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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.
Friday, 21 June 2013
Good news day for police staff
If this blog sounds a little smug and self satisfied, I make no apologies. I am entitled to a little job satisfaction!
When the Scottish Government published the Police and Fire Reform Bill I did what I normally do with legislation that impacts on UNISON members - draw up an issues schedule identifying areas of concern or gaps in the legislation. The very first point on the schedule for this Bill was the conflict of roles between the Scottish Police Authority and the Police Service of Scotland. We therefore argued that there should be one board charged with scrutiny, leaving operational control the responsibility of the Chief Constable. We also pointed out that if it was constituted as a local government joint board, the force would save £millions in VAT payments.
We made all these points and others to the Minister, Bill Team, MSPs and in the wider media. As we predicted the conflict was played out almost immediately. Not helped by the appointment of Vic Emery, who was previously the Chair of the Scottish Police Service Authority (SPSA). He immediately used the scope of this shoddy legislation to recreate the SPSA in the newly formed SPA. Instead of confining the role to scrutiny, he appointed all sorts of senior staff (often without competitive interview) to run finance, HR and IT functions. When MSPs and others queried the need for this duplication of roles, the SPA responded by saying, "people putting two and two together and getting five". No, we put two and two together and made four, that is duplication enough! In fact I described this as polishambles.
What was portrayed as 'creative tension' turned into a mess as the turf war was played out in front of an increasingly exasperated Scottish Parliament Justice Committee. They also had the more harmonious Fire Service as a comparison. Graeme Pearson MSP led the political charge on this issue and today he summed it up well: "At long last officials have come together and many of the major governance issues have now been reallocated so that Police Scotland will be in charge of human resources, finance and corporate services etc. The SPA will do what it was designed to do: utilise governance and accountability by watching the way the service delivers according to the strategy."
So today we are entitled to say, "told you so", because we did - and often. The legislation was badly drafted and many of the issues not thought through. The focus was on cost savings and centralisation, not good governance. Sadly, it is not the end of the story as there are still many other issues that need to be resolved. Not least the absurd police officer targets that have led to unsuitable and expensive police officers substituting for civilian staff. Now the Best Value implications of that are worthy of SPA scrutiny.
But today is a good news day for police staff in Scotland. The aren't many of them - so enjoy!