Cookie Notice

However, this blog is a US service and this site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services and analyze traffic. Your IP address and user-agent are shared with Google along with performance and security metrics to ensure quality of service, generate usage statistics, and to detect and address abuse.

Saturday 8 February 2020

Police costs and efficiency - is small beautiful?

What is the optimum size of a police force, either to be most efficient in tackling crime or most economically efficient? This is not a question of opinion, but of fact. Such things are determinable, and we have, between the UK and the US, which share most closely a model of policing, a sample set that includes forces such as the Met of 30,000 officers down to independent forces in small US towns of six to eight officers. 

The 1960 Royal Commission on the Police in a very English way didn't actually rely on scientific or statistical method, but on ill-reasoned opinion that supported the prejudices of the Commissioners. Presenting the report to the House, the Home Secretary Henry Brooke said
The Commission suggests that forces numbering less than 200 are handicapped; that the retention of forces less than 350 strong is not normally justifiable, and that the best size of a force is upwards of 500 ... I agree with the Commission that in this small, densely populated island, we have too many separate forces...I am not suggesting that small police forces are inefficient; a small force can attain a very high standard of esprit de corps, but I agree with the Royal Commission that small forces tend to be handicapped. They lack the flexibility of larger forces; they cannot always make the best use of available manpower, and the efficient policing of wider areas is sometimes impaired by the preservation of what are often arbitrary and irksome police boundaries, from the point of view of crime and road traffic. Some areas are better policed by a large force than by a number of small forces, however efficient each of the small forces is.
And there we have impeccable civil service Oxford logic, an argument bereft of fact or evidence and supported by reason alone. "We asked Charles, David, Neville and Tarquin and they all had a guess and we took the average and rounded it out".

Contrary to the Home Secretary's opinions, the job of the police is not to provide the Home Office with administrative convenience but to deal with crime - at least in the eyes of the public, whom the police serve and who pay their wages. Those efficient small local forces that caused the civil servants such irritation at the Home Office were exactly what the public wanted.

From the 1970s the economists and statisticians examined police structures. The academics found many factors that needed to be reconciled; night time populations, ethnic and socio-economic population composition, density, age profile of population - number of under-25s, density of businesses, road lengths and types, whether the area was growing or in decline, property values. As for the outputs, did one measure reported crime, arrests, convictions or just police interventions with no outcomes? One UK study (Drake and Simper 2002) even used the number of breathalyzer tests administered as a significant determinant of police efficiency.

However, what all of the many studies since the 1970s have in common, on both sides of the Atlantic, is that they quantify efficiencies in what police actually do - the entire panoply of police functions as they are constituted. As I will look at in the third of these posts, we need to look at policing differently.

A readable summary of the evidence is summarised in both a US study and a UK synopsis.  The bottom line?
  • The efficiency of a police force is optimised serving a population of 25,000 - 50,000 (US) or 25,000 to 250,000 (UK)
  • There are significant and substantial dis-economies of scale - large police forces cost more and have more crime
  • There is a lower level below which it is not efficient to maintain an independent police force - a population of about 2,000 citizens
There is also in the UK a missing component - local per capita costs. I am still looking for the tables of a force-by-force breakdown of cost per capita and this must also be an important determinant of future policy. Overall for England and Wales, the costs are given in this 2019 Home Office statistical bulletin.  If I have half a day I can make a decent fist of producing a breakdown analysis, but the point is I should not have to.

Overall, cost of policing for England and Wales is £14.063bn per year. Mid-year population estimate 2018 was 59.17m. Annual cost per capita is therefore £237.67.

Just one note from the US literature review -
Whereas the average per capita expenditure for the 14 police departments in the sample was $177.36, Finney (1997) estimated that consolidating them into one department (with their arrest output remaining the same) would result in a per capita cost of $472.78.

Friday 7 February 2020

We need to talk about Plod

Since the Police Act of 1964, policing in the UK has become increasingly centralised, increasingly expensive and increasingly inefficient and unresponsive. Decades of semi-detachment from normal society have convinced most serving policemen that they are crown servants in the same way as the armed forces, responsible only to the sovereign, and with a duty to exercise law and justice on a deviant populace. Forces have been amalgamated, chief police officers have formed their own quasi-legal bodies with exceptional and unaccountable powers and we are drifting towards an armed gendarmerie under the command of a Minister of Justice on the continental model rather than local bodies of unarmed Peelian law-keepers on the British model.

