When I chaired the Metropolitan Police Authority, there was an annual ritual at budget time, when the Conservative Group on the London Assembly would propose swingeing reductions in the public affairs budget of the Metropolitan Police.
I always took the view that for a police service the size of the Met it was important to spend money on public information and on anti-crime campaigns. Therefore, it was pleasing to see that now that Mayor Boris Johnson – who I understand still dabbles in weekend journalism to supplement his modest £144,000 Mayoral stipend – is in control at City Hall, he is proposing an increase of £1 million in the budget of the Met’s Directorate of Public Affairs (from £6,046,000 to £7,084,000 – a rise of 17%%).
And today, at the MPA’s Strategic Operational Policing Committee (SOP as it is known), Dick Fedorcio, the Met’s Director of Public Affairs, had the opportunity of presenting his Directorate’s performance report to show how hard-pressed it was.
Unfortunately, his report didn’t seem to convince all of those present. Indeed, no less a personage (if such a thing were possible) than Caroline Pidgeon AM (for it is she) was heard to say that the LibDem Shadow Budget (sic) clearly hadn’t asked for enough cuts in this area.
The big problem was the performance measures used to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 50 staff working on news, media management and corporate communication (to say nothing of the 5 working on internal communication, the 3 on e-communication and the 6 on marketing/publicity plus their 10 administrative staff and not counting the estimated 70 other staff working on publicity dotted round the organisation).
Impressively the report claims that publicity staff had “dealt with” 138 new murders in 2008/9 and “managed” 18 public order events – although presumably the police officers deployed to catch the murderers and those policing the various public order events may also have played a part ….
And the statistics on calls answered (78,192) and made (28,335) over a year led to the doubtless deeply unfair, but arithmetic, conclusion that 50 communications staff were each dealing with less than 5 incoming and 2 outgoing calls a day …..
Perhaps the Directorate needs to spend some of its £1 million increase to employ a spin-doctor to help it present itself to the wider world …..