Interviews to happen with 8 consultancy firms over tender for confidential advice on cuts to Merseyside’s police and fire services

Interviews to happen with 8 consultancy firms over tender for confidential advice on cuts to Merseyside’s police and fire services                              In the interests of openness and transparency I’ll declare at the outset that I’m the Appellant in a sub judice First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) case involving Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (2nd Respondent). I … Continue reading “Interviews to happen with 8 consultancy firms over tender for confidential advice on cuts to Merseyside’s police and fire services”

Interviews to happen with 8 consultancy firms over tender for confidential advice on cuts to Merseyside’s police and fire services

                            

In the interests of openness and transparency I’ll declare at the outset that I’m the Appellant in a sub judice First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) case involving Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (2nd Respondent).


I was briefly remembering what happened five years ago in 2011.

Five years ago (well four years and ten months ago) if you remember it was the summer when there were riots. The riots were so widespread the police had difficulty coping. It was similar reasons that led to the 1981 Toxteth riots.

The Lib Dems’ attitude towards ethnic minorities was unfortunately the kind of attitude (especially from one of the two parties in the Coalition government at the time) that led to the riots. I remember vividly being at a North West Lib Dem regional conference where a party member stood up and proudly stated to the entire room of dozens of party activists that he would never choose a candidate from an ethnic minority background. So if you wondered why all the Lib Dem MPs (and indeed many of their councillors) were white, male and pale you should understand now!

There was of course an uproar from those from ethnic minorities in the room and the chair had to settle things down before the person who’d said it got drowned out through a lot of shouting.

In 2011 a black man Mark Duggan was shot dead by the police, in 1981 the Toxteth riots followed the Brixton riots which were also triggered by poor relations between the police and ethnic minorities.

In fact I know someone who wrote a book From the Empire to the Rialto: Racism and Reaction in Liverpool 1918-1948 that discusses the reasons behind the Toxteth riots in more detail.

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Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s Police and Fire Collaboration Committee 7th June 2016

However what’s the point of mentioning the above? Well Tuesday’s meeting of the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee (you can watch video of the 13 minute meeting above) reminded me of a change in the culture of the police. A long time ago I used to report on the Merseyside Police Authority (before there was a Police and Crime Commissioner who started in November 2012), so I remember how matters involving Merseyside Police used to be.

In fact when I used to report on the Merseyside Police Authority it was obvious from the statistics shown to councillors that you were still far more likely to be stop searched in the Wirral area (although there were problems all over Merseyside to varying degrees) if you were from an ethnic minority background.

When Deputy Chief Constable, Andy Cooke, QPM (soon to be Chief Constable) didn’t use his microphone during the Police and Crime Collaboration Committee and my wife said she couldn’t hear, he apologised to my wife and turned it on.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Cooke (with his microphone on) at the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 7th June 2016
Deputy Chief Constable Andy Cooke (with his microphone on) at the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority 7th June 2016

This shows things have changed. The police "half" of the committee has learnt from bitter experience that it is better to apologise, learn from and correct their mistakes and move on. This is indeed the very hard to learn cultural lesson to be take away from high profile matters that happened a long time ago involving the police as a whole.

One of the nine Peelian principles is, “To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.”

However the fire service/fire authority culture is different. The Chair interrupted the meeting to tell my wife off for interrupting (which he does while looking directly at me rather than her).

I’m really am not entirely sure why he looked at me when he was saying this rather than her? Did he want me to say something to her? Is he not aware of Article 21(1)?

I suppose I should just be glad that he didn’t start ranting at me like his former Labour colleague Cllr Niblock (who until recently was on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) once did.

Just for clarity I was standing up behind the camera, she was sitting down to my left. So you’d have to look in completely different directions to face myself or Leonora. You can hear clearly my response to him on the video above.

Bear in mind that already during the meeting two people had commented on the minutes and hadn’t ask permission for the Chair to speak and aren’t on the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee itself.

The Chair indeed didn’t say anything to them (for the purposes of clarity those two were I think from memory the Deputy Chief Constable referred to above and if I am correct the Chief of Staff for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner)!

The recently elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside Jane Kennedy wasn’t there. Her Deputy PCC Cllr Sue Murphy was (yes Jane Kennedy had previously stated she wouldn’t have a deputy but changed her mind part way through her previous term of office). Thankfully this meant the meeting started on time as a previous meeting of this Committee had been delayed from starting because Jane Kennedy arrived late and the person chairing the meeting didn’t want to start without her.

