Bust-up between police reviewers goes public

Tom Winsor and Lord Stevens Tom Winsor (left) and Lord Stevens

Letters obtained by the BBC reveal an astonishing row between the two men asked to conduct independent reviews of the police - one by the government and the other by the opposition.

In the blue corner, Tom Winsor, now HM chief inspector of constabulary, who was asked to review police pay and conditions in England and Wales by the Home Office in 2010.

In the red corner - Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, a former Metropolitan Police commissioner and crossbench peer, who was asked to head an independent commission on policing by the Labour party last year.

In a letter to Lord Stevens obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Winsor records his dismay at parts of the peer's report, which he describes as "beyond rational comprehension" and "plainly unsustainable".

The reply from Lord Stevens quotes a series of often personal criticisms of Mr Winsor from police officers. One claims "Winsor was not independent" and that his review was "politically driven".

The personal feud reflects a deeper clash between police officers who resent a civilian having such a central role in their future, and Conservative politicians who think it is best for an outsider to push through necessary reform and scrutiny.

Police walking across Tower Bridge

The row began when Lord Stevens published his review of policing last November and criticised Mr Winsor for a "failure to engage" properly with serving police officers before announcing his controversial reform proposals.

The report described the Home Office-commissioned Winsor review as "a damaging process" and said the reforms had "not been accompanied by adequate discussion or engagement with those most affected."

The Labour party-commissioned Stevens' report also appeared to hint that the government's review had been politically motivated, saying the reform package "needs to be subject to independent review in due course".

Tom Winsor was furious and demanded Lord Stevens withdraw any suggestion that he had failed adequately to consult.

"This is plainly unsustainable," Mr Winsor wrote in a letter dated 16 December, noting that he had already told Lord Stevens about the "over 7,000 submissions from police officers and others" as well as written and oral evidence obtained by his review.

"How this can be described as a failure to engage the police service is beyond rational comprehension," the letter continues. "I was further dismayed to see that, notwithstanding my clear explanation to you of how extensively we did engage with the police service in the review, you repeated the criticism without amendment in your oral presentation of the report."

In an angry conclusion to his letter, Mr Winsor writes "the failure of any communication to me on the subject when one was promised, does no credit to the Commission."

Lord Stevens's letter to Tom Winsor, dated 9 January Excerpt from Lord Stevens' letter to Tom Winsor, 9 January

A reply from Lord Stevens, dated 9 January, apologises for the delay in responding but repeats the central criticism: "The Government's programme of reforms, of which your review was a key element, collectively failed to engage with grass roots members of the Service and key partners."

Lord Stevens suggests the process had "contributed to the fall in police morale" and then quotes comments from police officers who had contacted his commission.


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The spat reflects police hostility to the idea of the home secretary appointing a non-police officer to review their pay and conditions”

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"It seems to me and a great deal of my colleagues that Winsor was not interested in what any rank and file officer had to say!!!!!!!!!!!!" says another.

A third questions the objectivity of the process: "We are being treated like chattels with changes to pay and conditions without independent review. (Winsor was not independent). Policing in the UK needs a Royal Commission, not a politically driven review."

Lord Stevens' letter also suggests Mr Winsor ignored evidence from the Police Federation, the organisation representing rank and file officers.

"The Federation had a plan of their own that they were keen to share with you whch [sic] they claimed would have saved the police service money but which you took no notice of," Lord Stevens writes. "I am not claiming this to be the truth when there is such disparity in the accounts bu [sic] it is something the Commission could not ignore."

The spat reflects police hostility to the idea of the home secretary appointing a non-police officer to review their pay and conditions, anger heightened by Tom Winsor's subsequent appointment as chief inspector of constabulary in 2012.

The home affairs select committee said it had received "nearly 100 representations from individual police officers expressing concern" at his nomination for the chief inspector role. Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told them "the appointment of a non-police officer" signalled a step-change from tradition.

The Police Superintendents' Association and Police Federation also expressed their opposition to the idea of a civilian being appointed as the boss of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

The late Paul McKeever, then chairman of the Police Federation, said his members struggled to comprehend "how anyone who has not worked extensively within the police service" could have the necessary understanding for the role.

The home secretary, by contrast, has shown great loyalty to Mr Winsor, evidenced by the fact that in December the HMIC was given a £9.4m increase to its budget - money top-sliced from the police budget. Some senior officers have interpreted the move as a deliberate snub to the service and a pat on the back for Mr Winsor.

In a further move, Mr Winsor has written again to Lord Stevens this morning, clearly still fuming. Responding to the suggestion that he failed to take any notice of a Police Federation money-saving proposal during his review, Mr Winsor asks why no-one had asked him about the matter.

