and understand the views and experiences of citizens.

Champions are all committed to taking action, however small, to create a care system that has compassion and respect for those using its services. Each Dignity Champion’s role varies depending on their knowledge and influence and the type of work they are involved in. There are many small things that you can do that can have a big impact on people’s lives, as well as taking on a more active role if you have the time to do so.

Dignity Champions include health and social care managers and frontline staff. They also include doctors, dieticians, porters, care workers in care homes, MPs, councillors, members of local action groups and Local Involvement Networks (LINks), and people from voluntary and advocacy organisations. People who use care services, their relatives and carers as well as members of the public are becoming Dignity Champions.”

I am prepared to play my part and join what I am told are 35,000 Champions already recruited around the country.

Are you?

Monday
Jan 23,2012

Photo of Prescott Police DepartmentPress stories over the weekend have suggested that my colleague in the House of Lords, John Prescott, might consider standing as Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside in the autumn.

I have no idea whether he is seriously thinking of doing so – he didn’t mention it when I saw him on Thursday, but that doesn’t prove anything either way.

However, one thing I am certain of is that he is not the sort of person that David Cameron had in mind when he first dreamt up the idea of elected Police Commissioners.

Yet in many ways, John Prescott would be ideal.  He is high profile and well-known; he has a wealth of senior-level experience (Deputy Prime Minister after all – perhaps Nick Clegg ought to sacrifice/offer himself to the people of South Yorkshire); and he is more than robust enough to stand up to any Chief Constable and hold them to account.

And after all profile, experience and toughness are the core attributes of any potential Police and Crime Commissioner candidate.

Block Watch Sign

Bike Patrol Officers

School Resource Officer