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Friday, November 25, 2022

Paying for Christmas parties

The Independent reports that the watchdog responsible for MPs’ expenses has apologised for telling MPs they could charge taxpayers for Christmas parties, which resulted in some politicians receiving “abuse”.

The paper says that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) had been widely criticised for giving the go-ahead amid a cost of living crisis:

MPs also complained that the watchdog had given the impression they had been “clamouring” to put food, refreshments and decorations for an office party on expenses.

Ipsa said that after issuing the guidance around Christmas spending, a number of MPs got in touch to say “they have never made such claims in the past and have no intention of doing so in the future”.

We also failed to recognise the public mood at a time of severe economic and financial pressures.

The watchdog’s chief executive, Ian Todd, said: “We got the messaging wrong by allowing the impression to form that this is what MPs were wanting to do, rather than our interpretation of the discretion available under the existing rules.

“We are an independent body and we make our own decisions but, occasionally, like everyone, we make mistakes.

“I would like to apologise to those MPs and their staff who have had to deal with phone calls, emails and, in some cases, abuse as a result of our guidance. They did not write the guidance or influence its contents.

“In issuing it, we also failed to recognise the public mood at a time of severe economic and financial pressures. I am sorry for that.”

What is not clear from this non-apology apology however, is whether the guidance has been withdrawn. or are Ipsa just concerned that they got the PR wrong?

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Tory peer who secretly received £29m from ‘VIP lane’ PPE firm

The Guardian has an important scoop today in which they say that documents available to them reveal that Conservative peer Michelle Mone and her children secretly received £29m originating from the profits of a PPE business that was awarded large government contracts after she recommended it to ministers.

They add that Lady Mone’s support helped the company, PPE Medpro, secure a place in a “VIP lane” the government used during the coronavirus pandemic to prioritise companies that had political connections. It then secured contracts worth more than £200m:

Documents seen by the Guardian indicate tens of millions of pounds of PPE Medpro’s profits were later transferred to a secret offshore trust of which Mone and her adult children were the beneficiaries.

Asked by the Guardian last year why Mone did not include PPE Medpro in her House of Lords register of financial interests, her lawyer replied: “Baroness Mone did not declare any interest as she did not benefit financially and was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity.”

The leaked documents, which were produced by the bank HSBC, appear to contradict that statement. They state that Mone’s husband, the Isle of Man-based financier Douglas Barrowman, was paid at least £65m in profits from PPE Medpro, and then distributed the funds through a series of offshore accounts, trusts and companies.

The ultimate recipients of the funds, the documents indicate, include the Isle of Man trust that was set up to benefit Mone, who was Barrowman’s fiancee at the time, and her children. In October 2020, the documents add, Barrowman transferred to the trust £28.8m originating from PPE Medpro profits.

That was just five months after Mone helped PPE Medpro secure contracts to supply masks and sterile gowns for use in the NHS.

Contacted about the new disclosures, HSBC said it was unable to comment, even to confirm if the couple had been clients. A lawyer for Mone said: “There are a number of reasons why our client cannot comment on these issues and she is under no duty to do so.”

A lawyer who represents both Barrowman and PPE Medpro said that a continuing investigation limited what his clients were able to say on these matters. He added: “For the time being we are also instructed to say that there is much inaccuracy in the portrayal of the alleged ‘facts’ and a number of them are completely wrong.”

Mone, 51, and Barrowman, 57, have over the last two years repeatedly insisted they had no “involvement” in PPE Medpro, and “no role” in the process through which the company was awarded its government contracts. PPE Medpro has repeatedly refused to identify its mystery backers, but denied it was awarded contracts because of “company or personal connections” to the UK government or Conservative party.

The Guardian has previously reported how those claims seem to be at odds with documents appearing to show the couple were secretly involved in PPE Medpro’s business, and emails suggesting Mone repeatedly lobbied the government on its behalf during the nine-month period after she helped secure its place in the VIP lane.

However, the Guardian’s latest revelation – that the peer and her husband secretly amassed an offshore fortune on the back of PPE Medpro profits – could prove the most consequential for Mone, who has already been placed under investigation by the House of Lords commissioner for standards.

