If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It–What The Country Voted For

In Camoron’s first incarnation as the Nation’s Prime Minister he set about reforming the Legal System system, amongst others.  In doing so he aimed to save about £450 Million from Legal Aid bills.  This led to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO coming into force.

This Act, which personally I had never heard of before, seems to only apply to Civil cases, but some of those Civil cases might affect us at some point in our lives.  It has removed countless cases from the scope of the Legal Aid scheme.

LASPO reverses the position whereby legal aid is accessible for all civil cases other than those excluded by the Access to Justice Act 1999. Whole categories of law have been taken out of scope for legal aid; others only qualify if they meet certain criteria. The categories now out of scope include:

  1. Family cases where there is no proof of domestic violence, forced marriage or child abduction. There has been a 60% fall in family cases granted funding and two thirds of cases in the family court now feature somebody representing themselves.
  2. Immigration cases that do not involve asylum or detention
  3. Housing and debt matters unless they constitute an immediate risk to the home
  4. Welfare benefit cases; except appeals to the upper tribunal or high court
  5. Almost all clinical negligence cases
  6. Employment cases that do not involve human trafficking or a contravention of the Equality Act 2010

The 4 out of 6 that I have highlighted are the ones that are most likely to affect us at some time. Don’t think that Criminal Law has escaped either, as from last April the government has cut the Criminal Legal Aid budget by £215 Million as well.

To clarify, this is what I wrote about the (then) forthcoming changes on another site;

“Changes to legal aid

Welfare benefit appeals

You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you make an appeal against a decision on welfare benefits unless you’re making an appeal to the Upper Tribunal or higher courts.  So, once again our caring sharing government has excelled, not only do they slash benefits, ATOS assessments abound, everyone being forced off the rock and roll, but we’ve taken away the only way an unemployed/ill person can use to challenge that decision.  Without a sudden increase in charitable funding, how are these folk going to pay their legal fees to challenge what they undoubtedly see as an unfair assessment etc etc?  Surely this is akin to the school bully nicking your dinner money and then tying you up so you can’t tell anyone?  Or is it just me that thinks that?

Debt

You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you with your debts unless a creditor is making you bankrupt or taking court action to evict you from your home

Housing

You’ll no longer be able to get legal aid to help you with housing problems unless:

  • there’s serious disrepair in your home
  • you’re homeless
  • you’re being evicted from your home
  • the council is taking action against you because of anti-social behaviour.

Employment

You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with an employment dispute or go to an employment tribunal unless it’s a discrimination case.

Private family law

You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with private family law problems unless you’re a victim or are at risk of domestic violence or there has been or is a risk of child abuse These include:

  • divorce
  • dissolution of civil partnership
  • financial disputes
  • property disputes
  • disputes over children.

Asylum support

If you’re an asylum seeker, you won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with asylum support unless you have applied for both housing and financial support.

Non-asylum immigration

You won’t be able to get legal aid to help you with an immigration application unless you:

  • have been detained
  • make an application under the domestic violence rules
  • make an application because you’re a victim of human trafficking.

Education

You won’t get legal aid to help with education problems unless the child or young adult has Special Educational Needs.

Consumer and general contract law

You won’t get legal aid for any action you want to take for consumer problems or problems you have with general contracts.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority cases

You won’t get legal aid to help with the costs of trying to get compensation because you’ve suffered a criminal injury.

Clinical negligence cases

You won’t get legal aid for most clinical negligence problems.

What will you still be able to get legal aid for

You’ll still be able to get legal aid for the following problems:

  • care proceedings
  • family mediation
  • asylum applications
  • mental health proceedings
  • community care cases
  • discrimination. “

I seem to recall reading somewhere previously that we can no longer get Legal Aid to challenge Government Decisions but as I write I can’t quite lay my hands on that gem, or I might just be getting old.  I did however find this which might mean that I’m NOT going senile.

“In a judgment handed down on 3rd March 2015, the High Court ruled that regulations brought in by Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor, in April 2014 to cut legal aid funding for judicial review are unlawful.

The case hinged on the MoJ’s decision to restrict legal aid for Judicial Review challenges of decisions made by public bodies

Now we’ve had our General Election and the country voted.  They voted Tory and brought in a (small) majority government with Camoron at the helm.

