Monday, 9 January 2017

What price for a Police Community Support Officer? What is the Police and Crime Commissioner up to?

I attended Frodsham Town Council's budget setting council meeting tonight.  The first order of business was a discussion with the police regarding the funding of Police Community Support Officers - PCSOs.

PCSOs are funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner.  They are allocated by the Chief Constable.  There are around 200 PCSOs throughout the Cheshire Police area.  They serve a population of just over 1 million.  On a simple pro-rata basis there is around 1 PCSO for 5,000 people.  Frodsham has a population of around 9,500 so on a population basis you'd expect us to have nearly 2 PCSOs.  We have one.

In some cases PCSOs are part funded by partners.  Those partners include Cheshire West and Chester Council, Frodsham Town Council and some social landlords.  The partners, at present pay what is described as 1/3rd of the cost of the PCSO.   The maths is interesting though.  FTC's 1/3rd in 2016-17 (i.e. the current financial year) is £11,918.  The advertised salary costs of a PCSO are between £19,326-£21,402.   In other words FTC's '1/3rd' is, in reality 55% of the highest paid PCSO gross salary.

Typically, though when considering the costs of an individual employee one also has 'on-costs' such as the employer's national insurance and pension contributions.  In addition establishment costs can also be added.  It can only be on the basis of these additional costs that £11,918 can be considered to be a third.

So doing the maths - if 1/3rd is £11,918 - the full cost must be £11,918 x 3 = £35,754.

But if the full figure is £35,754 - the on-costs must be £35,754-£21,402 = £14,352 for the most expensive PCSO.  That is the on-costs are 67% of the highest gross salary.

Frankly I don't believe the on-costs can be anything like as high as this - however I remain open to being convinced - but I will now expect full disclosure of the relevant figures.

Good PCSOs are a tremendous asset for their community.  Ten parish or town councils in CWaC part fund 'their' PCSO no doubt recognising this.

So this is the background to tonight's discussions.

The police indicated that for the next financial year (17-18) they want the '1/3rd' deal to continue.  With inflation that means for FTC £12,038.

However for 18-19 they want FTC to 'fully fund' the PCSO.  They estimated the costs of fully funding at around £38,000.  (Remember the advertised highest salary is £21,402.)

Yes, that's right - the suggestion is that if Frodsham wants to have a PCSO other than perhaps a rudimentary provision shared with others it will cost around £38,000.

FTC's revenue budget is around £190,000.  A contribution of £38,000 would amount to 20% of FTC's current revenue budget.  This is bad enough for a community like Frodsham.  Helsby Parish Council's  revenue budget is around £110,000.  A £38,000 contribution would represent around 35% of their revenue budget.

On noting these figures I suggested to the Police that this proposal was a good way of ending partner funding from Town and Parish councils who would, most likely, find these figures unaffordable.
Is this part of a plan by the Police and Crime Commissioner to cut the number of PCSOs and blame others for it?  I've had this suspicion for a while - and I've seen nothing to dissuade me so far.

The debate also went into the enhanced service that those towns or parishes that fund PCSOs would receive - however the police weren't able to describe those enhancements at the moment.  I made the remark - that it sounds like the 'enhanced' service will actually be what Frodsham receives at the moment.

I will be tabling a series of questions for the Police and Crime Commissioner at the next Police and Crime Panel.


ADDITION:

Since posting this blog I've had a thought.

Could FTC employ its own 'PCSO'?  If it could (and I don't know whether it can) even allowing for 20% on-costs for NI, pensions etc that would suggest a costing of c£26k... an indicative £12k 'saving' on £38k.  This would still be a doubling of the present costing - but I suspect it would be do-able - where £38k looks very, very expensive.







Saturday, 19 November 2016

Frodsham Windfarm - Construction Liaison Panel meeting

Last night was the latest Frodsham Windfarm Construction Liaison Panel meeting.   Whilst we've had 5 or 6 of these meetings already this was the first meeting that was video recorded.

