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.

Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    If they had asked a PC from Tottenham and a WPC from Stoke Newington to do the reports, they would probably have been more accurate and completely different from Winsor's and Steven's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    So a report commissioned by the labour party wouldn't be politically motivated then? I know which one I would believe - neither!

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    After all the recent scandals, the Police need a massive shake-up.I doubt whether Stevens, a former policeman, is the most independent person to do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Police Officers I speak to are looking for other jobs. In North East Scotland many have resigned and now work elsewhere. Those probationers who were to take their place, also resigned as they were being moved to areas they would not normally have applied for. To say the Police are in a mess is an understatement. I can only imagine what damage Winsor has done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    My opinions od Tom Winsor went downwards when he was the "Rail Regulator". I'm afraid I had severe doubts about his suitability for thsi role when it was announced, and very little has happened to change that opinion, however I am on the outside and am not privy to many of the things that are happening behind doors in and around Whitehall, so it is only an opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    An undignified spat but no doubt the police will realise that they are no different to the rest of us - shafted into austerity. Maybe they will think about that when they are sent out on the streets to control and kettle those who choose to protest about the way they are being treated. I have a lot of respect for the police but they are the "peoples police" not the army of transient politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    You'd have thought the Police had fair more important things to worry about really.

    You know, things like covering up for their colleagues (Hillsborough) and fabricating evidence against MPs (Plebgate).

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Getting anybody with so much personal investment in an area to come up with reforms is like getting Turkeys to reform Christmas. I have no idea about the qualities of Tom Windsor but it surely makes sense to get someone external in to make these kinds of judgements.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    So sorry about my error. I was referring to Tony's friend, Lord Stevens, not Mr Winsor.(Post 15) Sorry about that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    "In the blue corner" and "In the red corner".

    Hmm, quality journalism from the BBC there then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Taking a slightly different tack ...

    I'm pleased to see officials having a 'free and frank exchange of views'

    Everyone towing the line is far more dangerous. Not sure how the content of these communications became public - I would actually like to see a return to the days when those in government service could do this regularly in private.

    More bust ups in the public service please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Perhaps organisations who use the FOI Act to gat information, should answer all queries made of it under the FOI Act, rather than squirm out of it, eh beeb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    The police can't afford any more cuts.
    Yes they can and here's a few suggestions: merge smaller forces (as in Scotland); replace officer numbers with cheaper better qualified civilian staff, not all personnel need powers of arrest; and reduce front line numbers where they are not needed.

    We are all in this together and that includes the Police:)

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Police exist to protect corporations, rich people and their private property. Helping the little people day to day is just to protect the myth. But see what happens when they people they are supposed to 'protect and serve' protest about fracking or corruption or war or workers rights. Who do they wheel out to make it go away?

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    16.Michael Ward - Police numbers being cut, and new laws which are more or less impossible to enforce and which take up police time from bigger crimes (Car Smoking ban). The police can't afford any more cuts.

    It's almost like it's being deliberately run down so the service gets so bad there'll be less complaints when G4S/Serco step in & get those nice contracts.
    It's working for the NHS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Well they can all thank the Labour party for this one. If they had not near bankrupted the country, such measures would not have been necessary. The fact of the matter is that when you add in the right to retire well before the rest of us, on a gold plated pension, is taken into account. police officers do not have that bad a deal. Get another job if it is that bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    The government is hell bent on cost cutting within the public sector. They are systematically eating away at the pay and conditions of thousands and using their puppet - Tom Winsor - to put some academic rigour into the argument. Police moral is at an all time low, NHS staff are being bullied and cajoled and the public gets a poorer service. Leave the police NHS, Fire Service and teachers alone

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Don't forget everyone, pick a side .. stay with it... and make sure you follow the political dogma spouted by said side and the fight will continue ad infinitum!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Police have been manipulating facts re Barton Moss

    The road to the IGas site the protectors have been protesting on has been ruled as a footpath, meaning all previous arrests for blocking the highway are being dropped!

    Is this on the BBC? No. To me this is big news

    The corporate thugs (police) were then pictured removing the public footpath sign!

    Retro attempt to make their arrests legal? Ha


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