“Probation services set to be renationalised as [Tory] Government accepts failure”

Owl says: Privatisation was supposed to be the answer … not the problem!

“Probation services are set to be renationalised as the Government prepares to accept its experiment has failed.

An announcement on how supervision of thousands of offenders will return to the National Probation Service is expected in weeks.

Reforms introduced by Chris Grayling when he was Justice Secretary have cost taxpayers almost £500million and led to an increase in murders committed by criminals.

Sources said the news could be broken as early as Thursday.

… The Ministry of Justice began partially privatising the probation service in 2013.

It involved 21 “community rehabilitation companies” monitoring people released from jail after serving short sentences. But the Government announced last year their contracts would end in 2020 – 14 months early.

Dame Glenys Stacey, the Chief Inspector of Probation, has previously described the current model as “irredeemably flawed”.

She told MPs on the Commons Justice Committee yesterday there were “deep-seated, systemic issues”.

She said it was “remarkably difficult” to condense probation into a set of contractual measures.

The Mirror revealed this year that 225 people had been murdered by convicted criminals being monitored by firms since privatisation.

The toll soared to 71 last year from 42 in 2015, shortly after Mr Grayling introduced the changes. …”


Secretively towards a new kind of emergency service in Devon?

Currently many firefighters are trained as medical first responders too. Now they are being trained as police first responders.

Is this a plan to have just one type of first responder – police, fire AND ambulance?

“A police force has trained firefighters as special constables in an attempt to boost officer numbers in rural areas.

Seven Devon and Somerset firefighters have taken on the community responder roles after two months training with Devon and Cornwall Police.

They can now arrest suspects, but must prioritise fighting fires when needed.

Police and fire unions have criticised the scheme as a ploy to “paper over the cracks” saying “firefighters exist to save lives, not to enforce the law”.

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, Alison Hernandez, said the new roles would help make “communities in Devon and Cornwall safer”.

“They are a great addition to rural communities and importantly represent extra resource for blue-light services,” she said.

“They are not a replacement to full-time sworn police officers, whose ranks we are also adding to with a further 85 being recruited this year, taking our numbers to the highest level since 2012.”

But Dave Green, from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said: “Firefighters provide a humanitarian service, which often allows access to areas of the community that the police sometimes struggle to engage with.

“Independence from the police is vital to ensure that communities know firefighters exist to save lives, not to enforce the law.

“We remain opposed to any attempt to turn firefighters into law enforcement, either in Devon and Somerset, or elsewhere in the country.”

Simon Kempton, of the Police Federation, told The Telegraph that the project was an attempt to “paper over the cracks” caused by cuts in funding.

“It just exposes how scant resources are in some rural areas,” he said.
Cullompton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Okehampton, Newton Abbot and Totnes will all receive a community responder later this year.”


Retiring Chief Constable blames political choices for ‘systemic failings’

“A departing police chief has used his farewell address to suggest his force no longer has the resources to “protect its citizens”.

Jon Boutcher, chief constable of Bedfordshire Police, attacked government cuts as he announced he would be leaving after five years in the job.

It comes amid a row between police forces and ministers over whether reduced policing budgets are to blame for a rise in violent crime.

In a statement announcing his departure, Mr Boutcher claimed that Bedfordshire Police had been the worst-hit force in the country.

“Policing remains hugely underfunded and Bedfordshire Police provides the most profound example of this as a force with the most challenging and complex demands normally only faced by metropolitan forces such as the Met, West Midlands and the like, and yet the funding gap has still not been addressed,” he said.

“I recognise recent efforts by the current Home Secretary and Policing Minister to reverse a long standing lack of police investment however I would remind everyone that it is the first responsibility of government to protect its citizens, policing must be properly funded.

“The consequences of previous budgetary decisions are now being felt by all of our communities. This must be addressed.”

Mr Boutcher earned nearly £123,000 a year, and will be entitled to a healthy taxpayer-funded pension. Last year it was revealed that two thirds of chief constables received a total of at least £1.37million in pension contributions in the last two years – with some getting more than £40,000 a year.

