Please Release Me?

Today, in the middle of a General Election, I’m going to leap to the defence of a member of the Labour party. Not just any old member of the Labour party either, but a Lancashire man the CPS have decided not to prosecute after an investigation mishandled by the IPCC. Which narrows the field slightly.

But first let’s consider a bit of context. In this instance this was provided last Tuesday by another of my regular visits to the Lancashire Police and Crime Panel, a meeting I partially attend to find out why the people who are supposed to go there actually turn up.

Except quite a lot of them didn’t turn up on this occasion. It turns out that scheduling a secret meeting into the discussion of 2 IPCC reports into Clive Grunshaw’s expenses is not much competition to the lure of the doorstep during a General Election. By the time the Chairman had got to the end of a long list of apologies it was fitting for County Council Leader Jenny Mein to quip “you would almost think there was something else on.”

But let’s not bore you further with all the details of the discussion. Let’s get straight to the main event, and by that I don’t mean the IPCC reports. They may have taken 28 months to wind their way to the committee but the agenda item we were all shuffled out of the room to avoid lasted no more than 10 minutes at a generous estimate.

No, the main event was a tiny bit of actual scrutiny provided by members of the Committee to one of the Commissioner’s more troubling decisions. It went as follows…

Peter Gibson, Conservative Leader of Wyre Borough Council, broached the issue of Ibrahim Master, until recently the Deputy PCC, who last year was subject to a complaint and IPCC-managed investigation, followed shortly by his post being restructured out of his position by Clive Grunshaw. Ibby has recently learned from the CPS that he is not going to be charged after all, but that doesn’t get him his job back.

“Ibby”, said Peter, “was a brilliant Deputy Commissioner and it’s a shame he’s gone. How is the Commissioner coping without all the help.” Mr Grunshaw went on for a bit about how Ibby and the also-recently-departed Assistant PCCs had been there to provide continuity from Police Authority days, but the work has changed substantially from a Police Authority and a new structure was needed to match.

So far, so corporate, but under further questioning the mask slipped.

“It was a difficult decision to make to release both Ibby and the assistant commissioners” he said, and I staggered at the sheer cheek of this euphemistic use of the word “release”, before he went on to explain that the atmosphere had improved since they went and this was a good thing.

Hang on, did he really just say that about the people who have been helping him for the past 2 years?

A further question came from an independent Member of the Panel “Was it made clear to the people that they would no longer be required after 12-18 months?”

Now Clive had an out here, but he chose not to take it. In the Press Release announcing the appointment of the Assistant Commissioners it specifically said they were interim appointments, though after 18 months that explanation was wearing a bit thin. He could have gone there, but didn’t. Possibly because that would have highlighted another problem. The Deputy PCC had been appointed with conditions that linked his life in post to Clive’s life in post. He was supposed to be there for the duration. They had an agreement before the election. He was announced as his running mate. There was no talk of “until a restructure”.

So “interim” was avoided and we were told that “you make the changes when they are required”.

“But”, pointed out our independently minded panel member, “these people were having an impact.”

But not the right kind of impact apparently. “The impact they were having wasn’t enabling the office to deliver on what was needed” said Clive, and then he went off script again. He said the office dynamics had not been gelling when former members of the Police Authority, who had previously enjoyed member-staff relationships with the folk in the office were now put in the position of being in staff-staff relationships.

Really? – he got rid of the Deputy and Assistants because they couldn’t bring themselves to deal with staff on an equal level? What an extraordinary thing to say about these people.

Peter Gibson however had another theory. He said he had read what Ibby had to say on Facebook, and Ibby was clearly not happy. Ibby clearly felt that he lost his job due to a complaint that hadn’t been upheld.

No, said Clive. Ibby was mistaken. It wasn’t that at all.

But I like to be sure of these things, so the following day I rang Ibby. Mr Grunshaw’s former deputy wasn’t at all pleased by the PCC’s characterisation of the process or of the mood in the office. He described his relationship with staff as second to none, with good natured banter and a free flow of communication. He doesn’t know what Clive is talking about, so perhaps he meant the Assistant PCCs.

