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Friday, 16 May 2014

Era of bullying & secret accounts at Police Federation must end

On the eve of the Police Federation Annual Conference, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has highlighted what it calls is the urgent need for further reform. The Committee found:


  • Bullying is endemic in the higher echelons of the Federation.
  • Both the late Paul McKeever and the outgoing Chair, Steve Williams, have been subject to systematic campaigns of abuse which have no place in a professional organisation.
Political and Personal Campaigns
  • The Federation has a clear duty to speak up for its members and to engage with national policy changes which affect the police but, as the late Paul McKeever noted, some of its political campaigns have been too personalised.
  • The hiring of radio "shock jock" Jon Gaunt was a serious error of judgement which has damaged, rather than enhanced, the Federation's reputation.
Election of National Chair
  • The dysfunctional relationships at the Federation Headquarters have seriously undermined the organisation's ability to speak with a powerful voice on behalf of its members.
  • The Committee calls for the immediate election of a new National Chair, by all the membership. 
Rebate on subscriptions
  • Following a subscription increase in 2011 the organisation has accrued substantial reserves of around £70 million which are disproportionate to its operating costs.
  • The Committee recommends that the excess should be returned to members immediately as a rebate on subscriptions.
'Number 2' Accounts
  • At a local level, while some smaller branches struggle financially, others have accumulated reserves which add up to around £35 million, some of it in obscure "No. 2" accounts.
  • A new funding formula, with subscriptions going straight to the centre and being distributed to branches, would remedy this.
  • * The Committee calls for full transparency of all the Federation's accounts, at both national and local level.

Keith Vaz, Chairman of the Committee said: "We were shocked by the scale of bullying that we found at the Federation's Headquarters. It rivals any popular soap opera. It is disgraceful that any Chairman should have been hounded out for championing the long-overdue reforms set out in the Normington Report. Only a new National Chair, elected directly by the Federation's rank-and-file members, will have the authority to implement these changes in full.

Continuing Mr Vaz commented: "The Federation needs complete financial transparency to remove all suspicion about the so-called 'No. 2 accounts'. Federation funds should serve the Members and the public directly, not the organisation itself. Police officer's from every corner of England and Wales should receive an immediate rebate on their current subscriptions, which have accumulated into unnecessary reserves of around £70 million, and a subscription freeze for next year."

Concluding Mr Vaz said: "The Federation must seize this opportunity to reform without delay. Our police service is the best in the world but its reputation has been extensively damaged by the Federation suffering a sustained period of self inflicted harm. I hope that, with these reforms, it can move forwards to become, once again, the powerful and respected voice that our police officers, and the country, expect and deserve."

Steve Williams, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, responded to the report by saying: "Today’s Home Affairs Select Committee report touches on a number of key issues for the Police Federation of England and Wales. In December 2012, the Police Federation announced the commission of an independent review of itself – to be carried out by Sir David Normington – and work is well under way within the Police Federation to implement that review’s 36 recommendations. We welcome the Home Affairs Committee’s reiteration of the principles contained within that report and of its modernising agenda which we will be working to implement at our annual conference next week."

Labour's Shadow Policing Minister, Jack Dromey, also responding to the Home Affairs Select Committee report on reform of the Police Federation, commented: "The police need a strong and effective voice, as the Normington Report noted. But it should always move with the times. Change is necessary and it is in everyone's interests for a more open organisation. Certainly any culture of bullying must be called out and eradicated. No police officer I know would consider that acceptable. The Federation has the chance to change at its Annual Conference next week."