Look back to the days before the ruinous Police Act. The UK had 158 seperate police forces, under the control of local Watch Committees, 97 with fewer than 350 officers. The struggle between the Home Secretary and local communities for control of the police has been a long one - and the Home Secretary won big in 1964. Forces and Watch Committees were abolished and the Home Secretary took command, including responsibility for appointing the most senior officers.

And now, in the second decade of the 21st century, we have a police service not fit for purpose. Non-indictable crime is virtually ignored, gang culture has taken over our major cities and is leaving hundreds of young people exsanguinating into the gutters, computer crime and fraud is beyond their capacity and absurdities such as Cressida Dick's 'Hurty Words' internet squad just bring opprobrium on the entire police force.

It has all gone seriously wrong. And just like the dysfunctional EU, the answer from the police is always more of the same - greater professionalism, graduate only recruitment, salaries on a par with solicitors, greater centralisation, more power for police chiefs, more funding, more bling, more expensive gadgets, faster cars. None of which will result in one single fewer burglary, car theft, public order offence or gang stabbing.

The Telegraph reports on the most recent HM Inspector's report, and it makes ugly reading. The public have largely given up on Plod. We need to do something.

The first questions we need to ask are about what the 1964 Police Act and everything that followed got wrong. I once spent several weeks with a Met Police statistics and mapping team when we were looking at options to design-out opportunities for crime and it was a salutory experience. If you talk to a copper, they will have you believe that their entire time is spent dealing with dead bodies or facing down shotguns. This is simply risible fiction. Over 95% of police responses - yes, over 95% - are spent responding to non-indictable offences or CADs - call-outs to disturbances. It is, frankly, more the work of well-trained and inexpensive security guards under local control than the job of highly skilled, very expensive graduate police 'professionals'.

However, it's the 5% of police work that does need skilled policing that counts. The rapes, the murders, terrorism, serious and organised crime, mafia and mobs, armed response units and such like. Here there is a case for pooled resources, central control and such things.

And this is the first question I would ask. Do we need not one but two police services - one local, Peelian and responsive and another on the continental Ministry of Justice model?

Thursday 6 February 2020

A new chance for the BBC after the TV Tax

Back on 10th December we faced the ballot box having witnessed the most disgraceful and unprofessional reporting ever seen of the election campaign by the BBC. Our national broadcaster was no longer interested in fair and balanced reporting or skillfully eliciting the views of politicians; it had become a platform for the woke metropolitan elitist views of its staff. BBC interviews were about the interviewer, not the interviewee. We saw Marr with a machine-gun list of peremptory questions that gave the Prime Minister just a few seconds to collect his thoughts and begin his answer to each before the next demand was thrust at him. Marr no doubt preened at his petty victory - but on 10th December I predicted the fall of the BBC -
The Prime Minister clearly has a strategy. First, de-criminalise non-payment of the TV tax. This doesn't mean, as some MSM commenters have assumed, that payment would be voluntary - only that recovery would become a civil, not criminal matter. The 180,000 people every year hitherto prosecuted by the BBC in the magistrates' court would in future be defendants in the county court. As many of these simply can't afford the TV tax, the BBC has been happy until now to land them with a criminal conviction and fine, including a compulsory £15 'victim surcharge'. Those paying it are often foodbank users - the prosecutor is a £4bn a year behemoth. Just who is the victim here?

Using bailiffs or other recovery methods to enforce county court judgements for such low value debts will clearly challenge the BBC. TV footage of bailiffs seizing the pathetic belongings of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society (obviously this will not be shown on the BBC ...) will further turn the public against the broadcaster; cameras are banned from the magistrates courts, so their vindictiveness is currently hidden.
Well yesterday the DCMS launched a public consultation on decriminalising the TV Tax and I'd urge all of you to respond to it. I am not as sure as is Allister Heath in the Telegraph that the result is not in doubt -
Quite rightly, non-payment of the licence fee will be decriminalised in two years’ time (rarely has the outcome of a “consultation” been in so little doubt) and the licence fee itself will go by 2027. The Government won’t stop the BBC reimposing the fee on over-75s, a decision which will further reduce support for it.
You will note that in all the BBC's online reporting of the DCMS consultation, it never once provides a link to the government website where viewers and listeners can make their views heard. That is hardly the behaviour of a broadcaster committed to serving the public.