Ibby said that he had originally been told by Mr Grunshaw that his post would not be part of the reorganisation process. Then a complaint was made by the police against Ibby in August 2014. Just 3 days after Lancashire police had interviewed him, Mr Grunshaw had asked him to resign. He said no. So Mr Grunshaw later asked him again. And again. And again. And again. Not all in the same meeting, but in different meetings and instances, 5 times in all. Sometimes it was “retire”. Another time “consider your position”. Ibby said Mr Grunshaw had even suggested that Lancashire police would slap a harassment notice on Ibby and that he couldn’t refuse it, but Ibby had stood his ground.

What was this? A prediction, or a threat? Either way, it didn’t happen.

Each time Ibby did not resign, for 2 months. Then Ibby was notified he was being consulted for redundancy and was gone. Ibby was quite clear. His post was never envisaged as being for a short period. He was here for the duration, until Clive Grunshaw ditched him after he refused to resign.

But perhaps the most damaging thing is the account of the explanation Ibby gave for his refusal to resign. Each time they spoke there was a bitter irony. Mr Grunshaw was also under IPCC investigation at the time, and had been forced to admit making numerous mistakes.

Ibby told Clive Grunshaw- “Just as I defended you when people were asking for your resignation, I think I deserve the same from you, especially when the allegations against me are trumped up allegations.”

You know, as opposed to the other sort of allegations that Clive faces.

The Commissioner has had the opportunity to comment on his former Deputy’s allegations, which he failed to confirm or deny, just pointing back to the official reasons for the restructure given in his report.

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How the IPCC bungled the Grunshaw expenses investigation – Part 2

Last time, we considered the various faults in the first set of “no claims” the Independent Police Complaints Commission effectively invented in the case of Clive Grunshaw, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire. Today we consider what they did wrong next.

You will remember that these 28 instances of Mr Grunshaw allegedly not claiming when he was entitled to claim were used to suggest his chronologically-challenged expenses claims were not motivated by gain.  However, on closer examination by yours truly the list of 28 no-claims completely fell apart. In 19 instances there never was any entitlement to claim. In other instances the claim had been made, but missed by the IPCC, or someone had got the date wrong, etc., leaving 24 of the ‘no claims’ simply wrong, and 2 more completely irrelevant, as they were too late to help Mr Grunshaw.

Having just 2 of the original 28 “no claims” still intact was very embarrassing for the IPCC, and while you and I have just recently learned this number, it turns out that as early as 17 February last year the IPCC were writing to the CPS to let them know that the prosecutor “may have been led into error on the facts”.

So what would they now do?

Well, they are after all an organisation that is set up to stop the police from investigating their own embarrassing mistakes. Naturally they would therefore get someone independent in to investigate what went wrong and to do the whole thing right this time.

Wouldn’t they?

I mean, they wouldn’t keep the same IPCC Commissioner in charge of the case who had overseen the production of the mistaken report, make sure the investigation was kept within the IPCC and reporting to that Commissioner, severely restrict the scope of the reinvestigation, then reach the convenient conclusion that even if they had got it wrong, it didn’t matter because they’d accidentally got to basically the right result anyway. No harm done. Nothing to see here. Move along please.

Would they?

Well, cheekily, what they did was to build up that list of  “no claim’s” again, finding more that, miraculously, they had failed to notice the first time, filling some of the gaps left by the many baseless claims. Then they limited the rest of their investigation to looking through their existing evidence, while not following up leads on problems with Mr Grunshaw’s claims that they had missed the first time round.

But that is a risky business. When you do that sort of thing, aware that the world may find out what a hash you made of it the first time, you have to really be sure to get your facts right.

I mean, just think how awful it would be if the report that was done to put those mistakes right made exactly the same kind of mistakes again. When that report again misled the CPS and then went to the Lancashire Police and Crime Panel, er, tomorrow, it couldn’t really resolve anything if it was known to be fundamentally flawed and to be full of holes.

Click Here to see how they did.

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How the IPCC bungled the Grunshaw expenses investigation – Part 1

For over 2 years the people of Lancashire have waited with enforced patience to see whether Clive Grunshaw, their Police and Crime Commissioner had, in an earlier incarnation, really discovered time travel. Their wait ends here today.

Had Mr Grunshaw on various occasions nipped home from a meeting, popped into his time machine, then left home before he had arrived, enabling him to get back to another meeting and possibly another claim for some grub? A time-traveller's days are longer you see, and require more or bigger meals than the days experienced by ordinary people like you or me.