Excerpt from Tom Winsor's letter dated 14 February Excerpt from Tom Winsor's letter dated 14 February

"The rules of natural justice - and basic fairness and courtesy - require that such material matters are put to the person who is the object of the criticism for his or her response," Mr Winsor writes. "I cannot understand how the Commission could have thought accepting these criticisms in this was fair or responsible."

Lord Stevens has said that a colleague on his commission, Professor Jennifer Brown, had emailed Mr Winsor's office on two occasions prior to the launch of his report "without receiving any response". Mr Winsor has responded saying there is no "record or recollection of any attempt on the part of Professor Brown to communicate" during the period in question.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    These proposals give police the same conditions as employees. The Edmund Davies report made police a special case, which enabled the government NOT to allow them the right to strike. I believe that the Federation should now consider legal advice/action, so that the civil liberties of Police Officers should reflect their new status as employees, giving them such a right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    173.Ken Haylock

    The Police Federation did no such thing - a couple of their members acted badly, but they WERE NOT acting in an official capacity at the time...

    ...in the same way that if a drunken Brit abroad starts a fight it is him who is guilty, not the entire British nation....

    ...easy to understand if you are open minded & don't have an agenda.........


  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Tom Windsor and this government is destroying the police. The federation is a joke. Morale is a distant memory. The cuts have ruined front line services and the goodwill has gone. Be careful what you wish for as the police is broken

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    The problem, Ken, is that the Police don't have a David Davies providing a myoptic, daily commentary about how badly his buddy has been treated. Much of what he says does not bear close scrutiny - but, what the heck, why should that matter to a politician. When he shows equal concern for the welfare of the unfortunate cop who had to deal with his arrogant friend I'll take him more seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    14th February 2014 - 20:25
    Usual utterly digusting Labour tactics, "don't worry lads

    You obviously haven’t heard of the disgusting debt the Tories are running up (not surprising with our one party media)


    so which areas of expenditure do you think they should have drastically cut?

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    At last someone stands up for all the hard working, honest officers who are sick and tired of all the political tricks being used to undermine them. Thank you Lord Stevens, how right you are. How would you feel coming in to work every day to be told you are crap, everything you do is crap, and it doesn't matter what you do you will still be crap. Why do the police bother.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    I imagine that the Police Federation's up hill battle to get their concerns, legitimate or otherwise, taken seriously be government became a little steeper when they were caught out trying to stitch up if not quite fit up the Chief Whip.

    Not really in page 1 of the manual for 'How to Win Friends & Influence People'

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    The police do not have the right to take industrial action and are often pilloried by politicians without equal opportunity to reply in the same manner.
    Surely the least they deserve is a truly independent body to set their conditions of service. Then again, the last time that happened, Edmund Davis, they got an improvement in conditions - so that's never going to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Whether Winsor has a political agenda or not is beside the point. Politicians (=leaders) are the people we have voted for to decide these things. Labour are politicising the police by asking an ex-policeman to produce an alternative report.
    The Police began to be treated with special deference and extraordinary benefits because of the political climate in the early 80's. It's time it stopped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    I'm sure something beneficial will come from these reports by to separate men who evidently failed to consult one-another in any meaningful way - except for disagreement.
    Well, that's politics for you!
    My two pence: "Police Superintendents' Association & Police Federation expressed their opposition to the idea of a civilian being appointed as boss of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary." Me too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    See www.theeuroprobe.org 2013 - 009 Whatever has happened to our police?

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    167. As an ex copper he'll spend the first 3 days sitting and watching and the next 24 hours clearing the area and trying to talk. £10 on the ginger guy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    In the words of Harry Hill "there's only one way to sort it out-FIGHT."

    The odds on the dodgy looking ginger fella area bit long for me -I'll have a tenner on the ex copper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    This spat is surly worthy of a meeting of cobra

    As it must be a good half an hour since they last had one

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    2: Just as in all the other sectors now being deconstructed by the Coalition ( or really the Right wing element represented by Camoron's lot) , education, the NHS, recently the Post Office, and probably a whole lot more we are unaware of at the moment.

    3: The nation must be almost devoid of any assets by now, so what makes Stevens and the rest of us think the cops are immune?

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Stevens says,, quite correctly as I see it, the task for Winsor is set to a political tune.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    161. You don't defend your job with a brick and a baseball bat in a big gang. Well done the Police on that issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    The police should send Simon "Killer" Harwood to get them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    To Yoda wot utter drivel ,I was a miner and no one stoked me up and I wasn't a militant ,I was only defending my job

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Usual utterly digusting Labour tactics, "don't worry lads

    You obviously haven’t heard of the disgusting debt the Tories are running up (not surprising with our one party media)


    And counting

    It won’t be long before they won’t be able to pay any wages


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