Police Federation chairman and general secretary to quit

Steve Williams Steve Williams started work as chairman of the Police Federation in January 2013

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The chairman and general secretary of the Police Federation of England and Wales have both announced their retirements after a "turbulent" period.

Steve Williams and Ian Rennie will leave the organisation after its annual conference next month.

A damning report published in January said the federation should be changed from "top to bottom".

It said there was a "worrying loss of confidence" in the organisation, which represents ranks up to chief inspector.

Start Quote

Unless we get this right and embrace the change required, others will do it to us”

End Quote Steve Williams Departing chairman of the Police Federation

The report was commissioned in the wake of the "plebgate" row, which began as a disagreement between Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell - then chief whip - and police officers guarding the gates at Downing Street.

Three weeks after the incident, Mr Mitchell met three officers representing the Police Federation, who afterwards claimed Mr Mitchell had failed to give a full explanation of what had happened in Downing Street. They called for him to resign - which he later did.

But a recording of the meeting made secretly by Mr Mitchell showed he had apologised for swearing and expressly denied that he had used the word "pleb".

Andrew Mitchell on a bike Andrew Mitchell got into a disagreement with police officers in Downing Street in September 2012

Mr Williams said: "The Police Federation has faced a turbulent period in its history and there has been much criticism of our organisation and the way certain members behaved.

"When I took up office it was quite clear that as an organisation we were not fit for purpose and that is why I, along with my joint central committee colleagues, commissioned an independent review to help us identify our weaknesses and come up with solutions."

Left leaderless

The Police Federation hasn't exactly covered itself in glory over the last few months.

It was accused of using the so-called "plebgate" row for its own political ends.

It also found itself on the receiving end of a damning report by Sir David Normington.

Since then, a battle has been playing out behind the scenes between reformers and traditionalists.

Today the heads of those rival factions have both quit - leaving the Police Federation leaderless.

Meanwhile political pressure is mounting on the organisation to change.

The press is calling for it to publish all its financial accounts - including its secretive local branch accounts.

The Home Affairs Committee is conducting its own inquiry into how the Police Federation is run.

Perhaps most significantly, Policing Minister Damian Green has warned that if the organisation doesn't voluntarily embrace full reform then he might force it to change.

He said the review, led by former Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Normington, showed the federation was "not delivering what our members wanted" - but he said the fact 91% of officers wanted change gave the leadership a "clear mandate".

"Over the last few months, despite at times some significant challenges and opposition along the way, I have tried to manoeuvre the organisation to a place whereby we can start to deliver what is best for the Police Federation, its members and the British police service as a whole," he said.

He said it was now "right and proper" that a new chairman should be elected to "take this organisation into the next phase".

"I have made no secret of my fears that unless we get this right and embrace the change required, others will do it to us," he added.

'Amazed and surprised'

Home Secretary Theresa May said she was "sorry" Mr Williams was retiring.

She said he "understood" the need for change in the federation and had been "right" to commission the Normington Review.

"If the federation is to have public legitimacy, the Normington recommendations now need to be implemented, in full and in good time," she said.

Mr Rennie, who has been general secretary since 2008, has not yet commented.

A federation statement said: "Ian has been the chief negotiator on police pay, terms and conditions for the last six years, leading negotiations on behalf of all police officers during an incredibly turbulent period in policing history."

MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, said he was "amazed and surprised" by the retirements, which would "leave this important organisation with a huge vacuum and leaderless at a time when they need strong direction".

"It will remain to be seen if the federation will continue on the path of change," he said.

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