The meeting of the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee agreed to hire consultants to advise them on how Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (and Authority) and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside can work better together.

I realise some may well comment along the lines of isn’t this what managers in the public sector on six-figure salaries are paid to do? However have you ever heard of a public sector manager either volunteering to offer themselves the sack or massively reducing the headcount they manage?

Yet in these times of seemingly never ending austerity, you the 1.4 million members of the public on Merseyside who finance the fire service may well ask why does more money need to be spent on consultants?

Eight organisations have applied for the role and there will be interviews later this month. You can read the detail here.

There are many areas within the Corporate Services Review, you can read the list on page 3 here.

Unusually (as they seem to have been quite vocal at previous meetings about the impact on jobs) as far as I could tell the trade union representatives weren’t present for this meeting.

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Police and Fire Collaboration Committee meet today to discuss consultation response and shared services

Police and Fire Collaboration Committee meet today to discuss consultation response and shared services

Police and Fire Collaboration Committee meet today to discuss consultation response and shared services

                                                                

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority Police and Fire Collaboration Committee 1st September 2015 Left Jane Kennedy (Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside) Right Sir John Murphy (Chief Constable, Merseyside Police)
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority Police and Fire Collaboration Committee 1st September 2015 Left Jane Kennedy (Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside) Right Sir John Murphy (Chief Constable, Merseyside Police)

The Police and Fire Collaboration Committee, which met last month and was adjourned is meeting again today to consider two items.

The first item is a response to the government’s Enabling closer working between the emergency services consultation, a consultation I previously wrote about on this blog under the headline Why is the government consulting on abolishing fire and rescue authorities in England?

The proposed responses to the consultation questions are part of the papers for the meeting. The same report and consultation response is also on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (agenda item 9).

Consultation question 2 deals with whether the functions of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority should be transferred to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside. However in the proposed response to the consultation Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority have made it clear that they are against this.

I am quoting from a longer proposed response to consultation question 2. FRS means Fire & Rescue Service. PCC means Police and Crime Commissioner.

“Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (MFRA) wish to make it clear within this response that they have no intention of ceding responsibility of the FRS to the PCC. MFRA believe that as a result of their in depth understanding and experience of the FRS they are best placed to provide the political leadership necessary to support the Service through the next round of budget cuts.”
  

The second substantive item on the agenda of the meeting is what’s called the Emergency Services Collaboration Programme which according to section 13 of the report there is “the potential for significant impact on the staff of
both organisations”
. The organisations that refers to are Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. Appendix 1 (Blue Light Collaboration Opportunity Assessment) to the report implies that some of the savings from shared services between the two organisations will come from staff costs within the two organisations.

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Why is the government consulting on abolishing fire and rescue authorities in England?

Why is the government consulting on abolishing fire and rescue authorities in England?

Why is the government consulting on abolishing fire and rescue authorities in England?

                                                          

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority Police and Fire Collaboration Committee 1st September 2015 Left Jane Kennedy (Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside) Right Sir John Murphy (Chief Constable, Merseyside Police)
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority Police and Fire Collaboration Committee 1st September 2015 Left Jane Kennedy (Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside) Right Sir John Murphy (Chief Constable, Merseyside Police)

Earlier this month I filmed the first meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s Police and Fire Collaboration Committee and blogged about its first meeting.

Around the time of that meeting, there had been talk of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority possibly being abolished and transferred to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority if Merseyside had an elected Mayor which would happen at the earliest in May 2017. This formed part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s proposals to central government for greater devolution (as reported on this blog).

Since then the government has started a consultation (which finishes on the 23rd October 2015) called the Emergency Services Collaboration Consultation which proposes abolishing all fire and rescue authorities in England and transferring their powers to the Police and Crime Commissioner (on the left of the photo above).

This article in the Guardian about the consultation on the proposals has the opening two sentences which sum things up, "What do you do if you’re part of a government that believes in decimating the fire and rescue service as a means to making "efficiency savings", only to find yourself regularly thwarted by elected councillors who sit on the local fire and rescue authority? Answer: abolish the fire and rescue authority."