What sort of time-travel did he favour? Does he go to work in a DeLorean? Is there a flux-capacitor involved? Or is what looks like an innocent Police Box appearing and disappearing sporadically at venues across the Red-Rose county?

Or, just possibly, was there another explanation as to why the information on his expenses claims to various public bodies just didn't always seem to add up?

Well, here we are, long after 24 months of combined investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and deliberation by the Crown Prosecution Service, and at last a report is going to the Lancashire Police and Crime Panel. Finally Lancastrians' curiosity will be sated as their elected representatives from each of their Councils publicly debate the findings of the investigation.

Except they won't. There will be a meeting on Tuesday. It will receive a report, in fact, two reports. But it's all being done under “Part 2″ rules whereby oiks like you and me don't get to read the reports or to see accountability in action, and the people who can read them would get into trouble if they talked to us about it.

Which doesn't seem right to me.

Nor does it seem right that, despite all these investigations ending before Christmas, no-one has seen fit to let anyone know what happened until 4 months later, in the middle of a General Election, as if they were hoping against hope that every journalist in the land would be looking the other way when they finally do what the law says they must do, and publish their reports.

So, having promised not to comment on ongoing investigations, I've noticed that the investigations are no longer ongoing and, instead of waiting for the train that never comes, I will let you see and appreciate what has happened in your name, for I have secured the reports and I can let you take a peek at what is inside them.

Now, I'm not going to do this all in one go. If I gave you 2 reports, in 125 pages and 961 paragraphs, and a couple of spreadsheets, you might be tempted just to skip to the conclusions, which is what they want you to do, because they don't want you to realise what a hash they have made of this investigation.

You probably wouldn't be using 2 computers and several more spreadsheets of your own to analyse what's gone on here or making Freedom of Information requests so you can compare the results with the facts. But rest easy folks. I've done that for you, so you can laser in to the key points, and I've used new tools to help you see what others have apparently missed.

So welcome to Part 1 of “How the IPCC bungled the Grunshaw Expenses Investigation” – CLICK HERE to see what they don't want you to see. And don't forget to come back for more later – because there will be more.

 

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A Personal Statement from Kevin Hurley, Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey

kevinSometimes when you look at the National news with tales of Child Abuse, Murder and Terrorism it could be easy to forget that we live in the safest county in one of the safest and most decent countries in the World.

We live in a country where racism, religious bigotry and mistreatment of women are not tolerated under our laws. It’s the birthplace of democracy, a country where our Healthcare, Universities, Social Welfare system, Justice and way of life is still the envy of the World. People both rich and poor want to come and live here, to raise their families, build businesses or just grow old.

Despite the World financial crisis our economy is beginning to recover; more people are likely to be in work in the future and more investment into our country is likely to happen in the future.

There are many reasons we find ourselves in this fortunate position.

One that is often forgotten is that we are a society that underpins our economy and way of life by the maintenance of order. Corruption, Violent crime, Fraud and Anti Social Behaviour are all relatively rare experiences for us. We can go to work, educate our children and build businesses being confident that the selfish and criminal will not spoil things for us.

But things are changing, fast. As our society becomes more complex, diverse and crowded, the threats to our future wellbeing and that of our children are increasing. The new era of high speed internet has brought about big changes as to how bad people go about their predation on us.

It is now very easy for terrorists to communicate unheard and unseen on hidden internet sites, paedophiles and those who wish to groom teenagers or vulnerable women have ideal tools in the form of such marvellous networking sites as Facebook. Meanwhile there probably isn’t a single one of us who has not received a bogus begging email for a relative needing an airline ticket or medical treatment in some foreign country.

Mobile phones provide easy means for organised criminals to con our elderly in rogue trading scams posing as bogus council inspectors. We saw how useful they were to criminals in the riots of 2011 when the looters used the latest software messaging systems to get ahead of the Police in their attempts to quell the problems.

Meanwhile organised criminals continue to exploit the inquisitiveness of our young by bringing yet more designer drugs or “legal highs” to our streets.

More important our “traditional criminals” haven’t gone away, they still burgle our houses and steal from our cars – it happened to me two months ago on my drive!

