|Sir George writes to Home Secretary, following Mass Lobby
14 Mar 2002
Following the meeting held with Hampshire MP's by local police officers, this is the text of my letter to the Home Secretary.
The Rt Hon David Blunkett MP
HAMPSHIRE POLICE PROTEST RALLY
Along with five other Hampshire MP’s, I attended a one hour meeting in the QE ll Centre organised by the Hampshire Branch of the Police Federation yesterday. I promised the meeting that I would write to you so you were aware of the strong feeling.
The other colleagues who were able to attend were David Willetts, Mark Oaten, Andrew Turner, Julian Lewis and David Chidgey. I am sure there were good reasons why no Labour MP’s were able to attend, but there was understandable disappointment from those at the meeting that no-one was there to present the Government’s case.
No one at the meeting objected to the principle of reforming police pay and conditions; indeed several who spoke welcomed it. However, there was strong opposition to certain elements of the Heads of Agreement, which I will come on to in a moment. Many of those who spoke said that they had not been given sufficient details of what was proposed to come to a sensible judgement about the impact on their own circumstances – the overtime proposals were regarded with deep suspicion; and nearly all took exception to the tone of your remarks about the police and the Police Federation.
There is real concern about the proposal for Community Support Officers. If more resources were available, the strong view was that they should go to more policemen on the beat. Officers were unhappy about extending police powers to personnel who are not police officers and who had not had the full appropriate training.
Many spoke about the burdens of paperwork. The time taken to process an arrest can take an officer off the street for the rest of the shift and, in my view, this may even act as a disincentive to arrest. Time is wasted in court when cases are not heard. It may be because there are shortages of resources, but the CPS was not held in high regard by some of those at the meeting. There was resentment at the time spent filling in forms for the Home Office, and amazement at the recent proposals for stop and search.
One woman officer spoke about the impact of short notice changes to shifts without proper compensation. For officers with families planning to spend time together, this was clearly a major issue.
There was concern about the process of increased centralisation and resistance to the concept of a national police force.
Several officers voiced strong support for recent comments by Sir John Stevens about the balance between prosecution and defendant.
There was uncertainty about the competence related bonuses and special priority payments as it was by no means clear how this would operate.
The meeting was not all about pay. Morale in the force is not good, and underlying many of the comments was a sense of frustration at not being able to deliver the quality of service which they want to deliver, and which our constituents expect to receive.
Rt Hon Sir George Young MP (North West Hants)