For those opposed to the proposed Saughall Massie fire station, the concept of such savings being thwarted by councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority will sound strange. The opposition to the plans for a fire station at Saughall Massie are coming from the local Conservative councillors for Moreton West and Saughall Massie and local residents compared to the councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority who are unanimously in favour of closing Upton and West Kirby fire stations and a replacement fire station at Saughall Massie.

It 2012 the Merseyside Police Authority (made up half of local councillors and half of independents) was scrapped and replaced with a Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner. It would seem the Conservative government wants to do something similar to what the Coalition government did to the police authorities in 2012, but this time to the fire and rescue authorities in England.

What happened to the police authorities and their replacement with police and crime commissioners plus police and crime panels was part of the Coalition agreement:

"We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives."
 

The Conservative 2015 manifesto stated "We will enable fire and police services to work more closely together and develop the role of our elected and accountable Police and Crime Commissioners." but didn’t go as far as stating the fire and rescue authorities would be abolished and their functions transferred to the police and crime commissioners.

This government consultation on abolishing with fire and rescue authorities for England, shows a national political will for less oversight by local councillors of the fire services in England and goes against the grain of the localism agenda.

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Police and Fire Collaboration Committee agree to joint review for collaboration between Merseyside Police & Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service

Police and Fire Collaboration Committee agree to joint review for collaboration between Merseyside Police & Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service

Police and Fire Collaboration Committee agree to joint review for collaboration between Merseyside Police & Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service

                                                           

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority Police and Fire Collaboration Committee 1st September 2015 Left Jane Kennedy (Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside) Right Sir John Murphy (Chief Constable, Merseyside Police)
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority Police and Fire Collaboration Committee 1st September 2015 Left Jane Kennedy (Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside) Right Sir John Murphy (Chief Constable, Merseyside Police)

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Video of the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) meeting held on the 1st of September 2015.

The Police and Fire Collaboration Committee met for the first time on the 1st of September 2015. Papers for the meeting are on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s website.

The first meeting of the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee elected Councillor Dave Hanratty as Chair.

The other members of the Police and Fire Collaboration Committee are:

Councillor Linda Maloney (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority)
Councillor Leslie Byron (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority)
Jane Kennedy (Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside)
Sue Murphy (Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside)
 

The Police and Fire Collaboration Committee agreed the terms of reference.

Most of the rest of the meeting was discussion of the Fire and Police Collaboration Programme. There was a 5 page covering report and 8 page appendix detailing the “Collaboration/Shared Services Guiding Principles between Merseyside Police and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.

Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens presented the report, as did Sir Jon Murphy (Chief Constable, Merseyside Police). Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens drew the Committee’s attention to the list of possible areas for shared services in the report at part 6. The areas detailed in the report are:

  • Human Resources
  • Occupational Health
  • Finance
  • Procurement
  • Vehicle Fleet Management
  • Estates/Facilities
  • Press Office
  • Communication and Marketing
  • Performance/Corporate Development
  • Legal Services
  • ICT

He gave an example of shared working in the shared estates area as the Joint Control Centre in the building where the public meeting was being held. Dan Stephens highlighted the staffing implications in the report (section 16-17 on page 10). He stated, “Just to reassure members of the Committee that a Communications Strategy is being developed to ensure that all of our staff can be fully informed. As you can appreciate there will be a fair degree of interest in the work as it progresses.” Dan Stephens also referred to the legal implications, financial implications and other implications in sections 18-24 in the report.

Chief Constable Sir John Murphy added, “Everything that the Chief has just laid out there has been drawn up in complete collaboration with ourselves”.

Jane Kennedy, Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside said “That’s a good and comprehensive list of potential quick gains. For knowing what I know of the potential cliff edge that the Force is facing in terms of its funding and the particular threat in particular to community policing, for me B Ways of Working is absolutely crucial to the future benefit to the community of our two services working together. I can’t, my waking nightmare is the loss of what we currently know of as community style policing.

If we lose community policing altogether then there would still be neighbourhood policing, but we are, we are very close to that now. There is potential gain from us working very closely together with your people and the Force’s people on the ground in communities which I think is probably the greatest benefit.”

Councillor Hanratty (Chair) said that they needed to have conversations with the North West Ambulance Service to see “how they could work better together with them”. He suggested inviting the Chief Executive and Chair