In March 2017 Mr Boutcher publicly criticised a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary which rated his force as the worst in the country for keeping people safe and reducing crime. It identified “systemic failings”, and deemed overall service provision “inadequate”, a drop from the previous year’s assessment of ‘good’.

In response, Mr Boutcher claimed: “My officers cannot cope with the demand and no-one seems to be listening. Something is going to give. Things cannot go on as they are. My officers are exhausted.

“I can’t tell you why they aren’t listening. I can only assume it is political.” …”


Cops called three times to Police Commissioner Hernandez’s party

“A police chief’s cosy housewarming party went disastrously wrong after her boyfriend and new neighbours ended up having a furious row over parking in the early hours of the morning.

Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, has been left picking up the pieces after three complaints were made to the local force against her partner, Lucius Gray.

Ms Hernandez, 45, who made the headlines last year when she suggested that gun owners could help foil terror attacks, had only been in her new home three weeks when tempers flared.

She gave out Prosecco and pot-plants to try and smooth things over, but her efforts were angrily dismissed as ‘political damage limitation’ by neighbours.

They insist Mr Gray, a formerly homeless aspiring Tory councillor, has been ‘abusive, obnoxious, rude and threatening’, while he says they are trying to scupper his chances of election in a crunch local vote in May.

The fracas occurred on Saturday night when Ms Hernandez and Mr Gray, 44, hosted a dinner party for two fellow Conservative couples in a sleepy suburb of Torquay.

They served salmon and cheesecake followed by cheese and biscuits, washed down with ‘several bottles’ of wine.

One of the guests, the leader of the Tory Councillors, David Thomas, 55, parked his silver Jaguar in a space that belonged to a neighbour, 70-year-old Alan Binding.

When Mr Binding came home, he retaliated by parking his car across the driveway, blocking all the vehicles in.

‘I was not a happy bunny,’ he told MailOnline. ‘I own that parking space. I should be able to park in it any time I feel like it.’

At 1:30am, when the dinner party was over, Mr Gray – who admitted he had ‘had a few drinks’ but denied being drunk – went with teetotal Mr Thomas to find the culprit.

According to neighbours, he started banging on windows and doors before using a key to gain access to a private hallway, where he rang on a number of doorbells.

This provoked a heated exchange with a younger couple who had been woken up, despite having nothing to do with the dispute.

‘He banged on our window and rang our doorbell in the middle of the night,’ said the neighbour, who did not want to be named.

‘He then used piggish language and was really rude and threatening to my girlfriend.

‘The fact that he’s a Tory candidate makes my blood boil. If you want a woman’s vote, you don’t speak to her like that.’

Mr Gray denied he was abusive and blamed the couple for ‘over-reacting’.

‘The lady launched into an unbelievable tirade which was completely inappropriate,’ he said. ‘We were trying to establish who owned the car. When it became clear that the car wasn’t hers, we tried to apologise and left. But she was apoplectic.

‘It’s not true that I was aggressive. I’m six-foot-three. I may I seem instantly intimidating, but I can hardly be blamed for being tall. It was absurd.’

When the two Tories established that Mr Binding was the owner of the car instead, a second argument then broke out on the landing with the pensioner.

‘Mr Gray really wound me up,’ Mr Binding said. ‘It was 1:30am and he was being arrogant and aggressive. He said, “do you know who these people are? They’re Tory councillors”.

‘He seemed to think I should bow down to them, when they had no right to be there.’

Mr Gray, who was made homeless by his parents at the age of 16 and was brought up in supported care, said he was being stigmatised because of his ‘tough’ background.

“I do feel this is very politically motivated, to rubbish my part in the campaign. If people like me who have had tough experiences are treated like this, it’s no surprise that we don’t want to get involved in politics.’

The neighbours insisted that they neither belonged to political parties or had any special interest in politics.

One added: ‘Alison is supposed to be the pinnacle of integrity. She hires and fires the Chief Constable. She holds very high office and is an elected representative.

