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“KOPZ & ROBBAZ” – In My View By Nigel Ward
Perhaps the most enduringly popular theme of books and films over the past century has been that of law enforcement versus criminality – cops and robbers – the guys in the white hats and the guys in the black ones – the ‘goodies’ and the ‘baddies’.
I suspect that much of the appeal lies in the fact that there is an underlying ambivalence in the way in which we relate to what have now become hackneyed stereotypes. Of course, we all aspire to living in a safe and just society, under the protection of law and order. But we resent abuse of authority and we often admire that daring individual, the ‘baddie’ who ‘bucks the system’. Many of the robbers of literature and cinema manifest something of the ‘Robin Hood’ charisma.
Why is it, though, that when ‘goodies’ turn bad, they evoke little sympathy from the general public?
Since my article “MAXWELL’S SILVER” a couple of weeks ago, in which I wrote about the astonishing arrogance and greed of the out-going North Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell and his already ‘retired’ number two, Deputy Chief Constable Adam Briggs, I have given much thought to a question that has been asked at least since Roman times:
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Who will guard the guards?
The question is especially timely, because the present system is about to undergo a sweeping reform. But before the changes are rung, I think we would all benefit from a brief look at the some of the shortcomings of the system that has so dismally failed the people of North Yorkshire – the North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYPA), under the Chairmanship (since 2002) of Councillor Jane Kenyon, who is also a leading Conservative Councillor with SBC and NYCC, and sits on an astonishing number of other bodies.
So let us begin by establishing how the NYPA sees its role in the community. I quote from the home-page of their web-site:
The Authority’s Primary Responsibilities are:
By those criteria, failing to audit over eighty-one thousand pounds of ‘personal development funding’ for the two top cops is a truly wretched performance.
By those criteria, failing to respond to allegations of corruption in the North Yorkshire Police made in Parliament by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, and publicly by Chartered Accountant Timothy Hicks FCA concerning the Hofschröer fraud alleged to have been committed by Police officers, or to instruct CC Grahame Maxwell, his new Deputy CC Tim Madgwick (soon to be temporary CC himself) or Head of the Public Standards Directorate Steve Read to deny, or even to respond to, those allegations is utterly incomprehensible – and inexcusable. Nor, I am told, has any member of the NYPA responded to any correspondence from Mr Hicks concerning the grave allegations of misconduct he has made over the Chief Officers’ expenses scandal, which no-one has denied and which everyone is apparently afraid to address.
So what sorts of people have been administrating ‘the Authority’s Primary Responsibilities’?
Let us take a look.
Supporting the Chair, the aforementioned Councillor Jane Kenyon, we have:
Mr Bill Baugh – Vice Chair – also sits on the North Yorkshire Probation Board.
Mr Jeremy Holderness – Chief Executive Officer (the man who described Independent Police Complaints Commissioner Nicholas Long’s condemnation of the ‘personal development funding’ fiasco as “disproportionate”).
Ms Joanna Carter – Chief Financial Officer of North Yorkshire Police and until recently the Treasurer of the NYPA, a CIPFA qualified accountant.
Councillor Polly English (LibDem), NYCC – also Cllr for Craven District Council, and Skipton Town Council.
Councillor Jason Fitzgerald-Smith – Malton Town Council (Deputy Mayor).
Councillor Fiona Fitzpatrick (Lab) City of York Council.
Councillor David Ireton (Con) NYCC – also Cllr for Craven District Council.
County Councillor Janet Jefferson (Ind) NYCC – also Cllr for Scarborough Borough Council.
Councillor Carl Les (Con) – Cllr for Hambleton District Council, also Aiskew & Leeming Bar Parish Council.
Councillor Brian Marshall (Lab) NYCC – also Cllr for Selby District Council, and Barlby & Osgodby Parish Council
Councillor Keith Orrell (LibDem) – Councillor for City of York Council, and Huntington Parish Council.
Mrs Rajinder Richards – Solicitor.