There is an alternative to the TV Tax that will allow the BBC to retain much of its Public Service Broadcaster ethos - not the Netflix model, but the HBO model. HBO currently has operating revenue of £1.5bn a year for a worldwide service - and I think a remodelled BBC could achieve something similar. I have been consistently impressed by HBO's output. Netflix, which costs me €7.99 a month, contains around 85% of unwatchable low-quality crap of interest only to teenagers or morons but is worth it for the 15% of decent-quality output. The BBC's ultra-woke preachy, skewed and distorted output is not of interest even to teenagers any longer, so it needs to change if it is to survive.

Wednesday 5 February 2020

Could Britain lead Europe's post-ICE vehicle industry?

When a number of seemingly unconnected stories around a single theme hit the news at the same time my alarm bells start to ring. Gliding swan moment or mere coincidence? 

Nissan leaked news that post-Brexit it may consider retrenching to Sunderland, breaking the manufacturing tie with Renault and returning Micra production from France to the UK, where the electric Leaf, and ICE Qashqai and Juke are made. The reason leaked to the FT was to increase UK market share from 4% to 20%.

Next, the EU are almost as desperate to lock the UK into its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) as they are to gain access to our fishing waters. The Telegraph reports
.. membership requires an acceptance of the EU’s rules and close ties to EU climate policy after Brexit. The Government has not yet decided on a course of action, and a carbon pricing consultation is set to be published in due course.

If targets accepted when the UK was a member state or future agreed goals are not reached, Britain could face punitive measures from the EU - including fines or even the temporary suspension of market access.
Thirdly there is the sour note around the UK's hosting of COP26 in Glasgow - firstly whether Sturgeon's Scotland was actually up to hosting an international event, and secondly the defenestration of the backbench MP who had ambitions to chair it in favour of someone with greater reach. Zac Goldsmith is now being mooted for the post.

And finally of course the 2035 ICE vehicle sales ban - which includes hybrids.

So the petrol / diesel ban first. As a voice on the radio noted, this will probably be your second next new car. Your next is still likely to be an ICE vehicle. Car makers will need to make substantial  investments in new AI plants that employ fewer workers to assemble vehicles whose engines and transmissions also contain many fewer parts than ICE power units. Secondly, one can speculate that the EU desperately want control over carbon taxes and tax offsets to allow it to control the managed transition of Germany's car industry to non-ICE production; if the UK slips under the net and accelerates new investment, innovation and international markets from here it will put the entire EU on the back foot.

That's my take - that there's some furious footwork going on under the surface of the placid waters, and its all to do with Europe's car industry. Am I off-beam here?

Monday 3 February 2020

Prime Minister emerges from under his bushel

I have only one recommendation today - to watch the Prime Minister's Greenwich speech in full. This was not the painstakingly careful cautious Boris of the December hustings, the Boris protecting himself with a stuttering duffer act, but a keystone speech by a Statesman of undoubted intellectual grasp and vision. He damned the mercantilists and protectionists both, and spent half-an-hour championing the great freedom of trade, Smith and Ricardo. It will make uncomfortable viewing for the EU. He set out Britain's new place in the world as a newly independent State, deprecated the actions of both the EU and the US in blocking free trade and committed his government to catalysing trade against the sclerotic myopia that blinds both to its benefits. 

After half a century of travelling the wrong path, the UK is back on course (my underlining) -
.. we will always co-operate with our European friends in foreign and defence policy whenever our interests converge – as they often, if not always, will – this will not in my view necessarily require any new treaty or institutions because we will not need them for the simple reason that the UK is not a European power by treaty or by law but by irrevocable facts of history and geography and language and culture and instinct and sentiment.

And I say to our European friends – many of whom I’m delighted to see in this room – we are here as ever, as we have been for decades, for centuries, to support and to help as we always have done for the last hundred years or more and the reason I stress this need for full legal autonomy, the reason we do not seek membership or part membership of the customs union or alignment of any kind, is at least partly that I want this country to be an independent actor and catalyst for free trade across the world.
He also blasted the jejune slurs of the dysfunctional left for the pathetic untruths that they are. Our social and environmental protections exceed the EU's - he quoted chapter and verse, available for all to reference within the full text of the speech. Neither would we be selling the NHS to the US. And neither would M. Barnier get any rights at all over the UK's EEZ waters -
We are ready to consider an agreement on fisheries, but it must reflect the fact that the UK will be an independent coastal state at the end of this year 2020, controlling our own waters.

