police privatisation

Anthony Stansfeld Answers

Anthony Stansfeld has issued some interesting answers, to my questions on his views of police privatisation.

Subsequently to my earlier post and the revelation of @StansfeldPCC as the true Twitter account of of Anthony Stansfeld (the Conservative Party’s candidate for Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner), we have some answers to some of the questions I had raised.

I could ramble on about it, but it’s far simpler to just let Cllr Stansfeld do the talking. So here is the question I asked him, and his response(s):

Which is certainly food for thought, don’t you think?

At first glance, I have a few criticisms to make of this as a response:

  • I’m not entirely sure what company he does run, and indeed it seems there is some controversy on the matter (see here and here). Perhaps, whilst he’s on the subject, Cllr Stansfeld might like to answer those questions?
  • The “Liberal&Labour” shot at the opposition is probably not surprising, but a little disappointing. I’m not going to defend privatisation and PFI, as I believe under the last Labour government it was a short-sighted mistake. However, before Cllr Stansfeld gets too high and mighty, I’d ask him to remember who privatised the railways (a glorious success, Mrs Thatcher — I think not), and who invented PFI (Sir John Major, I’m looking at you). The blue pulpit from which he preaches is, if anything, bloodier than others on this count.

Now, I know many would disagree, but I endeavour not to be blindly partisan on this blog. And in that spirit, I think this is very encouraging. He specifically says “In the case of the Police…it is far better to keep things in house”. So, if he wins and if he holds to his word, then it seems like neither G4S or any of its fellow unsavoury private security firms will be gaining a foothold in the Thames Valley.

Additionally, I like his view of privatisation. It’s something I’ve long thought — if there is profit to be made, why not have the state make it itself, and plough the proceeds into improving the services. And that way, you don’t run the risk of private companies profiteering by dangerous cutting of corners.

So the fight is still on. There are questions of policy and other still to be answered, and a long way to the elections in November. But both of the main party candidates have now declared themselves against outsourcing police services. So anyone watching the humiliating mess that G4S have made of the Olympic security, and even a kids judo scheme, can breathe a (limited) sigh of relief.

Anthony Stansfeld’s questions to answer on police privatisation

Anthony Stansfeld, Conservative candidate for Thames Valley police & crime commissioner, has questions to answer about future of private security firms like G4S in policing.

UPDATE: This post has been somewhat amended, following the revelation of @TVPCC as a fake account. Some sections and quotes have been removed at perfectly reasonable request, being as they were from an imposter.

So with both the Conservatives and Labour having selected their candidates for the Police & Crime Commissioner elections in the Thames Valley in November, the political contest is starting to heat up. So it was with great interest yesterday that I noticed a piece on the Wokingham Times website yesterday entitled “Police inspector warns over staff cuts“.

The article centres around a number of comments from one Greg Elphick, who is apparently “Wokingham Neighbourhood Team Inspector”. I don’t know Inspector Elphick personally, nor have I ever previously encountered him in any way (to the best of my knowledge). But what he says about the future of policing is very interesting.

Speaking about the cuts to police budgets, Inspector Elphick said:

The impact is in the support departments. Administration is taking longer to be processed and functions dealt with by backroom staff could now be done by frontline officers who are supposed to be out on the street…to say frontline services are not going to be affected is not the whole story.

Which is a diplomatic way of putting it. I would have described claims that the front line would remain untouched as utter nonsense. I don’t know where this idea comes from, that police officers are “lone rangers”, so to speak. It seems counter-intuitive to think that the civilian back office staff — such as those answering 999 calls — are not just as important to the process as the officers who turn up at the scene.

Now, given that private security firm G4S have made an utter mess of Olympic security this week, there is a certain pertinence here. If budgets are being cut, might not a desperate Conservative PCC turn to a private security fund to bolster “frontline” police numbers on the cheap? A worrying concept, and one which had been considered by some police forces. Thankfully, some seem miraculously to have seen the light and shelved the plans in the last week. I can’t think why.

