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Theresa May and Nick Herbert must stand firm on police reform

PeterwalkerPeter Walker welcomes the appointment of Tom Winsor and detects a more constructive tone from the Police Federation

Some time ago, just after the publication of Tom Winsor's second report about Police pay and conditions, I wrote in these columns that Ministers should withstand the "inevitable onslaught" of those in the Police who disagreed with their reforms.

Both Nick Herbert and Theresa May have consistently done just that - the latter having to put up with behaviour by some at the Police Federation conference that was simply unacceptable.

Over the last few weeks, it seems their determination has started to pay off and marked what may be the start of a more constructive approach by the Police Federation, whist at the same time the Home Affairs Select Committee endorsed the appointment of Tom Winsor as HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

Writing in Police Oracle, Julie Nesbit, who is Chairman of the Constable's Central Committee and represents the highest number of officers, said "...realistically, we are resigned to the controversial appointment, and we must be absolutely clear that we will work with whoever succeeds Sir Denis O’Connor. So let us start work now."

She continues to express the reservations Police Officers have about changes to their pay and conditions, but her remarks indicate and express willingness to debate, which is a long way from the vociferous antipathy of a few weeks ago, which led Nick Herbert to criticise the Federation for "playing the man" rather than engage in negotiations over his proposals.

Additionally, Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe used his speech at the Association of Chief Police Officers to tell the service it was time to "shut up and move on" over Police and Crime Commissioners, thus distancing himself from Sir Hugh Orde, the ACPO President, who has appeared increasingly isolated in his views of late.

Privately, many Federation representatives will say they recognise that in terms of reform, they see the Pension issue as "done business", that all Public Sector employees are facing the same changes and their case to be treated differently is unarguable. Their focus is now towards constructive use of the negotiating machinery regarding pay and conditions and they want to seek agreement, rather than have to go to the arbitration mechanism.

Last week, I spoke at a Policy Exchange seminar about Police and Crime Commissioners - one of a number being held to let would-be candidates learn what they may need to do if they are elected.

What was interesting was that all present , which included police officers, journalists and politicians of all parties, were looking to the future - the Police Service with the fresh system of accountability envisaged by the Government. I understand from people who have attended other events this has been a consistent feature.

Although there is a long way to go, Theresa May and Nick Herbert have every right to be satisfied with the progress made so far on Police Reform. Their consistency and determination in the face of manifest opposition over a long period is a credit to them and the Government.

Delivering Public Sector Reform has widespread support and is an essential component of our strategy for winning the next election. Knowing the element involving Policing and Crime is in safe hands should provide encouragement to all of us.

Peter Walker retired as Deputy Chief Constable of North Yorkshire in 2003 and now owns a company specialising in training construction workers. He has applied to be the Conservative Party candidate for Police & Crime Commissioner in North Yorkshire.


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