One of his avowed policies is to scrap the Human Rights Act.  By doing so he will be removing the following collection of Rights from the Statute Book

  • The right to life
  • The right not to be tortured
  • The right not to be a slave
  • The right to a fair trial
  • The right NOT to be punished if you haven’t broken the law
  • The right to private family life
  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion
  • The right to freedom of expression
  • The right to marry and start a family
  • The right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions
  • The right to education
  • The right to free elections
  • The right NOT to be given to death penalty

Some are clearly more important than others, and I’m certainly not saying that these rights and this Act won’t be replaced by something else, but what guarantees do we have?  Do we trust a Tory government not to weaken our basic Human Rights? Will there be a replacement Act?  Why replace the one we have?

People of Britain this is what you got when you voted.  Personally I’d rather not replace something unless it’s broke. In terms of Public Protection we seem to be considerably worse off than we were.

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Take No Notice It’s Just Me Sounding Off

It’s one of those days today, you know, one of those days when you just want to shout out loud and get ‘stuff’ off your chest. Well today is one of those days, so if you can’t be arsed to stay and read it that’s fine be me, hopefully I’ll see you another day soon.

Today’s issue is nothing new, it’s ‘The Cuts’.  I have written extensively on another site about Government Wastage and tried to put together in one place many of the instances where this government, and the previous one, has wasted BILLIONS of pounds. Enough money has been wasted to bolster many of our Public Services for quite some time.  I won’t waste your time going over them again you can read them elsewhere if you really want to.

I earned my Spurs in a Police FORCE that did not want for funding.  I have no problem whatsoever with ‘Efficiency Drives’, in current times it is more important than ever to be as ‘efficient’ as we can be. However, the simple formula is this; it costs £xxxxxxxxx per annum to Police London, Liverpool, Manchester, Yorkshire, DeadBadgerShire etc. that is a fact. If you reduce their funding, in its simplest terms, that means that SOMETHING WONT GET DONE.

I’ll talk about Policing because that’s the world I know, but the comments apply equally to the NHS, Armed Forces, Education etc etc.

Policing is not a retail industry, they don’t sell anything to make money, there are no shares to sell to generate extra income.  It always used to be, before the wonderful days of ‘Devolved Budgeting’, that the Home Office (or Police Authority) allocated an amount of money each year to Police the area. In London, if that pot of money ran out the Commissioner could ask for more from the Home Office (don’t laugh, it’s true).

Is The College Of Policing Selective With Its Communications?

I guess we’re all coming to terms with the College of Policing, and frankly I’m glad that I don’t have to concern myself with it unduly.

We recently (12th March)  heard about their National Scrutiny of Undercover Policing, but in reality that panel had their first meeting in July 2014. Had anybody heard about this controversial panel before March 2015?  Not exactly timely communication from the College.

On 20th March the College published their Interim Review of Leadership which contained a recommendation that Specials could be promoted to Sergeant ( or above) if they met the National Criteria and give Operational Directions to Regular officers. This was not reported by Police Oracle until 10th April, and I for one haven’t seen it reported in the Traditional national Press at all.  Officers who have given up many hours of their own time to study for promotion to Sergeant are understandably not best pleased.

Is this a case of the College not pushing some of the more controversial parts of their Review, or is it the National Media choosing not to report it?

On 31st March they published information that as of April(!) PCSOs would be given new powers.

Changes to the powers of police community support officers (PCSOs) have been outlined in a new booklet going out to forces across England and Wales in April.

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 created additional powers for PCSOs and chief officers should decide which they will grant to PCSOs in their force areas.

These include
• seizing property
• to confirm the identity of a charity collector
• issuing fixed penalty notices for parking in a restricted area outside schools; causing unnecessary noise; cycling without lights and carrying a passenger on a cycle.

The same Act has created a number of offences relating specifically to PCSOs, namely;
• assaulting a PCSO in the execution of their duty;
• resisting or wilfully obstructing a PCSO in the execution of their duty
• impersonating, or falsely claiming to be, a PCSO with intent to deceive
• being a PCSO and making a false suggestion that one possesses powers that exceed those designated by the chief officer.

Local Policing lead at the College of Policing, Chief Superintendent Paul Phillips, said:

“Police community support officers help to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour. They make people feel safer in their communities and are closing the gap between crime and the fear of crime.

This is obviously not a College Initiative, it most likely forms part of #MaysMayhem, but the College did choose to publicise it right at the very last minute.  I hadn’t previously heard of this, and if I hadn’t been rummaging around the College website I would probably still be unaware.

So I dare say the government should take a share of the blame for this one, but has anybody seen the ‘booklet’ yet? Had anybody heard of this decision before 31st March?  Once they’d taken the decision to publish, should the College have publicised it sooner?

All I know is that things are pretty rotten in the world of Policing at the moment and I don’t see the College doing a single thing to improve conditions on the Front Line or improve that all-important element MORALE.

Glad I’m out.

