Speech by Peter Storey
Chairman of Civil Nuclear Police Federation
13th September 2012
I am very pleased to welcome Baroness Harris of Richmond and Luciana Berger MP, as representatives of the Government and the Opposition this year. Lady Harris was policing spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats for many years, and remains the Vice-President of the National Association of Police Authorities. Luciana Berger is the Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree, and is a Shadow Minister at DECC. Thank you both for taking the time out of your no doubt busy schedules to be with us today.
Chief Constable, guests and delegates: welcome to our Annual Conference.
Together with our delegates, we are delighted be joined by representatives from Police Federations from all over the UK.
Whilst the Civil Nuclear Constabulary is a specialist policing organization, we remain very much a part of the wider police family. It is from this common bond that I would like to extend the sympathy of my members to the Essex Police Federation. Their colleague, Ian Bidell, was shot dead on 10th July when he intervened in an incident. He was not even on duty at the time. It is a brutal reminder to us all of the degree to which police officers are prepared to put themselves in harm's way, to protect their fellow citizens.
Last year when I spoke at Conference, I expressed our concern at the frequency of change at the top of the CNC, and the need for the organisation to have a greater sense of stability at all levels. We've had three changes of Police Authority Chairmen in three years and then a new Chief Constable, Richard Thompson, who has since departed.
Through his leadership, Mr Thompson helped to enhance our professionalism and contributed a great deal towards developing the CNC into an organization with a reputation for excellence and a world leader in our field of expertise. Together with the Police Authority, he secured a year on year sizeable budget increase and achieved substantial further recruitment. As a result, the importance of the role of the CNC has become more widely understood and appreciated where it matters: in Government, the nuclear energy industry, and by our members.
The running of the CNC has not been disrupted by the change of Chief Constable. The credit for that must go to our Acting Chief Constable, Mr John Sampson, ACC Mr Alan Cooper, and to our Director of Corporate Services, Mr Justine Rees. Mr Sampson, through your experience in county forces and more recently through your years with the CNC, you have been a major stabilising force and ensured that the professional development of the CNC has continued smoothly.
Your successor, Mr Mike Griffiths, will be welcomed by the Federation when he takes up office in October. We look forward to working under the leadership of a proven and experienced Executive team of considerable experience and skill.
I am also pleased to note publicly that the General Secretary Nigel Dennis and I have built a sound and constructive relationship with Sir Philip Trousdell, the Chairman of the Police Authority. Despite the formality of the channels of communications within the Force and between the Authority, the Board, the Executive and the Federation, we have been able to engage usefully over the year.
But of course there is always room for improvement.
Last year, I raised our concern that the Federation was not permitted to have observers at the formal meetings of the Police Authority. I am grateful that the Authority looked at this, especially after we raised it again a few weeks ago. We remain probably the only UK Police Federation unable to observe the meetings of their Police Authority.
Sir Philip wrote to the Federation in July saying that the Authority could see no benefit in our attendance. I was disappointed with that response.
It may be inconvenient to require the Authority to have a meeting at which part of the agenda cannot be shared with a Staff Association. However, it is fairly straightforward to deal with confidential issues separately.
I cannot accept that this inconvenience, which is surely minimal and one that is dealt with in their stride by other Police Authorities, should be viewed as outweighing the benefits of attendance to this Federation. Every Federation in the UK, which can attend a board meeting, is better informed and is able to communicate more assuredly and accurately with their members. Our request to attend was also referred to as a "symbolic act". It is anything but; it is a matter of giving the Federation its place as a significant stakeholder in the CNC.
The Authority also noted in their reply that as the Federation has frequent contact with the Chief Constable, the Deputy, and other senior officers of the Executive and, as they were all members of the Board, they could speak to us with the full authority of the Board. With respect to the Authority, this rather misses the point. We are left with top-down, selective communication, not a genuine communications process, which should be two-way and direct.
In fairness to the Authority, although we are frustrated by their unwillingness to accept our request, Sir Philip has suggested that he Chair formal talks with us twice a year, complete with an agenda and a follow up record of what transpires. We can only wait and see how this works out, but it is a poor substitute for best practice.
