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:
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.
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime has, of course, its own acronym: MOPC (which I keep reminding everyone is pronounced Mopsy).
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:
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.
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
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.
Press 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.
The Government’s e-petition site has rejected an e-petition calling on the Government to improve “the flow of passengers through busy London Underground stations” by installing slides in place of escalators. The e-petition also suggests that:
“Small prizes should be available for those reaching the bottom in the fastest time. These would be paid for out of the savings of not having to maintain and operate down escalators.”
The e-petition has been rejected because this is a matter for a devolved authority – in this case the Mayor of London – and therefore it is for the Mayor of London to consider this proposal.
I see Mark D’Arcy has picked up on the rumours that have been sweeping the House of Lords for the last few weeks that Number Ten is about to announce the appointment of another sixty life peers: forty Tories; fifteen LibDems and five Labour. This would be a net gain for the coalition of fifty votes – enough to swamp two of the three defeats that the Government suffered on the Welfare Reform Bill last week.
The current membership of the House of Lords is a whopping 787 (excluding 22 peers who are on leave of absence and 17 who are disqualified or suspended for one reason or another). The new additions (which would mean approaching two hundred – yes, two hundred – new peers since the General Election) will bring the size of the House of Lords to 847. (Contrast this with the plans to cut the elected House of Commons by fifty members.)
The extra members will make the Tories the largest grouping in the House of Lords and give the combined coalition 364 members against Labour’s 244 – an effective majority of 120. (Although there are 186 cross-benchers they tend to split on votes with some supporting the Government and some opposing and their rates of participation tend to be lower as well.)
Anywhere else in the world this would be regarded as packing the legislature, termed as gerrymandering or deemed to be crony politics of the worst sort.
The scale of increase of membership far exceeds that an any previous time in the House of Lords’ history.
In the two years since the General Election, the Government has been defeated 28 times in the House of Lords – in all but a handful of instances the margins of defeat have been less than fifty. So had the new peers been in place most of those defeats would not have happened. Twenty-eight defeats over two years is in any event a small number compared with the average of more than forty defeats a year during the lifetime of the last Labour Government.
The cost of the extra peers will be two to three million pounds per year – so I suppose from the coalition’s point of view that will be money well spent to ensure that they are not troubled with poor quality ill-thought through legislation being sent back to the House of Commons for reconsideration.
“The Metropolitan Police Authority was established in July 2000 as a by-product of the legislation that also created the London Mayoralty, the GLA and the London Assembly. Until then the Metropolitan Police had been solely accountable to the Home Secretary, who was uniquely the Police Authority for London.
The MPA is now to be abolished and replaced by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC – pronounced “MOPSY”) as a by-product of the legislation that will see Policing and Crime Commissioners elected outside London in November.
The MPA’s final meeting is taking place today and the MOPC will take over responsibility on Monday 16th January.
So what did the MPA achieve in its eleven and a half years of existence?
The early years of the MPA saw a dramatic transformation in the Metropolitan Police. In 2000 morale in the Service was poor, more officers left the Met each month than joined (police numbers had declined each year for a decade), public confidence was low, financial controls were virtually non-existent (the Met had no system for telling if bills had been paid more than once) and the quality of many serious investigations was poor. The first tasks of the new Authority included the introduction of financial controls and discipline; establishing a new culture of openness and accountability; and reversing the decline in the number of police officers so that the MPS saw the most significant increase in its size in its history.
This was followed by a sustained focus on turning round street crime and cutting burglary. The MPA led the way nationally on the introduction of Police Community Support Officers and then the setting up of the first Safer Neighbourhood Teams before rolling them out across London.
This contribution led to a general increase in public confidence in the police service, but specific initiatives led by the MPA on stop and search, on hate crime, and on recruitment and retention of black and minority officers also changed perceptions of the Met.
Inevitably, the direction of travel changed somewhat with a change in administration in City Hall after the 2008 elections, but the MPA continued to deliver a much clearer visible accountability of the police in London than had existed before.
Certainly, throughout its life the MPA has ensured that far more information about the policing of London has been put in the public domain. The MPA also meant that the Commissioner and senior officers were seen to answer questions in public at full Authority meetings and at its Committees. And this was supplemented by detailed MPA scrutinies ranging from rape investigation and victim care to counter-terrorism policing, crime data recording to mental health policing, and landmark reports on the Stockwell shooting, of the Race and Faith Inquiry, and on public order policing.
So will all this disappear with the MOPC?
The first thing to emphasise is that London’s model will – as ever – be different from that in the rest of the country. There will not be a directly-elected Police and Crime Commissioner. Instead, the functions will be carried out by the MOPC, led by an appointed Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime.
The policing priorities will be set by the MOPC and it remains to be seen how much these will change from those previously set by the MPA with its more widely drawn membership.
The real danger is, of course, that much of the visible accountability and answerability will be lost. Some will be provided by the London Assembly who will have a new and enhanced role in respect of policing and crime, but their focus – as envisaged by the new statute – will be very much on the MOPC and not on the police service itself.
How this will develop will depend on the personalities involved – both at the MOPC and on the Assembly – and on the willingness of the Met itself to be open and transparent. There are certainly no guarantees on any of this, yet police accountability in the capital will remain as important as ever – as the events of the last few months have demonstrated.
Perhaps the message is watch this space.”
Just in case LibDems in London were in any doubt about Tory triumphalism, the LibDem role as (very) junior partners in the coalition and what the Government’s stance on Europe is all about James Cleverly AM, Leader of the Tory Group on the London Assembly, has spelt it out:
“The Indi is running a story about a potential “rift” between Clegg and Cameron over Europe and the veto. This is such a non-story, Clegg’s position on Europe is well known. Cameron’s position on Europe has been made clear and is much more in tune with the wishes of the British people.
David Cameron is the Prime Minister and his position is both right and popular. Nick Clegg is not Prime Minister and his position is wrong and unpopular. Bets please on whose views will win out.”
At some point, the LibDems are going to realise that their post-General Election sell-out to the Tories is getting them nowhere …..
In March of last year I tried (innocently) to find out whether Home Office Ministers spent more time meeting the police leadership of the Metropolitan Police or the political leadership of the Metropolitan Police.
The saga – for anyone still listening – is reprised here.
In November, I formally raised the strange refusal of the Home Office to divulge this information with the Information Commissioner.
On 11th November his office responded saying:
“I have today spoken to the Home Office regarding your complaint; they have acknowledged there have been significant delays in responding to your information request. I have been advised that you will be getting a response within the next five working days.”
You might think that this would be progress. (Admittedly, the Information Commissioner’s Office were less confident saying that “If the Home Office responds and refuses to release the information you have asked for and you are dissatisfied, you may, after exhausting their internal complaints procedure, complain to us again.” They’d clearly been there before.)
In any event, with mounting excitement that I was about to see a response from the Home Office I waited for five working days.
And then another five working days.
And then five more working days.
Suffering a patience failure (if not a sense of humour failure), I left a telephone message for the Information Commissioner.
And his office responded on 7th December saying:
“I have today spoken to the Home Office who have advised me that they have in fact not sent out any response to your information request. In the light of this information I have passed the case to our case resolution team who will contact you as soon as possible to explain how your complaint will be progressed.”
And guess what?
I am still waiting.