Have Your say – Let’s Tell HMG How The Police Service SHOULD Be

In just a few weeks Call Me Dave will hopefully be an unpleasant memory, and regardless of who gets in the shape of Policing is destined to change even more than it has already.

I have devised a short series of questions to establish what the POPULATION thinks. Police, Ex Police, Never-Been-Police, all are welcome to take part.

Please RT as far as you can, the more answers we get, the more weight behind the arguments.

There is no particular order to the questions, merely how they came into my random mind.  If you want to suggest a SENSIBLE question please do so and I will include it.

Interim results will be published next Friday, 3rd April 2015.  Once the results are compiled I’ll have a crack at getting someone interested in them.

Thank you for your time and interest. Good Luck.

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And now an extra question;

One more question, multiple choice;

When The Music Stops or #CutsHaveConsequences

#CutsHaveConsequences is a hashtag that’s been used a lot in the past few weeks, and rightly so. It got me to thinking.

Every single Force in the land has suffered cuts since 2010, all in the name of Austerity. Their respective PCC and Chief a Constable have formed plans to cope with the savagely slashed budgets.

In London Boris seems to have made selling off the family silver one his priorities.

The big one that hit all the headlines was the selling off of New Scotland Yard.  Bought for £123.5 million in 2008, it sold last year for £350, a nice little earner.  I suspect there will be some Tax to pay on the profit.  I suspect there will be costs associated with the move out of NSY to Curtis Green Building and I believe that the Met proposes spending between £30 and $50 million pounds to refurb Curtis Green and make it fit for purpose.

The profit margins are receding.

Then there is the fact that the Met has sold off about 35 of its major buildings including nearly 30 Police Stations for about £125 million.and Boris apparently plans to sell off up to 200 properties across London, although admittedly that figure will include Married Quarters and Section Houses.  Ultimately he proposes reducing the number of residential properties from 862 to a mere 200.

Now the thing that gets me about all this frenzied selling off is “where do the people go?”  Has the Met suddenly taken up Hot Desking?  The people displaced from NSY will not all fit into Curtis Green Building.  Other ‘support’ buildings are also threatened with closure.

In any or all of these buildings there will be (not an exhaustive list by any means);

  • People answering telephones
  • People operating computers
  • Desks for people to work at
  • Lockers for the Operational Officers (and hopefully some changing facilities)
  • Rooms set aside for specific Teams/Squads
  • Filing Cabinets (the Met still has a mountain of paper not yet shredded)
  • Garage facilities for the car
  • Car Parking facilities if you’re lucky and a member of the SMT

Am I being thick here, but if you reduce the number of buildings, the people who worked there either have to be displaced elsewhere or ‘got rid of’.

If they’re displaced elsewhere those elsewheres become overcrowded do they not?

If they’re ‘got rid of and join the ‘disappeared’ somebody else has to take up their work and increase their own workload.  I do not believe that there was a mound of spare capacity just waiting for extra work to land.

This here Austerity is due to be with us until at least 2019 allegedly.  Boris’s £125 million won’t last him very long and where will he get the next bundle of cash from once it has run out?  Why should he care? He won’t be Mayor for much longer.

Do not think for one moment that this is anywhere near the End Game, it isn’t, and if Austerity can knock the Met sideways like this, just think what it’s doing for your local Force.

So, when the music stops, grab a chair, grab a locker or grab an office.  They may not be with us much longer, Tesco et al could become the norm.

LeytonstonePolice_McLellan-23.jpg MCILG-police-206.jpgNo, these officers are not taking a sneaky break, they’re there officially to ‘meet the public’ rather than have a Front Counter remain open.  The police officers had no desk, no private area where they could speak to members of the public in confidence, no means of logging on to the police national computer etc, and they appear not to have official forms.

Contact Points, Coffee With A Cop, Chat With A Cop, call them what you may, they’re a pretty poor substitute for going to the local nick, with all the necessary forms and computers at hand, to report whatever is on your mind. AND NOT BEING OVERHEARD BY THE LOUT WAITING FOR A LATTE.

Time For Change?

A bit of banter between Twitsters yesterday gave birth to a #Hashtag.

@Roman_Viterus (yes, him again) put forward the suggestion that the Police Federation of England and Wales should be staffed not by serving officers but by retired officers.

As you can imagine, this very quickly provoked many responses.

Some were, for varied reasons, violently opposed to this suggestion.

Some were, equally vehemently, in favour.

Others were maybe non-committal but receptive to the idea, but with the exception of a small minority, most seemed to be in agreement that some form of change is needed.

One reason against retired officers running the Fed was that they’re dinosaurs and out of touch.