And under such an agreement, there would be annual negotiations with the EU, using the latest scientific data, ensuring that British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats.
The reality is that our own fishing industry has been run down for half a century, ever since Grocer Heath gave it away. That capacity won't come back overnight - not just boats and crews, but boatyards and slips, piers and moorings, processing and freezing plants, markets, transport infrastructure and the entire tail of the nascent industry. For as many years as it takes to rebuild UK capacity, we will licence EU vessels to catch fish in our waters. Those catch totals will only diminish - never grow - but how quickly or slowly depends in great part on the speed with which we will rebuild.

This will not always be easy. This is a yard I knew well in Newhaven that built fishing boats under 20m - it is still there (at least on Google maps) but many more are not, replaced by ubiquitous jerry-built waterside apartments with galvanised balconettes and through-colour renders.

The Prime Minister helped scotch fears that his team was about to trade away British waters for the commercial gents in the City. It seems the commercial gents are supremely relaxed about EU threats anyway - and only Globalist mouthpieces such as the CBI are raising this as an issue. As Roger Bootle writes in the Telegraph
The fishing industry will, I think, be the litmus test. Apparently, Brussels is going to try to secure continued full access to British waters by trading this off against access to EU markets for the UK's financial services industry. The fishing industry may be pretty insignificant economically - and especially in comparison to financial services - yet it has enormous political importance.

It was sold out by Edward Heath, the then prime minister at the last moment during the negotiations that took Britain into the EU in 1973. And fishing is of particular significance in Scotland. The SNP wants to keep Scotland in the EU. If we sell out the fishing industry again this will be seen as a massive betrayal, especially in Scotland.
As for the financial services industry, that is a different kettle of fish - as it were. The EU needs the City of London as much, if not more, than the City needs the EU. If the EU makes things difficult for British financial services firms then it will be cutting off its nose to spite its face. Meanwhile, the City will thrive, as it always has done, selling services, including new ones based on fintech, around the world.
Guido carries a full video of the speech. Sit back, clutch drink of choice and enjoy!
Prime Minister - Greenwich - 3rd February 2020 

Sunday 2 February 2020

Post-Brexit - actions have consequences

It almost went unmissed. Following the election result more than one of the haute-remainers popped up in the media shrugging their shoulders and saying "Well, we'll have to accept Brexit now". These were not minor fools and trolls, the silly chatterers, luvvies and C-listers who filled the press with their whining for more than three years but the most senior actors in our State, formerly Privy Council members, former Ministers of the Crown. That's the first demarcation we must make - between those who, however hard they had campaigned for 'Remain', said "Well, we'll have to accept Brexit now" on 24th June 2016 and those who only said it after 13th December 2019. Only the former are truly reliable; the latter are risks to our democratic health, who have demonstrated scant regard for democracy and cannot wholly be trusted ever again.

Words and actions have consequences. Oh, no one gives a fig for the lunken-headed luvvies who have made such idiots of themselves or for the millions of the masses so energised by the democracy-deniers. But for those with whom we entrust our democratic power, or those who exercise economic power over our lives, their actions since June 2016 must inevitably colour their post-Brexit futures.

I think for instance that the CBI is now finished as a credible voice for British business. For over three years the organisation was an enthusiastic participant in Project Fear, using the resources of its wealthiest Globalist members to sabotage, undermine, devalue and oppose the Referendum result. If the CBI thinks it can now just shrug, grin sheepishly and resume its pre-2016 role, it is deeply deluded. There are already calls for a replacement organisation to represent British business. (the 'Financial Services Industry', despite the most wishful thinking of the CBI, is not in fact an industry)

Labour are about to offer the country a Leader and a shadow cabinet whom, it now seems certain, will all to some extent have refused to accept the Referendum result from 2016. They intend to ask the country to entrust them with our democratic power in 2024. But can we ever, ever again trust those so ready to disregard the clear instruction of the ballot box? How can they ever be trusted?

In contrast, those on whom we should bestow especial trust and regard are those who fought hard for Remain during the Referendum contest and who subsequently opposed efforts to frustrate the outcome. They are true democrats. They indeed are the Righteous Within the Nation and they can be safely trusted with our votes and the power we lend them.

We must go forward as One Nation, but words and actions have consequences. The most fervent amongst the democracy-deniers can not now be surprised that they are no longer trusted.