Speaking at the Police Federation conference today the Home Secretary Theresa May outlined plans to implement reforms to how the organisation is funded, the ways it is held to account and its automatic membership arrangements.
There she made the case for the Federation to become the authentic voice of policing in the country by choosing reform and change over status quo. But she warned the government would consider imposing change if significant progress was not made towards implementing the reforms laid out by Sir David Normington’s recent review.
She told the conference:
I do not want to have to impose change on you, because I want you to show the public that you want to change. I want you to show them that you have the best interests of the police and of the public at heart. But make no mistake. If you do not make significant progress towards the implementation of the Normington reforms, if the Federation does not start to turn itself around, you must not be under the impression that the government will let things remain as they are.
The Federation was created by an Act of Parliament and it can be reformed by an Act of Parliament. If you do not change of your own accord, we will impose change on you.
The audience heard the government will make three key changes, using new and existing powers, even before a decision is made by the Federation on whether it adopts the wider reforms.
Cutting government funding to the Federation
The Home Secretary made it clear that it is not acceptable that, when the Federation is sitting on vast reserves worth tens of millions of pounds, it is in receipt of public funds to pay for the salaries and expenses of the chairman, general secretary and treasurer. She announced that this funding will be stopped altogether from August. Instead, the money will go into a new fund to accelerate the introduction of Police First – a new scheme designed to attract the brightest young university graduates into the police.
Earning the right to represent members
In common with changes made elsewhere in the public sector, the Home Secretary announced that she plans to change the law so that officers will have to opt in to join the Federation. This will mean that officers no longer become Fed members by default. And officers who have chosen to become members also have to opt in to pay full subscription fees.
The Home Secretary announced that today and on an annual basis thereafter, the Home Office will use its existing legal powers to call in the Federation’s central accounts. The law will be changed so the Home Office can without any question call in the accounts for any money held by the Federation – including all so-called Number Two accounts. And proposals will be brought forward to make the Police Federation – the national organisation and all the regional branches – subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Following the speech, the Police Federation voted to accept all 36 reforms recommended in the Normington Review.