National Conference 2016, a view from your DC rep Les Bingham
On Friday last week, delegates returned to their homes and forces around the country, leaving Bournemouth for the very last time, having spent the past week in the company of over 3000 reps from around the whole of England and Wales. Members may ask what the point of conference is. Is it an unnecessary expense in a time of austerity? Is it a waste of time? What does it or can it achieve? This is the last time, not only at this location but in this format. From next year, there will be considerably less delegates, a shorter conference and it is being moved to Birmingham, all recommendations of the Normington review.
What does conference achieve?
Firstly, it is a means of enabling networking, with colleagues from around the country. The strengthening of ties from allies, meeting those who have sought support for their projects and from those seeking to persuade. A number of separate fringe forums exist within the Federation, all of whom meet during conference week, such as the National Detectives Forum, or the Roads Policing Forum, the Women's Forum and others. All of these separate forums seek to influence government and forces, according to their specialism but it is important for them to meet, to discuss and develop ideas, plans and proposals.
Secondly, influencing government is a major part of conference. A united voice, common threads, ideas and discussions, in the presence of people as diverse as the Home Secretary, the Shadow Home Secretary, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor, various Chief Officers and Policy Advisors to the Home Office. Without Conference, there is no unified approach, no structured voice for them to deal with. The Federation is it's members, without them it does not exist. It does not exist for itself but for the membership.
Thirdly, it provokes discussion and debate, amongst delegates about issues of the day. Topics ranging from the menopause and its effects on sickness attendance to devolution and how England can learn from the Welsh recent history of devolution in policing.
Finally, it is an opportunity for us to showcase the work done at National level, when dealing with the National Police Chief's Council, politicians and policy makers.
What did conference achieve this year?
For starters, an invitation from the Home Secretary to the Change board, and potentially access to a substantial fund of money for capital projects. Even the HMIC, Sir Tom Winsor felt it was a mistake for the Federation not to have been invited in the first place. There was a clear thawing of relations with the Home Secretary, and that should bode well for the future. Even Tom Winsor declared his undying admiration for officers and all that they do, openly showing emotion when talking about attending the funeral of PC Dave Phillips in Merseyside last year. The Shadow Home Secretary, just the day before declaring his candidacy for the Manchester Metropolitan mayor's job, talked of obtaining equal funding for those attending public enquiries, though he didn't say from where this would be funded.
Speakers included Giles York and Chris Sims, both Chief Constables, talking about the development of technology and its implications for policing. Others talked about Mental Health and welfare of staff, tactical pursuits and the challenges of changing the law regarding the standards of driving to protect drivers, special operations to deal with nuisance drivers and as mentioned above, the aging population of officers and dealing with issues arising from the menopause. There were also sessions on the future of women in the workplace, and dealing with unconscious bias, and contributions from Alex Marshall, the CEO of the College of Policing and Gavin Thomas, the president of the Superintendents Association.
The AGM from the Central Committee contained the Treasurers Report. This again highlighted the high cost of legal fees, with 85% of all membership fees going on legal costs. With the threat of another high profile investigation, this time into Orgreave, the likelihood is that at some point in the near future, membership subs may have to increase, however, not just yet.
All in all, a varied week in terms of topics discussed, successful in the invitation to the change board and the improvement in relations with the Home Secretary and the HMIC, Sir Tom Winsor and a general acceptance that we cannot achieve everything on our own. We have to work with PCC's, The Superintendents Association, and even the Home Office. The Federation role is to Represent, Influence and Negotiate. Conference is just one part of that.