Its worries me to think that often our Surrey residents are late for work in London due to signal failures on the railway resulting from criminals stealing the cable. We lose our economic edge through the lost time this causes, meanwhile our competitors abroad buy scrap copper (the stolen cable) and use it to build infrastructure to help them compete more cheaply against us.

Why am I saying this as your Police and Crime Commissioner? I was elected to try and make our county safer, but I now realise it is becoming increasingly more difficult to do so; in fact I predict things will get worse. The reason is simple: In the face of the need to reduce public spending the Government is making the wrong choices.

The cuts to all the agencies involved in keeping us safer are now having a real impact on their effectiveness; it leaves many gaps for the criminals to exploit. Our Crown Prosecution Service, the people who prosecute suspects have been slashed, if a Surrey detective now wants to get legal advice on a serious case they have to sometimes wait weeks to do so . Our Court Service has seen similar cuts with magistrate’s courts closing across the county; hopefully you won’t be a witness or indeed a victim experiencing less than local justice.

But what of our Prisons? Yes I don’t want them to be welcoming and a place you would want to go back to but I would like them to attempt to rehabilitate offenders to come out and contribute. With staff reductions such ideas are for the most part pie in the sky with offenders locked in their cells sometimes for up to twenty three hours a day with no chance of education or the opportunity to confront their wrongdoing behaviour. When the inmates are released, often they are pushed out the prison gates with £47, sent to a hostel full of other criminals and left to effectively fend for themselves. They couldn’t go straight if they wanted to. It’s such a disgrace that I am personally mentoring a violent career criminal who was released recently. I hope maybe I can help him transform his life. Frankly after a former police career spent locking them up it appals me ; we shouldn’t be surprised at so many reoffending.

As for the police, like their colleagues in the Criminal justice system, I find nearly all of them do their best, but they are suffering swingeing cuts. Even having sold off most of our police stations the long term prospects for Surrey Police maintaining its current level of service are not good. Yes in the past year crime has fallen by 8% and arrests for Anti-Social Behaviour are up by as much as 15%, but as the cuts start to take effect this will not go on. Things will get worse, we will lose staff and cut even further into the current less than adequate levels of training received at all levels. There will be more failings and mistakes.

I foresee a Perfect Storm developing for the benefit of criminals; the effects will be worse elsewhere in the country where budgets have not been planned as well as here.

What am I going to do about it you ask; it’s the PCC’s job isn’t it?

Well I’m doing something about it now, I’m telling you we need to underpin our safety and prosperity and in the face of Government cuts, I am asking you if you are prepared to put your hand in your pocket or purse and make up the difference. That is why over the coming months you will hear more talk of a referendum on whether you are prepared to pay more for your Police precept in the Council Tax. I reckon about £1 a week more from a band D tax payer will enable us to not only maintain our current levels of visible policing but also improve things especially on Child Exploitation and Fraud. That means instead of four pounds a week the bill will be five.

This is a democracy, that’s why I am going to ask you, tell me what you think.

But remember, I can’t do miracles. So if like me you are concerned about your sense of safety let me know and we will all pay a little more.

The good thing is, if you don’t like the honesty of my message you can always vote for someone else next time.

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After the Wright decision

Shaun Wright has finally heeded the voice of the people and resigned as South Yorkshire PCC. This creates a number of issues:-

1) No-one is currently doing the job of South Yorkshire PCC, so the Police and Crime Panel for South Yorkshire will have to appoint an Acting PCC. The problem they will have is the lack of an obvious candidate, as South Yorkshire’s Deputy PCC gave Mr Wright an example by resigning while he refused to. Hence she is not available. The Panel may only choose from PCC staff, so the Panel may not find themselves able to appoint a politician to this political role.

2) There will have to be an election. You may remember widespread head-scratching a few months ago when the West Midlands PCC post fell vacant. That example has meant that this time it is much more simple – Barnsley Council’s Chief Executive Diana Terris, has admitted to being Returning Officer and has told the BBCUpon receipt of a request from two electors in the South Yorkshire police area to the Authorised Officer, Diana Terris, an election will be held within 35 days. The date will be confirmed in due course.