One of the reasons in favour was that retired officers would be far less likely to crumble under pressure from ACPO and government, precisely because they are NOT serving, and not subject to the same regime.  Like it or not, that is how many outside the Federation see it.

One concern that was voiced was that replacement of the Fed with retired officers or civvies might lead to a short-term success but then an experienced void would be left, and the Service would actually be worse off.

I’m not certain that is necessarily true, but why shy away from change because of fear of the potential consequences. Nothing will change if nothing changes.

I am one of those out of touch dinosaurs, I admit it, but as a retired officer I hear things that disturb me. I have read allegations of bullying, sexism and extravagance about the National Fed. I have no idea if they are true, but it’s out there damaging the image.

I have heard members complaining about lack of support from the Federation. Again, I have no personal knowledge, but if the officers feel betrayed and let down that’s not an image that the Federation should portray or accept.

As a retired officer I have heard that the Federation are not supporting members, like myself, whose pension commutation seems to have been reduced by the government. I paid my subs for 30 years and I would expect the Fed to represent me, and the thousands like me in the same position, on any matter in relation to my pension, not just cast us adrift as ex-members.

If these things are untrue, let’s hear the truth.

It’s not my place to dictate what should happen, nor could I, but I don’t see any problem with sparking a debate. Let’s have some ideas. Does the Federation need to change or are we happy with what we have?

Is it lawful, or desirable, for the Fed to buy in some expertise from a relevant, large Union? As far as I know that would be innovative, but would it be useful?  I previously posted a blog promoting the idea that the affected services work together in some way.  I don’t know if that’s feasible, but struggling on in isolation isn’t getting us anywhere.  Slowly, slowly the other public services are achieving small concessions from Central Govt.  What concessions have we achieved?

Is there a case for a panel of Retired Police Officers, to be consulted on matters of policy and major disputes? Would their input be desirable or of any value?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti Federation and I have absolutely no idea what goes on at Leatherhead.  The Police Federation have been brilliant in the past, and have much to be proud of, but Modern Problems require Modern Thinking, and I’m not seeing much of that come out of Leatherhead.  Again, the individual offices have been doing some sterling work, and I’m loving the series of #CutsHaveConsequences videos (which I believe the public are supportive of too) but I’m seeing no signs of co-ordination from HQ.  Am I missing something here?

What do you think? Does the Fed need to change? If so, how? As a total outsider now, I would say that some sort of change would seem appropriate, but what that change should be I’m far from clear about. I have a soft spot for the Fed, I was a Local Rep myself for a short period of time, but like other things about the Police, I don’t quite recognise everything I see now, and I’m not always happy about that.

I realise that not all of these comments can be universally popular with everyone, but if it stirs debate and leads to some kind of change for the good, then it will have been worth it.

Have your say and use the #Hashtag #FedChange.

Goodwill

I was prompted to write this by a recent Tweet;

One of our more recent Twitterers, @roman_virtus, reminding me of the importance of Goodwill.

I only have personal, first-hand experience of two of the Public Services, the Health Service and the Police Service. Both were heavily impregnated with a rich stream of Goodwill.

The politicians will not like it, but it’s only Goodwill that makes the Job work sometimes. I have seen officers stay on past the end of their shift to finish what they’re doing. Not for the overtime (minus the first 30 minutes of course, who on earth signed up for that one?), but for a job well done. To give the Public the Personal Touch, the level of service they deserve.

I have seen officers change their Rest Days so that one of their colleagues could have Time Off that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to have.

I have seen Officers cover for colleagues, without recompense, so that a colleague could take their child to a hospital appointment.

I have seen officers working on beyond their scheduled Tour of Duty without claiming overtime, because they KNOW that money is short.

These things are called Goodwill. The Job wouldn’t work anywhere near as well without it., The government squeeze and slash, in the last 5 years they have got rid of 17,000 full time officers. Just reflect for one moment and think of the effect that withdrawing Goodwill would have.

Officers know the shortcuts. Not because they are lazy, but they know the practicalities of getting the job done. If everything was done by the book, the way the #DoItRight campaign would have things done, it would take twice as long, and the end result would be the same. Withdrawing Goodwill would have exactly the same effect.

Make no mistake, we are about to lose a few thousand MORE officers under the government’s next round of Austerity cuts, destined to last until about 2019 ish.

Can you imagine that?

Some things need numbers. I am not opposed to increasing efficiency in order to reduce numbers slightly, but the final total should be dictated by need not Economics. If you do that, you, The Public, suffer. Police Officers are also The Public. They have your interests at heart, honestly they do.

Never underestimate the true worth of Goodwill.