I've been concerned for quite some time now that all Peel's Liaison Panel meetings take place behind 'closed doors.'  Instinctively I don't like that.  Whilst these meetings are not 'local government meetings' with all the law and bureaucracy that ensures the public can have access to them - I had asked at a previous meeting to be given permission to record the meeting and post it on the internet.

Well for those of you who want to watch an hour of round table discussions this is the link to the video feed.

If you watch the video you'll see the latest round of local politicians pointing out to Peel how their arrangements for the Community Benefit Fund are:

  • secretive; and
  • democratically unaccountable.
You'll also see complaints that Peel have not disclosed the Constitutional Documents for the Community Benefit Fund as they had previously agreed to do.

You'll also hear that the construction work as a whole is finished.  The wind turbines are going through the final stages of commissioning.  Peel are hopeful that the wind farm will be fully commissioned by the middle of December.  This is largely a 'weather dependent' issue as the wind turbines have to be seen generating at full power for an extended period before they can be 'signed off.'  The question is whether the wind will blow hard enough between now and then.

If you'd like to see real time data of the UK's energy generation you can click this link.  Obviously, subject to whether the wind is blowing and the demand for energy at any particular time, wind energy can typically generate between 15-20% of the electricity the UK needs.  Just this morning, wind generation is producing more power than coal fired generation in the UK.  Most of our electricity is presently derived from gas-fired power stations.  We have asked Peel to allow us to see the real-time generation data for the Frodsham Windfarm - watch this space.

Now with the construction work concluded the construction compound is to be closed.   This stone base of the compound is to be swept up and used to improve the roadways on the marshes.  The present thoughts are that Lordship Lane (which is in a dreadful condition) will receive much of this stone.  Peel are also considering improving Straight Length which leads from the model aircraft field to Godscroft and Hatley Lanes.

As you'll see if you watch the video feed of the meeting, whilst welcoming the improvements to the roadways on the marshes I asked for measures to ensure that unauthorised vehicular use of the roads is discouraged or prevented.  I raised in particular the concerns of residents along Godscroft and Hatley Lanes.  Peel were sympathetic and have committed to liaise with me over this.

The map shown below is what Peel handed out at the meeting.  The pink highlighted stretch is the length of Lordship Lane they are looking to improve (if they have enough stone).  Straight Length is not highlighted - but is the lane that connects Lordship Lane to Hatley and Godscroft Lanes.







Thursday, 10 November 2016

Halton Curve - the latest news

Merseytravel - the organisation taking the lead on the Halton Curve proposal has just published its latest update on the Halton Curve.

Network Rail has awarded contracts to Babcock Rail and S&C North Alliance to undertake what they describe as 'the detailed design and construction. of the scheme.'

They say that the aim remains that physical necessary works will take place during the Summer of 2017 - with a view to the infrastructure being completed by Spring 2018.  Passenger services are set to start in December 2018.

Merseytravel  is also looking for an operator to run the initial services around the curve which, initially run from Chester before being expanded into Wales in the fullness of time.

Lynn and I are continuing to press for Frodsham Station car park to be upgraded in due time - and following the request from a resident we will also be asking for dedicated drop off and pick up spaces.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

West Cheshire NHS Consultation - proposals to stop certain treatments

West Cheshire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group has just launched a consultation about which services, if any, it should cease to fund.
The consultation runs from today until Tuesday 17 January 2017.
West Cheshire CCG is consulting whether to cease funding or make available on a more restricted basis the following procedures:
  • Surgery for the correction of asymmetrical breasts
  • Surgery for breast reduction
  • Surgery for Gynaecomastia
  • Hair removal treatments
  • Surgery to remove benign skin lesions
  • Desensitising light therapy using UVB or PUVA for PMLE 
  • Ear wax removal including microsuction
  • In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) with or without Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) 
  • Surgical Sperm Recovery (Testicular Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (TESA)/Percutaneous  Sperm Aspiration (PESA) including storage where required
  • Donor Oocyte Cycle – depending on outcome of consultation relating to IVF
  • Donor Sperm Insemination
  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) unstimulated 
  • Sterilisation (male & female)
  • Arthroscopy – Shoulder (see document for more information) 
  • Dupuytren’s Contracture – surgical and nonsurgical interventions
  • Knee replacement 
  • Hip Injections (excluding bursitis)
  • Erectile Dysfunction 
  • Percutaneous posterior tibial nerve stimulation (PTNS) for urinary and faecal incontinence.