Those accustomed to parsing such texts will note that the 35 days will only start once two South Yorkshire electors write to Diana Terris to inform her the PCC position is vacant and that they would like an election, which is where you come in…

Last time in the West Midlands the Council were pushed into action when some TopOfTheCops readers sent just such an email to the Chief Executive, and copied those emails to me at Editor@TopOfTheCops.com – to ensure there was someone independent of the Council who could verify it had taken place.

I think the 35-day rule is a bit silly, but also that the people of South Yorkshire really need a new PCC as quickly as possible to lead the fight against Child Sexual Exploitation and other crimes, and to ensure that South Yorkshire Police are held accountable, and the government need every encouragement to get a move on with fixing the bits of the PCC legislation that have been found wanting, so…

…anyone who is a voter in South Yorkshire who wants to call for an election might find it useful to know that the Returning Officer’s email address is dianaterris@barnsley.gov.uk and I’m happy to count any emails calling for an election that are copied to me at Editor@TopOfTheCops.com

Your email should mention your name, address, the fact you are on the electoral roll in South Yorkshire, that there is a vacancy in the office of South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, and that you want an election to be called as soon as possible.

3) There is one more detail. For the West Midlands PCC by-election the government passed a change to the law allowing for a taxpayer-funded booklet containing candidate statements to be sent to each household, but there was a catch. This law, passed only two months ago, was for one by-election only, so if they want to do that again, they will have to pass it again, pretty damn quick – or maybe just make it permanent, or is that too sensible a suggestion? Of course they could just leave it, but I sense that this by-election has more need of it. This is a chance for the public who badly need someone in whom they have confidence to be governing South Yorkshire police and tackling a massive problem in the area. This is the sort of thing that PCCs were designed for, and that Mr Wright simply could not do – but the eventual winner would also be ill-equipped for this role if no-one knows who they are or what they intend to do.

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Why Shaun Wright must go.

Shaun Wright, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire is having a busy day. Suddenly the rest of the world has woken up to the fact that organised child sexual exploitation was happening in South Yorkshire, and are looking for heads to roll. The Leader of Rotherham Council has already gone, and the politician in charge of children’s social services has since gone on to be elected Police and Crime Commissioner – many people, including apparently the Labour Party, senior Labour politicians and the local Labour MP are calling for his head too.

Mr Wright may be feeling a little sore about this. He will say that much information didn’t reach his level when he was the Cabinet Member responsible for Children’s Services at Rotherham Council. He has done what he can to fight child sexual exploitation since getting elected, admittedly possibly in part because anyone with a knowledge of politics in South Yorkshire could see this scandal coming. OFSTED kept saying Children’s Services were good – why would he believe any different? And what about any individual cops and social workers who failed countless children, including those responsible for managing those services. Why, Mr Wright might think, should he carry the can when none of them have?

But this is the wrong way of thinking about it. If Mr Wright has done something wrong, he should be investigated and held to account, and that should be the case whether or not he is a Police and Crime Commissioner. In some ways, him being a PCC is irrelevant to the question of whether he takes the blame for failures, perhaps even failures by him, but which largely occurred before PCCs came into being.

No, the reason Mr Wright should resign is much simpler. He is the Police and Crime Commissioner – he represents the public, not the police, and is the person now who should be taking the independent report and running with it, to hold people to account, to press for reform, to ensure that lessons are learned on the streets and in the management meetings, and not just in corporate spin. He can’t do that because he is compromised by having spent so many years in charge of Rotherham Children’s Services when they were systematically failing children who were being sexually abused.

“I didn’t know” in this instance is not a good defence. Anyone pleading they didn’t know is in a poor position to argue with others that they ought to have known. His past history renders him unable to command the confidence of the people in doing the very job he is in, and if you find yourself no longer able to do a job, maybe it should be someone else’s turn.

Today many are beginning to complain about how difficult PCCs are to remove. Some people in Parliament clearly feel Mr Wright should go, but are unable to find a mechanism to remove him. This is ironic. You actually can get rid of a PCC, if they are incapacitated, or convicted of certain types of offence, and in the latter case they won’t be able to get elected back into office. That’s not something we can say for MPs or members of the House of Lords, and they don’t just uphold the law – they make it!

If they are serious about Mr Wright’s position, then perhaps there should be action within the Labour Party. If he’s not the Labour candidate next time round I doubt he’ll be elected PCC again in South Yorkshire. Sure, it’s slow – by my reckoning it will take 21 months if Mr Wright refuses to take the hint – but it’s better than nothing.

