Daily Express: 'Bureaucracy champ' to fight police red tape

Thursday, 17 July, 2008

LABOUR'S answer to police red tape is to create another layer of officialdom- a new "bureaucracy champion".

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had pledged to make a "bonfire of forms".

But a leaked draft of the Policing Green Paper, to be published today, says such an approach to tackling the red tape swamping officers would be "futile".

Instead it promises a "bureaucracy champion" at senior Government level to see where inroads can be made.

It makes no mention of how controversial "stop and search" forms- heavily criticised for adding to bureaucracy- will be addressed.

In a separate farce, police will still have up to two days to attend non-emergency call-outs after the new national standard was reduced from three days in earlier drafts.

Many other policing pledges in the document are little more than a rehash of old ideas or promises that ministers will not be able to keep, critics said.

Furious rank and file police leaders last night said the Government had missed an opportunity to properly address the mountain of paperwork now chaining officers to their desks.

Police Federation vice-chairman Simon Reed said: "We have had so many false dawns from them on fighting bureaucracy.

"It's not good enough, we have got to see action.

"We need to go back to policing as it used to be. We need to cut out unnecessary bureaucracy, prosecuting people for minor offences, because officers are being tied up unnecessarily." Tory police reform spokesman David Ruffley said: "Jacqui Smith's 'policing pledge' is a rehash of old Home Office announcements.

"Many of them are either statements of the obvious or are already implemented by police forces." He added that the "shameless recycling" proved that Gordon Brown's Government was completely out of ideas.

Police expected the Home Office to use the Green Paper to unveil dramatic cuts in red tape.

But the leaked document, seen by the Daily Express, says: "Previous work from this area has shown that a 'bonfire of forms' approach will be futile.

"Achieving this fundamental shift will require national leadership; sensible, locally-relevant, proportionate targets; a rigorous ongoing approach to freeing officers from red tape; further work on how the police interact with the broader criminal justice system; and ensuring we gain maximum potential from new technology." Instead it promises "the Government will therefore appoint a reducing bureaucracy 'champion' at a senior level" who will lead discussions on "issues that slow the activity of policing".

The Government has failed to free police from the mountain of paperwork despite years of promises. Most officers still spend a third of their time caught up in red tape and bureaucracy.

Figures last year showed that just one police officer in 40 is free to answer 999 calls, while one in 58 is on patrol at any one time.

The Daily Express revealed in May that the public had lost faith in police whose officers spend only 14 per cent of their time on patrol.

The Green Paper pledges a review of rules surround surveillance and promises to push ahead with pilots to scrap "stop and account" forms, which have to be filled out every time an officer stops someone.