‘Yet she is going out with a man who wakes up pensioners in the small hours and kicks off at them. Torbay people would be disgusted. She has to be held accountable.’

The day after the altercation, Ms Hernandez delivered handwritten apology cards, accompanied by bottles of Prosecco and pot-plants, but to no avail.

‘I feel quite persecuted, really, and targeted,’ she told MailOnline. ‘My neighbours are using a petty argument for political purposes. It’s absolutely pathetic.’

Neighbours revealed this was the second confrontation with Mr Gray since Ms Hernandez moved in.

On the first occasion, Mr Gray took a neighbour by surprise when he entered the private property after dark via a back gate and was allegedly ‘abusive and intimidating’ when asked to identify himself.

Mr Gray acknowledged he had ‘reacted inappropriately’, but said there had been bad behaviour on both sides and the matter was now closed.

This is not the first time that Ms Hernandez herself has been mired in controversy.

She made the headlines last year when she suggested that gun owners could help foil terror attacks, something that police chiefs dismissed out of hand.

In February, the road safety specialist – who lobbied the Government to raise the cost of speeding tickets – was slapped with a speeding fine and a parking ticket in two days.

Last year, her former partner received a 15-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, for assaulting and then stalking her when she ended the relationship.”


Corruption ad poor police investigatillon of it in local elections

The 2014 election victory by Lutfur Rahman in the contest for Mayor of Tower of Hamlets was eventually over-turned for electoral corruption, but police investigations did not result in criminal convictions. The resulting controversy over the police’s actions resulted in Operation Lynemouth: an investigation into what the police did and why.

The final report from Operation Lynemouth is now out, and it is pretty damning:

The policing of the election and the subsequent investigation were deficient in too many areas. There was a lack of corporate responsibility, a lack of training and insufficient resources for the MPS’s special enquiry team’s investigation. We were also concerned that, when another MPS department investigated allegations other than electoral fraud, potential lines of enquiry were disregarded. Furthermore, there was an otherwise uncoordinated approach to all the investigations, with little oversight at a senior officer level for the first year, which meant that opportunities might have been missed.

Scope has also been identified for a new police investigation:

Operation Lynemouth’s investigators have identified avenues of enquiry that can still be explored, and City of London Police has agreed to undertake an independent criminal investigation.”

Operation Lynemouth: final report

Here is the full report”

Click to access Operation-Lynemouth-review-of-police-handling-of-electoral-corruption-allegations-in-Tower-Hamlets.pdf


“Axed Devon, Cornwall and Dorset police merger saw [another] £380k ‘wasted’

… not to mention the millions wasted on a Police and Crime Commissioner …

“Almost £380,000 was “wasted” on a failed merger between two police forces, figures have revealed.

Plans to merge Devon and Cornwall Police with Dorset Police were called off in October after a police and crime commissioner (PCC) opposed the move.
The Police Federation said it was “horrified” such a “large amount of money has been wasted”.

Both police forces said work to create a “robust business case” for the merger could be used in the future.
The £376,798 included consultant fees of more than £190,000, police officer pay totalling almost £119,000 and more than £26,000 on equipment and advertising, a BBC Freedom of Information request has revealed. …


“Sticking plaster won’t save our services now”

“Britain’s fabric is fraying. It’s not just the occasional crisis: schools that can’t afford a five-day week, prisons getting emergency funding because officer cuts have left jails unsafe, a privatised probation service that isn’t supervising ex-criminals. The services we take for granted have been pared so deeply that many are unravelling. The danger signals are flashing everywhere.

Local authorities have lost three quarters of their central government funding since 2010. They are cutting and selling off wherever possible: parks, libraries, youth services. The mainly Tory-run councils in the County Councils Network warned last year that their members were facing a “black hole” and were heading for “truly unpalatable” cuts to key services, including children’s centres, road repairs, elderly care, and rubbish collection.

The chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit, a think tank, says councils are already on life support. Yet they face their biggest fall in funding next year. Volunteers are already running some libraries and parks. Councils will have to cut further; Theresa May’s new stronger towns fund is far too small to make a difference.

