The First One Isn’t Always Free…

Earlier this week a nice man from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) rang me up while I was driving. I carefully pulled in to the side of the road, officer, and took the call.

Together with the Association of Police Authorities, they are having a big conference in Manchester from 22-24 May called ‘Leading Change in Policing’ and, on the middle day, are opening it up to outsiders in the form of prospective PCCs. It will be a bit like when the local Freemasons let people come in and have a peek at their halls. Possibly with many of the same faces, come to think of it…

Anyway, the nice man wanted to know whether, as I had a blog that quite a lot of candidates and the like read, would I mind advertising it for them…

I waited the appropriate amount of time, but financial inducement came there none. However, I’m always keen to keep taxes low, so I said yes, and er, this post is that said advertisement for that said conference.

I had a brief conversation with the nice man and established that prospective PCCs would need to pay to come to the conference, but I did not ascertain how much. I advised him that precious few prospective PCCs would have been formally selected as candidates by their party, and would lack the resources of a large organisation on which to call, unlike the other attendees at the conference, and that even those selected by the parties probably couldn’t squeeze the money out of them.

Later in the week, ACPO took to Twitter to further advertise the same event, at which point inquisitive wannabe candidates established that the cost for attendance would be…

…wait for it…


It didn’t go down well with candidates

The Local Government Association, who are trying to hook prospective PCCs into an LGA-affiliated Police and Crime Commissioners Association, spotted an opportunity, and swooped in

which resulted in firm responses from yours truly

ACPO tried to save the day, with a staff member pointing out

and that it was

But yours truly thought that

This last reference to ACPO’s current scandal around procuring costly consultancy arrangements with former members of, er, ACPO, was apparently too much!

Those of you dedicated enough to read down past all the twittering are rewarded with a special bonus…

In my chat with the nice-man I also established that some PCCs will be able to escape the fee by being invited to be a panelist at a session in the conference.

When I heard this I again waited the appropriate amount of time, but panelist invitation came there none. Apparently ACPO don’t want to mess with any implied backing involved in selecting the candidates, so have asked the political parties to do it for them, and for Independents have approached the LGA (grrr!).

I pointed out that, as Labour have a grand total of 3 selected candidates, and no other party has any, that this caused a problem for the parties, because it would mean treating some candidates differently from others, while they were still going through a selection process with those candidates, but again to no avail.

So. What’s the right thing to do?

Is Bernard right? Steer well clear of any potentially contaminating cosy relationship?

For me it’s an academic point. If £267 became free, I have plenty of kids who can find a better use for it, and this post probably blows my chances of a free place. I think Peter Walker has a point – what is there to add to what a good local briefing would cover?

But to be honest, I think PCCs need to be made of fairly stern stuff, and I’m always open to the possibility of finding out something new, and of gathering some tales about top cops for my devoted readers, so in this hypothetical world, I’d go, and shout about it so no-one later could suggest there was something bad being done in secret. But that would be in preference to the ‘free’ LGA do, which you really will have to pay for in time, as I don’t think they will be in as good a position to brief candidates, and I remain open to the possibility that someone else could come up with something fresh, bespoke and more useful to candidates than these events which are not mainly directed at them and where the host organisations may retain a latent hostility to their unwelcome presence.

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7 Responses to The First One Isn’t Always Free…

  1. catemoore says:

    Well, 1 of the 3 of you blogged about it. I’m keen to read Bernard and Peter’s thoughts via more than tweets. I agree that attendance could have been questionable but to be asked to pay so much ought to be the nail in the coffin.

    I’m keen to see what pans out here – ACPO are learning the hard way that they need to bend with the changes rather than simply dictate terms as in the past. Interesting if unpleasant times.

  2. ianchisnall says:

    I personally feel there is a great deal more to be gained through developing a positive relationship with LGA and ACPO (and Fed and Unison and those officers/staff who feel that such bodies are not for them) than setting some stall out that suggests the opposite. I have worked locally to build up a positive relationship with all of these and recognise that although I certainly wouldn’t attend any conference charging even a 10th of the £275 (travel alone is a barrier) that in its context the fee is quite reasonable. Anyone organising a conference and wanting to involve a group of people who would not usually take part needs to do some research to find out what barriers exist to their participation which is where ACPO appear to have dropped the ball here. However I suspect we have all been part of similar failures in our long careers.