The role of this Federation is to represent the interests of our members, not from the point of view of self interest, but to assist the Force in the pursuit and delivery of its strategic purpose. Inevitability, because we represent officers on the ground, we can be expected to challenge management thinking at all levels - including at Executive level. I believe this approach is healthy. The federated ranks have a wealth of experience of what works in practice.
In a disciplined organisation such as ours, junior management may find themselves being encouraged to think only in terms of what the senior ranks have already decided is to be strategy. The danger for the organisation, especially one which has the hint of a command culture to it, is that failure by senior ranks to accept debate as normal can rapidly lead to 'group-think', where bad decisions can be adopted because of a lack of robust examination. Consultation and challenge are part of everyday engagement with the Federation, and should be seen as being good for the organisation.
We are a forward thinking and supportive Federation.
For instance, one of the major issues which surfaced during the year was the proposal that the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police should be merged into a single national force. There may be a logic to this, given our common responsibility to protect the nation's defence and nuclear energy infrastructure.
But it seems that further study showed that the practical difficulties were insurmountable or prohibitively expensive.
I raise this as an example of the constructive approach the Federation takes when presented with a proposal that would no doubt have brought major personal and career disruption to our officers and their families. We would have looked at this controversial proposition objectively if the decision had been to proceed with the merger, and could have given the Authority invaluable insight into the practicalities of integrating the two forces. As it is, we will be developing a strategic alliance with our MDP colleagues with a view to any future changes to requirements for either of us.
From the start, when we were advised of Government thinking, we made it clear that we would not oppose the merger in principle. Nonetheless, it is the duty of this Federation to consider the impact on the careers of officers and their terms and conditions. We fully understand our remit of welfare and efficiency, and that it is not our job to argue with Government or with the CNC regarding the direction of strategic policy for the better protection of national assets.
Our concern is to be supportive to the Executive yet, at the same time, look after the reasonable interests of our members. It is in that vein that I am raising issues which are causing agitation and a degree of confusion among my membership.
Most people, when they hear talk of Futures, associate the term with City Bankers betting on commodity prices. For members of my Federation, the term has the unwelcome overtones of gambling with our careers.
As a Federation, we have been waiting for clarity on what the Futures programme will fully entail. Only yesterday, we were supposed to get an up to date presentation but for reasons outside our Executive's control, it was cancelled. Such uncertainty about Futures continues to make our members nervous.
The CNC potentially may offer two sets of conditions of service each with their advantages and disadvantages. The terms and conditions under which I joined - and the overwhelming majority of delegates in this room joined - were for a life-long career as a police officer. Times and circumstance have changed over the years, and the security context in which we first operated was vastly different. What we had to deal with in the mid fifties when we were first constituted as the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary has completely changed to what we now face as the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
These changes in name have reflected the redefinition of our role. The changes have also been accompanied by a substantial growth in numbers of officers, with more still to be recruited over the coming years as the Government's nuclear energy policy is rolled out.
The demands of the job for the individual officer have also changed radically. Officers must reach a level of weapon training and operational proficiency which is probably the highest standard in the UK police or military service. We are proud of what we have achieved as a police organization. We are proud of how we, as individuals, have risen to meet the personal and professional standards necessary for the job.
At the time I joined, it was possible to serve out your career to retirement age even if you were unable to maintain your firearms proficiency as you got older. With the Futures programme, we are concerned that officers might have to maintain their proficiency until the day they retire at sixty. Failure to maintain the required standard has the potential to see officers dismissed. The polite term is "managed out". Either way, the effect on an officer and their family could be devastating. Yet I know from my own experience that some young recruits are signing their contracts unaware of the obligatory requirement of the small print.
We believe that the incentive for recruits and for officers with only a few years service is that they reach a high rate of pay within a short time of service, if they switch to the Futures contract. The downside is their career prospects may not be as long as they think if they can't perform at 50 in the same way they did at 20.
A key objective of the CNC is to be the employer of choice for potential recruits. Given the state of the unemployment market, young people are desperate for a job - especially one that carries the status of police officer. There is no doubt that policing with the CNC is a promising career, especially as hardly any other police service is recruiting.