The criminal justice system has been stretched beyond reliability. The number of recorded crimes being prosecuted is falling and runs at just 8.2 per cent, as funding cuts bite, evidence isn’t scrutinised, courts close and neither defence nor prosecution teams have adequate resources or time. The chairman of the Law Society’s criminal law committee says “we are facing a crisis within our justice system, we are starting to see it crumble around us”.

In health, waiting times at A&E have hit their worst level in 15 years; in some surgeries the wait for a GP appointment can be weeks; and this week public satisfaction with the NHS fell to its lowest for more than a decade, at 53 per cent, down from 70 per cent in 2010. Britain’s spending watchdog, Sir Amyas Morse, departed from his usual role as a tenacious critic of government waste to warn us, bluntly, that May’s recent boost for the NHS is nothing like enough. An ageing population will need higher spending. The falling budgets for social care are “unsustainable”.

The news in education this week was that 15 Birmingham primary schools will close at lunchtime on Fridays because they can’t afford to stay open. It’s the most vivid recent example of the slashing of budgets per pupil by almost 10 per cent, in real terms, since 2010. Sixth forms have lost a quarter of their funding. Schools have reduced teaching hours, cut A-level courses in maths, science, languages, sacked librarians, school nurses, mental health and support staff, and cut back on music, art, drama and sport.

When this process began in 2010 I backed it. Like many people, I had come across enough unhelpful, incompetent jobsworths to know the state was wasting money. As a Labour supporter I’d written at the end of the Brown years warning that Labour was destroying its case for high public spending by squandering much of it.

Privately, many in the system agreed. One chief executive of a Labour council told me he’d been relieved to get rid of half his staff in the first couple of years; it had cleared out the pointless and lazy, and forced everyone to focus on what mattered and what worked. Other chief executives agreed cheerfully that they too had been “p***ing money up against the wall”.

But we are years past that point. We have moved beyond cutting fat, or transformation through efficiencies. Instead we are shrivelling the web of hopes, expectations and responsibilities that connect us all, making lives meaner and more limited, leaving streets dirtier, public spaces outside the prosperous southeast visibly neglected.

So many cuts are to the fabric that knitted people together or gave them purpose. The disappearance of day centres for the disabled, lunch clubs for the elderly or sport and social clubs for the young is easy to shrug off for the unaffected. But the consequences are often brutal for those who lose them, isolating people and leaving them with the cold message that unless you can pay, nobody cares. The hope that volunteers and charities could fill all the state’s gaps has evaporated. They haven’t and they don’t. Is this how we want Britain to be, and if not, where does this end?

Austerity was never meant to be lengthy, just a few tough years to drive reform. It was intended to be over by 2017, when a thriving economy would float us off the rocks, but events did not go to George Osborne’s plan. The economy is not about to rescue us now, either. All forms of Brexit are going to slow our growth.

Which leaves us with three choices. We could accept the decay of services, and decide to live in a crueller, more divided, more fearful country. If we didn’t want that, we could back a party that planned higher taxes to fund them — Britain’s tax burden is currently 34 per cent, three quarters of the French, Belgian and Danish rates.

Alternatively, Philip Hammond could seize the chance to start reversing this policy in his spring statement next week. In America many Republicans and Democrats, for different reasons, have begun to treat deficits with insouciance, after years of obsessing over them. What matters is whether governments can afford the interest on the debt. Rates are low. Britain desperately needs investment in its people and their futures. The cautious Hammond should open the financial taps.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

“Demand made for more police in East Devon after council tax hike”

Owl cannot understand how East Devon Tory councillors, who have voted time and time again for austerity, who have preened themselves for having one of the lowest council tax rates in the country, and instituted savage cuts can act surprised when they get less for more!

And don’t forget every time there is a vote in Parliament to cut anything – our two MPs vote for those same cuts – unless they affect their salaries or tax breaks for the rich or farming, of course in which case they fight tooth and nail for them!

“Give us more police’, East Devon councillors have demanded, to help tackle increasing incidents of disorder in the region.