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Quiet Government U-turn provides boost to Independent PCC by-election candidates…

… and the marketing opportunity of a lifetime for Brummie Dentists, if they’re quick.

Last Thursday, in the Ninth Delegated Legislation Committee of the House of Commons, the Government performed a U-turn on Police and Crime Commissioners that, by-and-large, has not been noticed. Most attention has focussed on the possible £3.7 million cost of the PCC by-election in the West Midlands, or in the chuntering from the House against those electors who had the temerity to ensure the election was held with the mind-boggling speed that had been insisted upon by….er, the House of Commons, when they passed the laws only 3 years ago.

Apart from a passing mention by Alan Travis in the Guardian however, there has been no attention paid to the fact the government were using the Committee to rush through emergency legislation to change the rules for the election so that candidates will have the opportunity to have their election addresses distributed by the Returning Officer to each household in the West Midlands in a booklet largely paid for by the taxpayer.

Brand-spanking-new Police Minister Mike Penning  admitted that, inexplicably, the legislation had failed to make any provision for publishing information about candidates, and this would be remedied with about £700,000 from the Home Office budget and about £250 from each of the candidates, though their individual bill could go as high as £1,000 (though you would never work this out from the emergency legislation itself).

Getting a message printed and delivered to just shy of 2 million electors for 250 quid is  about as good value as you can get – a fact not lost on Sir Bob Russell, Lib-Dem MP for Colchester, who said “before I became a Member of Parliament, we had a candidate standing in a general election, a local dentist, who was the smile candidate. I can see now hundreds of thousands of people across the west midlands having a candidate from whatever organisation, trade or whatever getting a free plug courtesy of the Home Office paying for free distribution to every household.

Except, until you read it here, you probably didn’t know about the opportunity, and anyone who wants to take advantage of it needs to get £5,000 in cleared funds and 100 voters to sign their nomination papers by 4pm on Friday, a task that people outside of political parties might find difficult.

The Minister was happy to admit the sort of guilt one can admit to when one is in the first few days of a new job and it is painfully obvious it was someone else’s fault. Apparently, in fact everybody else’s fault. It hadn’t been raised at the Second Reading, in the Committee or Report stages of the Bill or the Third Reading, or in its journey through the House of Lords. The Government hadn’t seen the problem. The Opposition hadn’t. No-one had worked out that in giving the electorate the job of deciding between some candidates elected over vast policing areas it would be nice if they had the faintest bit of information about those candidates, except for their favourite colour.

I am in no position to contradict the Minister. No doubt he has faithfully been advised by his Civil Servants, but he, or they, might well have added that pretty much as soon as the law was passed, just about everybody began banging on his boss’s door about this very evident defect, and nothing was done about it.

In January 2012 the Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission mentioned the problem.

Early in February 2012 the Chief Executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators was going on about it.

In March of 2012 the Shadow Justice Minister was asking The Home Secretary questions in the House on the matter.

Throughout the election here at TopOfTheCops we went on about it quite a bit, especially as the Electoral Commission went to the expense of distributing a booklet to every household explaining the election, but saying nothing about the candidates! This culminated in an attempt in September of 2012 to decode the signals emanating from a recently departed Police Minister about a lack of support in high places for radicalism in police reform, but none of this was mentioned last Thursday. Instead, a one-by-election-only change was made to the rules, to test to see whether it has a positive effect on turnout.

While pleased at this long-overdue victory, I wonder why it is done in such a hurry, when 2012 offered ample opportunity for this to happen at a more leisurely pace, and who in Government it was who compromised the entire PCC reform by blocking it from happening in the first place. It is as incomprehensible to me as the recent departure of Michael Gove, and the continued tenure of Theresa May.

The PCC elections nationally resulted in big wins by Independents, and the West Midlands PCC by-election will feature a candidate booklet for voters that overcomes a major barrier to Independents campaigning on anything like an even footing, but it has all been kept so quiet that no-one might notice, not even the dentists in Birmingham, and it is possible that only the political parties who made the change, and who are worried about not having enough troops on the ground in the summer holidays to get their own messages out, will feel the benefit.

 

 

 

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