Councillor Helen Swiers JP (Con) NYCC – Chair of Scalby Branch, Whitby and Scarborough Conservative Association.
Mrs Erica Taylor – Justice of the Peace.
Mr Tony Hargreaves – Justice of the Peace.
The first thing to note is that every one of them has a wide ambit of experience; these are by no means beginners in the world of administration. They are old hands. Experts.
So how could they conceivably have handed out £81K in so-called ‘personal development funds’ (on top of handsome salaries, perks and pensions – and, in Maxwell’s case, a £250K ‘golden-handshake) free of all accountability?
How can it be acceptable for the accountant that is entrusted with exercising financial control over the NYP (Ms Joanna Carter) to also be the accountant responsible for preparing those accounts; why did Ms Carter agree that the Chief Police Officers allowances should be free of Audit – and did she withhold this information from the auditors?
It is difficult, in any circumstances, to conceive of a more profligate attitude to the tax-payers’ money. How could these widely experienced stalwarts of public service possibly prove so extraordinarily careless and inept?
I wonder if it is not a matter of ineptitude at all. I wonder if they have taken such a dissolute attitude to those ‘personal development funds’ out of a sense of embarrassment over the NYPA’s own claims of £400K in ‘allowances’ over the past two years alone?
Who else is receiving this ‘personal development funding’?
On 13th April 2012, I lodged an FOIA request with NYPA (acknowledged the same day). Do the Police Authority’s Prime Responsibilities not include monitoring the legal requirements of its own FOIA department?
Here is the information that I requested:
1) A complete and comprehensive list, including names, ranks and numbers of officers of the NYP, including the Public Standards Directorate (or department), and including the NYP Authority itself, who are, or have within the past five years have been, in receipt of ‘personal development’ funding.
2) a complete accounting, officer by officer, of how that funding has been spent.
I would contend that if the NYPA has been fulfilling its own remit, then this information must be on file and readily available to their scrutiny – and ours. But no doubt I will have to wait until the very last day upon which a response MUST be provided – 14th May 2012. Then, and only then, it will most probably be deemed ‘vexatious’.
And speaking of access to information, I am puzzled, too, about why it seems to be so difficult to access information about the business interests of some of the NYPA members – Councillor Jane Kenyon, in particular.
It can be done, though – and traced back over the decades. Only the most relentless investigators have been down that long and winding road, fenced on both sides. It winds through much of rural Yorkshire, on its way to Companies House.
Very recently, Ms Carole Dunn (NYCC Assistant Chief Executive and Head of Legal) refused to process a complaint regarding Councillor Kenyon’s interests, on the grounds that she had received a complaint some time before in respect of “an interest in a company with a similar name”.
How can this be in accordance with NYCC’s commitment to openness and accountability – publicly endorsed by the Labour, Conservative and LibDem parties, whose policies NYPA members represent, and upon which they were elected?
But Councillor Jane Kenyon steps down from the NYPA from November this year, when the whole system is scheduled to be revamped. With NYCC elections due next May (2013), and many of her other interests dissolved, I rather expect to see her take a step back from public life and enjoy a comfortable retirement in a sumptuous villa in Sharm al-Siyalehta.
‘Progress’ manifests itself in strange ways. As in most aspects of modern life, perpetrators of crime have refined their techniques to elude justice – just as the law enforcers have refined theirs.
Both sides have now reached such rarefied levels of sophistication that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the cops from the robbers.
Let me conclude by returning, for a moment, to the Romans – source of so many pearls of wisdom down the years.
“Let the buyer beware” – meaning that the responsibility rests with he/she who buys to take good care that he/she receives full value for his/her investment of money.
I offer an addendum to that advice:
“Let the voter beware” – meaning that the responsibility rests with he/she who votes to take good care that he/she receives full value for his/her investment of trust.
I hope that in November we shall have the opportunity to vote for and elect an honourable Police & Crime Commissioner in whom we may with confidence invest our trust.
Perhaps he or she will even police the Police.
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