Brian Connell is the Conservative Cabinet Member at Westminster Council leading on Enterprise. He works as a management consultant, and chairs the West End Marketing Alliance which promotes business in the London's West End of London.
It’s a shame that senior politicians and police are engaged in such a public debate about tactics, hindsight and Bill Bratton when we can all agree that this has been an unprecedented week.
I’ve been robustly critical of the policing of demonstrations which have affected central London in recent years – but having been with officers in the immediate aftermath of rioting this week in my own area, have nothing but praise for their bravery and resilience. If I’m a supporter of the officers on the ground (and their seniors, whose planning helped to keep central London protected too) – it’s difficult to defend their vested interests on the subject of ‘Crown Servants’.
It’s a surprise that this isn’t more widely reported, but the police have an even higher level of job security than most others in the public sector: as ‘Crown Servants’ they’re not classed as employees and cannot be made redundant. Civilians in the police force do important jobs and don’t have the same protection. Not only are these ‘police staff’ cheaper – some of their jobs are critical to crime fighting. They staff control rooms (the guys who pick up, screen and prioritise our 999 calls), do work like reviewing CCTV, undertaking forensic lab analysis and even operate front of house at police stations.
It may seem perverse that a Conservative representing an area hit by riots and worried about the impending Notting Hill Carnival should raise this but it matters a lot right now. With budget cuts taking effect all over the country, any redundancies will be focused on civilians alone – and many roles will then be backfilled by (more expensive) police officers who will come off the front line to do them.
It would be great to think that before elected police commissioners come in, this anomaly could be removed – allowing real accountability for their priorities, the style of policing and also the shape and level of resources required to meet the demands of a public who are still very wary.