But bad ideas tend to die hard, and with the Conservatives having no ideas besides austerity at the moment, I expect it will return. So there’s an interest in knowing what a potential PCC for the Thames Valley post-November thinks of it all. Biting the bullet, iasked directly. Twice. (It gets a little complicated, as there are two Twitter accounts battling it out for “official” Anthony Stansfeld status. Watch this space for updates on that little piece of social media theatre).

I’ve still had no answer. I’m going to start pressing harder on this matter in the next week or so, but am hampered by the lack of anything that even resembles an organised Conservative campaign yet. It’s also worth highlighting that I’m not the only one who has been asking:

Tim has already said that he would aim to restore police numbers to 2010 levels, through a modest precept increase in the region of £4 per year for band D properties. £4 more per year doesn’t seem a great deal to keep policing up to standard, and avoid seeing an Olympics style G4S fiasco across the Thames Valley.

So what say you, Cllr Stansfeld?

UPDATE: One interesting development already this morning; the Twitter account @TVPCC has been suspended. So I guess that leaves @StansfeldPCC as the winner of the “Stansfeld Wars”. So these questions fall to him then.

The Shape of Things to Come?

In the light of the mess G4S have made of Olympic security, this should be a worrying warning about the future of our policing.

It’s a said state of affairs, isn’t it? The army have been called in to the Olympic Games, to cover for a shortfall in the number of security staff provided by private security firm G4S.

They were to be paid £284million, to provide 10,000 staff, but apparently won’t be able to meet it in time due to problems with “scheduling and development”. It’s looking very much like they tried to do things on the cheap, and got caught out.

Which is embarrassing, but at least the army can bail them out. The more worrying thing is G4S’ involvement in the ongoing scandal of police privatisation. Not only are they one of the bidders in West Midlands and Surrey police forces plans to outsource some of their policing duties to the private sector. They’re also going to be building and running a police station for Lincolnshire Police.

Privatisation of the police force scares me, honestly. The idea of streets being patrolled by private security guards, of law and order functions being handed over to these companies, should be something that we’re all opposed to, and I think the majority of people would. Privatisation has done little good for the customer in areas where it has been rolled out historically — whether the train companies or water companies — as the “public service” ethos always seems to get lost in a blind dash for profits.

And G4S don’t exactly have a rosy history themselves:

Not a favourable record (and don’t think that the other parties interested in police privatisation are any cleaner…), and especially worrying about the problem we already have with deaths in custody.

Enter into this volatile mix, the elections of police commissioners in November. Here in the Thames Valley, the only candidates we have declared so far is Labour’s Tim Starkey, and the Conservatives’ (“TOTALLY OFFICIAL” apparently) Anthony Stansfeld. I have heard with my own ears Tim disavow police privatisation, and so can say without a doubt that he would not countenance it. I cannot, sadly, say anything similar about Mr Stansfeld.

The Conservatives have nothing to offer in these elections. They are cutting police budgets by 20%, are pathologically against all taxes regardless of justifications, and have no new ideas of how to improve policing. They do, however, have a track history and zeal for selling off public services to the private sector, to the benefit of businesses and detriment of the public.

I, for one, shudder at the possibility that publicly accountable police officers could be replaced by thugs hired on the cheap to make quotas and profits for the likes of G4S. They’ve cocked up Olympic security, and the army have stepped in — but the army won’t be able to do the same on Thames Valley streets.

Will Anthony Stansfeld pledge not to privatise police if elected as Police & Crime Commissioner?

UPDATE: Well, one good thing seems to have come of the G4S Olympic shambles (and yes, Theresa May, your private security company drastically under providing for a major international sports competition is the very definition of shambolic): the BBC are reporting that Surrey Police have dropped plans for privatisation. Very good news, but I can’t help but fear that the plans might be stealthily resurrected following November’s police commissioner elections.