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.
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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