There is much debate taking place at the moment about Police Reform in general and Police Pensions in particular. My views are simple:-
Police Reform – If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, if it is broke let’s make it the very best we can
Police Pensions – If you tinker with any Pension Scheme it should not apply to existing members. It’s like moving the goalposts (literally) just after one team has scored. Members are left in a scheme they did not ask to be in, whereas new members can make a free choice, join or not to join. I think it is perfectly reasonable, and some may say the norm, to plan your retirement long before it comes. Very difficult to do that in this day and age when some prat is going to come along and change things, pulling the rug from under your feet. I can see the attraction for HMG to change the Pension Scheme and why they can’t wait, but that don’t make it right!
Who needs Winsor? I’ve just done an Independent Review in 5 minutes.
I shall now get down to the subject of today’s missive, naming and shaming. If you have no interest in the Freedom of Information Act and what it can bring you stop reading now because that’s all there is for the rest of today’s chapter.
As you will no doubt remember the Freedom of Information Act 2000 allows the relevant Authority 20 working days to answer the request, I normally take this to mean 1 month as it’s easier for me to keep track of. On 9th July I sent off a request to all of the Police Forces plus the Home Office asking for details of any Staff Satisfaction surveys they may have conducted over the past 5 years on behalf of one of our number. 2 months later and I still haven’t any sort of reply from Dorset, North Yorkshire, South Wales, Sussex, West Midlands and West Yorkshire. They can be the first into RetiredAndAngry’s Hall of Shame. I feel I should also let Cambridge slip in as they actually refused to supply the information on the grounds that they have taken a decision to publish on some unspecified date in the future.
Next we come to my personal favourite, the Queen’s Half Hour. I have finally had a response from every Police Service in England and Wales, although by no means all of them replied within 20 days. If you would like to know how that affects my previous calculations, or would like the data for your Force area, you only have to ask and I’ll let you have it. The Namers and Shamers in this category belong to the Forces that didn’t give me any data at all. First we have the Refusers:- Bedfordshire, Devon & Cornwall, Durham, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, South Wales, Suffolk and West Mercia.
These are closely followed by those that claim that they CAN’T produce the data:- Essex, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, Surrey, Warwickshire and Wiltshire.
Most, if not all, of the Refusers refused on the grounds that it would cost more than £450 (the Home Office has a higher limit of £600) to provide the answer. Well, call me old-fashioned, but I really can’t see why it should cost more than £450 to interrogate their systems. The only conclusion that I can reach is that are using obsolete accounting systems which don’t allow for this sort of query. Of the Services that couldn’t produce the data almost all of them claimed that their systems did not not differentiate between Planned and Un-Planned (or Casual) overtime and would therefore have to look at thousands of hard-copy overtime claims to supply the answer, which would have brought it into the more than £450 category. Not technically a refusal, but the end result is the same.
Another of my quests was to obtain from the Home Office documentation in relation to the appointment of Mr Tom Winsor as Chief Inspector HMIC. The Home Office now enters the RetiredAndAngry Hall of Shame as a Refuser. The reply I got back from the Home Office included these 2 paragraphs “Thank you for your e-mail of 9th June 2012. You specifically requested all documentation, in hard copy or electronic form, exchanged between the Home Secretary and officials within the Home Office that relates to Tom Winsor’s selection for the Chief Inspector post at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (‘HMIC’). In addition, you specifically requested that this information include minutes of all meetings held by the selection panel and notes made by the selection panel members. Your request has been handled as a request for information under the Freedom of Information (‘FOI’) Act 2000.
The Home Office will not be providing you with this information because we consider the cost of complying with your request exceeds the specified cost limit. This exemption falls within the scope of section 12 of the FOI Act 2000, which specifically exempts a public authority from complying with a request where the cost of compliance exceeds the appropriate limit.“
Finally, my Lifetime Achievement Award has to go the The Home Office. My experience of dealing with the Home Office has been that they appear to make life as difficult as possible. I don’t remember that I have ever received a response from them within the statutory 20 days. When I send them a quick reminder that they are overdue my response is then sent to me within an hour or tow, making me think that it was there all along and they were just making me wait, to be awkward. If one’s request contains more than 1 part they are prone to forget anything after the 1st part and then award themselves a further 209 days to answer what they should have answered the 1st time.
On 4th July 2012 I wrote to them seeking clarification on the matter of payment to Tom Winsor and/or White and Case in relation to Tom Winsor’s Independent Review. I have still not had an answer from them, so that incensed me to the point where I have formally requested a Review of their handling of my request.
The Home Office also issued me with a Refusal Notice when I asked for details of Mr Tom Winsor’s Pension arrangements when he takes over at HMIC. Fortunately HMIC themselves were more accommodating and pointed me in the right direction. I am probably Persona Non Grata at the Home Office by now.
So, there you have it Ladies and Gentlemen, the inaugural RetiredAndAngry Hall of Shame.
All information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act is deemed to be in the public domain, so if any of you would like to see the individual responses for your Force (sorry, Service) please add a comment below and I will do my very best to accommodate you.