    Sam you have been critical of the LGA before on this blog and whilst this is something that seems to be common amongst some folk who are or who have been Councillors the reality is that the LGA operates on a similar basis as ACPO (without the lifetime membership). Often the same critics are the first to use the LGA to their career advantage when they can (I spent 6 years as part of a Regional Assembly listening to elected members moans about the LGA and also to them when they had gained some reputational advantage from it). I am sure there is much to be critical of but the risk is that in criticising these organisations, that the only people who really are affected are the staff who work very hard to deliver to agendas set by individuals who have long since forgotten the words please and thank you (and are usually never wrong!).

    • samchapman says:

      I make no criticism of LGA staff. I am, I think fairly, suspicious of organisations that set their face against the PCC reform, and now presume to tell propective PCCs how to do it right. I think using public funds to campaign against government policy when the government has a mandate for that policy is wrong. I also think there are gravy-train issues in some of these organisations. I’m happy to have positive relationships with all manner of people locally. I can do that because it entails no promise that I will not be critical when the situation demands it.

  3. bunnyson says:

    This is not the first offer from established lobby groups like the APA and the publicly funded private company ACPO. IPPR have a briefing coming up at the Local Government association (LGA) conference, funded by Capita and the flyer indicates some of the issues local government have with the prospective PCC.

    ‘Questions for exploration include
    • How can local authorities inform the debate prior to the election of a PCC, to ensure that the wide range of policing and crime challenges are considered during the election debate?
    • How can members be equipped to manage the risks of highly populist or single-issue PCCs?
    • How can local authorities manage the risk of funding reductions in areas like neighbourhood policing and crime prevention work?
    • Where are there opportunities for PCCs and local authorities to work together beyond policing, for example to reduce reoffending?’

    This is not a public event and is only open to LGA delegates, maybe ACPO too?


  4. ianchisnall says:

    Sam, your frustration is well expressed and this sums up why so many people are mistrustful of party politics. I wish it was behaviour that was limited to the LGA because then it would be easy to fix. A classic example is the way in which many Councillors on the regional assemblies who agreed to the RSS and worked to develop it, then rushed off to their local newspapers deriding the Government for the top down imposition of the strategy that they had just agreed to. In that example the individuals were almost exclusively Conservative councillors but there are examples of similar actions by other political parties, often actually in their localities. The truth is that the LGA like ACPO only does what its members agree to, any decision on campaigning would be taken by Local Councillors, not some faceless agency. As much as you might understand the difference between the LGA boards who make policy decisions and the staff who are left to enact them, I suspect that most members of staff find criticism hard to understand (with the exception of times when they know they have been asked to carry out decisions that are without logic or moral justification).

    Bunnyson, the LGA conference is organised for and by its members (ie local councillors). They have opened up the conference to all PCC candidates without demanding any proof (there cannot be any at this stage) that they are certain to stand. If you really wanted to attend no doubt you could speak to them. However this is one of many PCC conferences which are taking place. Some are free and many are not (such as the ACPO one). What I suspect really matters are the ones at a local level where the local candidates are much more likely to be present.

  5. Mirands Carruthers-Watt says:

    Interesting views all, just to confirm that Lancashire currently fixing dates in July for all interested in the PCC – including interested member of the public – to come and hear from agencies and people that they will be working with and have the opportunity to ask questions and develop issues that might form part of their thinking and planning.
    There will be no charge.
    The police authority are committed to a safe transition to the new arrangements and as part of this we want to make sure we have the right information available. Tell us what things you would like to hear about!

    • ianchisnall says:

      Miranda, what is intriguing is the extent to which many Police Authorities seem to be waiting till the Tories have selected their candidates before doing much in public, yet they are doing so ahead of the final date for submission of candidates. I for one see this as a bias in favour of the party and would imagine there could be several cases seeking judicial review, either from Independents (or small parties) who have been working assidiously from October 2011 or from those not declaring their hands till September 2012.

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