However, it remains the firm view of the Federation that we should put as much effort into seeing officers leave in a dignified manner for a new civilian career, as we spend trying to get them to join. Officers must not be discarded, without alternative employment prospects at any age, simply because they have lost their weapon proficiency skills. If the force wants to terminate the service of these officers then retraining programmes for more routine civilian employment and proper severance compensation packages should be developed.
Over the past two years the Federation, in common with our colleagues in other UK Federations, has watched with unease the work of Tom Winsor. His reports, as amended by Police Arbitration Tribunals, will alter police radically, especially the outcome of the second tribunal due out later this year. I am delighted, and more than a little relieved, to say that this Federation has been assured that the Winsor Report doesn't apply to the CNC at present. I suppose that is the benefit of being a specialist force, although I would have liked the reassurance about Winsor to have been a bit more emphatic.
However, we will not escape the changes to pensions being implemented as a result of the Hutton Report. But then nobody in the public sector will. One pension issue which is as yet unresolved is the seven year gap between the incoming state retirement age of 67, and Government acceptance that police officers should retire at 60. None of the three public sector pension schemes being considered as a model for us addresses how we will be treated if we retire at 60, but can draw no pension until 67. That is not a happy prospect, and we expect to hear how this will be addressed as soon as possible.
The Federation has always taken a keen interest in the Police Negotiating Board. That forum has provided the benchmark for police agreement on all aspects of pay and conditions of service. Given the impact of Winsor, I cannot help but fear for the future of PNB. It provided a single discussion forum between the main staff and official representatives to settle matters. The non-Home Department forces such as us will lose a vital reference point for agreeing pay and conditions. The demise of PNB could be a case of the Government throwing the baby out with the bath water.
One area of growing contention for my members, Chief Constable, is overtime. You will know that the Federations' have a love-hate relationship with overtime. Strictly speaking, we regard the requirement to work overtime as a sign that we could do with more officers.
Secondly, officers should be sufficiently well paid so as not to be dependent upon overtime for adequate income. In practice, rostering overtime gives management flexibility in how it deploys existing resources, and I must concede the members will always welcome the extra income from a reasonable amount of overtime. The problem is not the amount of overtime, but the need for it to be planned more carefully. Too often it seems to be unthinking detailing of officers when, with a little more thought, personal and family circumstances could be factored in. Some degree of inconvenience is inevitable, but we believe better scheduling of overtime would be more cost- effective for the force and for the well being of officers.
As I said earlier, the CNC has come a long way from its guarding role for the UK Atomic Energy Authority. As a Constabulary, we sit somewhere in the spectrum between a county police service and a specialist sophisticated force with arms capability, able to combat any deadly and determined attack from terrorism.
Our position was recently described as a kind of "no man's land". One thing we all know about no man's land is . . . it is not safe out there. That kind of uncertainty is not good for us as a policing organisation.
We are a police service first and foremost. It is the Federation's belief that our status as a Constabulary brings considerably benefits and should be jealously guarded. We are more than an armed guarding service. As a Police Service, our remit may not be as wide-ranging as a county force, but we make up for it in our supreme importance to public safety and their confidence in the nuclear industry. We are also available to provide vital armed support to neighbouring constabularies, and did so recently to the Cumbrian police.
Our mission is to defend, deny, and recover. It would be timely and I think appropriate that we should add to that. It should be: deter, defend, deny, and recover. One of the long standing purposes of policing is the prevention of crime. The confidence of the public is always bolstered more by the belief that crime is being prevented than by any certainty that the perpetrators will be caught.
While the role or even the existence of the CNC is rarely promoted in public, there is a balance to be struck between public awareness of what the CNC delivers on behalf of the nation and the extensive secrecy which shrouds us. We should be known as a specialist policing organisation whose formidable capability deters attack so that a crime, in the form of a terrorist attack against a nuclear establishment, becomes unthinkable.
Chief Constable... I invite you to address conference
Chairman - Mr. Mark Nelson
Chief Exec. - Mr. Nigel Dennis