Wednesday night’s full council meeting saw councillors agreed to write to the Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall Police to recognise the needs of East Devon when deciding how to allocate extra resources after the council tax rise will enable 85 new officers to be recruited.

Councillors demanded that extra police be provided to the region, particularly in light of the number of PCSOs being cut from the current 196 to 150.

It comes after the Police and Crime Panel chose not to exercise their veto on Alison Hernandez’s proposals that would see council tax rise for £24 a year for the average Band D council tax payer.

Cllr Tom Wright, who proposed the motion, said that over the last two years, the increase on tax payers is 20 per cent, so residents should expect to see a significant improvement in the service.

“As East Devon residents are the biggest contributors to the police budget in Devon, other than Plymouth, it is only fair that we should get a fair share of the larger cake.

“The increase for this year that the police are getting from us is an extra £1.5m and for that we should get more police on the streets.”

Cllr Alan Dent added: “PCSOs can nip in the bud problems that can arise.”

He gave the example of a problem of people coming from North Devon to Budleigh Salterton to do wheelies in the car park.

Cllr Dent said: “They were zooming around across the car park. I got cross and took pictures of them. They gave me an earful, but I gave the pictures to our PCSOS, and in 24 hours it was dealt with and we never saw them again.”

He said that there was another incident where garden furniture was stolen from a show house. Cllr Dent again took photographs of the perpetrators, gave them to the PCSO, who said ‘I know who they are and will have a word with their parents.’

“That is the value of PCSOs and why we need them in the community,” he added.

Cllr Brian Bailey said that PCSOs stop people going down into the depth of drink and drugs. He added: “Extra funding mean officers can go into schools and educate people and get them on the right track.”

He said that there was another incident where garden furniture was stolen from a show house. Cllr Dent again took photographs of the perpetrators, gave them to the PCSO, who said ‘I know who they are and will have a word with their parents.’

“That is the value of PCSOs and why we need them in the community,” he added.

Cllr Brian Bailey said that PCSOs stop people going down into the depth of drink and drugs. He added: “Extra funding mean officers can go into schools and educate people and get them on the right track.”

And Cllr Eileen Wragg said that extra police would help tackle the ‘proliferation in drug use in Exmouth which is harming our youngsters, and has even resulted in the death of some of them’.

The motion, calling for the chief constable to recognise the needs of East Devon when deciding how to allocate extra resources, received almost unanimous support from the council, with only Cllr Megan Armstrong abstaining.”


“Firefighters to be trained as police officers for seven Devon towns”

Firefighters are already trained as first medical responders in many towns – now they will be fire/medical/police officers. Hope they get the salary increases that go with the extra responsibilities …..

And, no, it isn’t an “innovative project” as Ms Hernandez suggests – Owl believes it’s a cover-up for too few firefighters, paramedics and police officers.

“This innovative police and fire collaboration project is being funded by Devon and Cornwall’s police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez who hopes it will improve access to the emergency services for communities in Devon.

The seven community responders have been recruited into locations where there is a need based on risk, vulnerability and harm – Cullompton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Okehampton, Newton Abbot and Totnes.

Ms Hernandez has committed funding for an initial two years covering recruitment and ongoing training costs with the possibility of extending further. It forms part of her commitment to improving collaboration between the emergency services.

“I’m incredibly pleased to be able to support this collaboration. We don’t know what future funding will look like for any of our emergency services and working together on unique projects like this will improve the service both organisations can deliver to people in Devon.” said Ms Hernandez.

“I look forward to seeing the benefits that our communities will reap from this innovative work.” …


Devon Chief Constable: “thin blue line broken”

“The chief constable of Devon and Cornwall says the thin blue line of British policing is broken and lives in the two counties are more at risk than ever because of financial cuts.

Shaun Sawyer is supporting a proposal to increase the police council tax precept to fund 85 more police officers, but also said he would still be left with nearly 600 fewer than he had nine years ago. The force currently has just under 3,000 officers.

Mr Sawyer said the most vulnerable were at risk from the government’s decision to slash police budgets in 2010 and officers saw the “effects of those cuts every day”…