This is the text of the NHS press release:

In September we launched “Our Savings Plan” to start a frank conversation about the challenging financial position facing the local NHS and the savings we must make in 2016/17 to help ensure a sustainable, high-quality health and care system in West Cheshire – both now and in the future.

There are many reasons for the financial challenges we face, not least that we have a fast-growing, ageing population and more people than ever are being diagnosed with long-term conditions.

This means that demand for local health and care services is rising faster than our budget.We simply do not have enough money to continue to buy all the services we currently do in the same way as before. If we did, in 2016/17 alone we would spend £13m more than our budget.

As this challenge is similar in many areas, the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for West Cheshire, Eastern Cheshire, South Cheshire, Vale Royal and Wirral, have come together in partnership to ask the public for their views on proposed changes to some services that we currently commission.

A consultation has been launched which is asking the public and other stakeholders for their views on the proposals, building on work already undertaken to engage with local people about the challenging financial position facing the local NHS and proposed changes to services.

Dr Andy McAlavey, Medical Director, NHS West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group comments: "This is the first time that CCGs in this area have come together to seek the views of the public and stakeholders as we continue with our programme of changes. Our aim is to ensure that the services we provide are effective and sustainable whilst we continue to encourage people to lead healthier lives. It is important for us to make the best use of our resources and we are encouraging people to have their say."


Consultation
Cheshire and Wirral Clinical Commissioning Groups are undertaking a formal consultation on the proposals detailed in the consultation documents below to explore them in more detail and obtain feedback from patients and the public. The consultation will run from Tuesday, October 25, 2016 to midnight on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.

How to share your views
As part of the consultation we need your views on the proposals and to understand the impact they may have on you. To hear what you think about the proposals you have a variety of opportunities to give your feedback.You can fill in the questionnaire included in the consultation document below and submit by post to, SRP consultation, NHS West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group, 1829 Building, Countess of Chester Health Park, Liverpool Road, Chester CH2 1HJ

By email – send your completed surveys to: enquiries.wcheshireccg@nhs.netIf people are hard of hearing, have sight impairment, English is not their first language or they require the information in an alternative format, please contact 0800 132996 or email: enquiries.wcheshireccg@nhs.net'

Copies of the consultation documentation and surveys can be obtained from West Cheshire CCG.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Congress of Local Authorities at the Council of Europe

I've been appointed as one of 18 UK local authority or regional assembly members to serve on the Congress of  Local Authorities at the Council of Europe for the next 4 years.

For those not in the know the Council of Europe was established by Winston Churchill after World War II to foster good relations between Europe's member states.  He first called for the creation of a body like the Council of Europe in 1943.   This led to the Council of Europe being established by the Treaty of London in 1949.  Initially there were 10 signatories to the treaty.  Now 47 countries are 'signed up to' the Council of Europe   The Council of Europe is both older and wider than the EU which only has 27 member states (if you don't count the UK).

Bust of Winston Churchill at the Council of Europe
For those of us old enough to remember the Cold War and the battles that were had with the Eastern Bloc over Human Rights - they were largely 'fought' in the context of the Council of Europe and wider international diplomacy.

Over the years the member states of the Council of Europe have signed over 220 treaties between them covering all manner of things from terrorism, to animal welfare.  However most fundamentally they are about embedding democracy, the rule of law and human rights within the 47 member states.  The Council of Europe works largely by consensus, by persuasion, and by pointing out or establishing 'facts.'

Within the scope of the Council of Europe are a number of institutions such as the:
Council of Ministers
Parliamentary Assembly
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
Court of Human Rights
I found attendance at the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities both very humbling and very interesting.

The Council of Europe is one of the few places outside the UN where delegates from all Europe's countries can meet each other.  As we all know there are too many places in Europe where there are tensions.
Map of the 47 countries - note Belarus is not a member.
I witnessed several 'encounters' between the Russian and Ukrainian delegates and there were several in depth discussions about the situation in Turkey.

For many of the new and emerging democracies of Europe the Council of Europe and its standards are seen as the benchmark against which they need to develop their democracies.  It was also very interesting both to see how other 'good Europeans' embraced everything and how far behind the UK some countries are - and that includes some of the founder members of the EU such as with regard to gender equality at a political representation level.

The representatives to the Congress of Local Authorities are meant to reflect each countries diversity - with particular focus on political representation and no worse than a 70:30 split between the genders.  However looking around the Chamber I was very conscious that it looked like the UK was leading the way in terms of minority diversity.

As a citizen of the United Kingdom though, and someone committed to greater partnership working across Europe it dawned on me increasingly whilst I was there that we don't see and understand 'Europe' in the same way as our continental friends.   We think differently to them.  Our constitutional background, our approach to fundamentals such as democracy and human rights is different.   Most crucially of all - we have no written constitution.

Also, with some exceptions such as the European Convention on Human Rights few of the Treaties signed over the years by the UK can be used as the basis for court challenges in the UK.   For us Parliament is Sovereign.  We all look to Parliament for our laws and ultimately to safeguard our democratic values.  Other European States look to their written constitutions and the various international treaties and conventions for their norms and values.

However whilst we differ in our approach we do appear to be marching along a similar path - looking to deepen and broaden democratic values and principles.

Does it matter if our approach is different if we reach the same goal?  As a pragmatic Brit I would say 'no' - however the Council of Europe experts don't like what they see as the UK's 'exceptionalism.'  They have assessed the UK's compliance with the European Social Charter unfavourably and on a par, in parts, with Turkey and Ukraine.  I had an 'exchange of views' with a Spanish Law Professor on this assessment and pointed out that 3.6 million EU citizens had come to the UK to live and work because of our liberal labour market and not because of our weather!

A number of delegates from other countries came up to me afterwards and indicated their agreement with my approach.

I spoke in 3 other debates.  Two related to gender – first with regard to gender equality at all levels of politics and another on ‘gender budgeting.’

The Council of Europe wants all European countries to have at least 40% female representation at all political levels.  Many European countries are no where near that level.  Having heard an inspirational speech from Mayor from an Austrian town of around 12,000 people  - who happened to be a young woman - I was able to interject that in the UK some 31% of councillors are female.  At CWaC 37% of councillors are female and both the leaders and deputy leaders of the ruling and opposition groups are female as is the leader of Cheshire East.  In 2011 when I became Mayor of Frodsham we had, and that council still has, a gender balanced council.  I am not personally in favour of quotas – but I did suggest that those institutions that haven't achieved reasonable representational levels should account to their communities as to why that hadn’t happened.

We also had a debate on ‘gender budgeting.’ My first reaction to the title of the debate was one of incredulity – and this was not helped when one delegate suggested that spending on motorways was  masculine and spending on pavements was feminine.  However on reading the papers it became clear that ‘Gender Budgeting’ was Euro-speak for making sure that public sector budgets reached and assisted everyone.   I was therefore able to support the principle – and pointed out that any public sector budget and spending that did not deliver for all its citizens was inherently defective.  I went further in my remarks and pointed out that public sector budgeting had to consider not only gender but also had to consider all the disadvantaged and minorities.  The rapporteur agreed with me.

The other debate I spoke in was about Turkey and in particular the removal of elected Mayors by the national government.  This process had started before the coup and has continued after it.

I spoke in support of the Turkish people and made the fundamental points about the need for the respect for the rule of law and human rights.  I went on to say that when democracy is under threat the answer to that threat is more democracy and not less democracy.

When the UK leaves the EU the Council of Europe will be one of our main points of contact with other European countries.