The way Tory Ministers handled PPE contracts during the pandemic, and the VIP lane in particular, remains a national scandal, but nobody has yet been held accountable for it. Let's hope that these revelations will change that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

When Brexiteers start to consume themselves

I am a fan of irony in politics, but after reading this latest news in the Guardian it seems that whole concept is dead.

The paper says that Owen Paterson, the former Tory cabinet minister and arch Eurosceptic who resigned from parliament last year after an inquiry found he had broken the rules banning MPs from paid lobbying, is taking a case to the European court of human rights.

They add that in a court summary of the case, Paterson “complains that his article 8 rights [to privacy] were infringed [by the inquiry process that led to his resignation], as the public finding that he had breached the code of conduct damaged his good reputation, and that the process by which the allegations against him were investigated and considered was not fair in many basic respects”:

Like most Brexiters, Paterson has never been fond of the European court of human rights – although of course this court is not part of the EU.

But, in the light of his decision to launch legal action, Paterson may be glad the government never followed the advice of the prominent Tory who gave a speech in 2014 saying the UK should break free of the European convention on human rights, on which the court adjudicates. That was Paterson himself.

Paterson claims that the inquiry into the allegations against him was unfair because he did not get a proper right of appeal. MPs on the Commons standards committee did not accept that – they took evidence from Paterson after an inquiry from the parliamentary commissioner for standards found he broke the rules, and arguably that part of the process functions as an appeal – but Paterson was able to persuade Downing Street that he had a case, and Boris Johnson ordered Tory MPs to vote down the recommendation saying he should be suspended.

The spectacle of Tory MPs voting to protect a colleague who broke the rules was disastrous for Johnson, who quickly realised he had made a huge mistake and ordered a U-turn. That prompted Paterson’s resignation, but the episode is seen as the start of the process that led to Johnson himself being forced to resign less than a year later.

You really cannot make this stuff up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Not so much a festival as a damp squib

In many ways, Boris Johnson's Festival of Brexit resembles the disaster it was meant to celebrate. It had unrealistic targets, failed to deliver on expectations and left the UK Government severely out-of-pocket. It is little wonder that the National Audit Office has been called in to finally lay it to rest. If only they could do the same for Brexit.

The Independent reports that the £120m “Festival of Brexit”, which culminated in a year-long series of events celebrating British creativity, is facing fierce criticism for its “colossal waste” of taxpayer money after bringing in live audiences of less than 4.5 per cent of its original target.

The paper adds that following criticism by a parliamentary committee of an “irresponsible use” of public funds, an investigation into its spending has been launched by the National Audit Office (NAO):

MP Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, says it has proven to be a “colossal waste of money”.

“There was certainly some stigma over the phrase ‘festival of Brexit’ at the start for certain artists, but the reality is that this was clearly a failure of the project. It was a failure in terms of having an idea and actually having something that resonated with people,” he said.

What is really depressing is that this £120m is not the largest amount of money thrown doen the drain by this government since 2019. They have in fact wasted or lost billions from mismanagement and dodgy deals, especially on not-fit-for-purpose  PPE during the pandemic. It is no wonder government finances are in such a mess.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Facing reality on the economy

There was a very telling article by Will Hutton in yesterday's Observer that nailed the dishonesty and self-denial that is prevalent in what little debate we are currently having about the UK economy. The article is worth reading in full, but these are some of the key conclusions:

Government is a pantomime horse. Immigration is to come down, says the Home Office, but it is running at the same level as when we were in the EU single market and is welcomed by the chancellor as essential. Council tax is climbing to its highest levels for 20 years, based on property values last valued in 1991. Eight weeks ago, a Tory chancellor promised the biggest tax cuts for 40 years; now, facing reality, there is a proper reversal on the same scale. Even Ruritania could not do worse.

It is true that inventing a new growth model is challenging, but the foundation must be honesty. Today’s Conservative party is incapable of that. It has collapsed into a confederation of incompatible cults united only in mutual loathing, with a significant element living in a fantasy of what Britain can be and how the economy works. Not even its better leaders dare speak the truth for fear of provoking civil war. Around 40 Tory MPs, members of the Bring Back Boris WhatsApp group, gathered at London’s L’Escargot restaurant last Wednesday to discuss how to restore their hero. Small wonder that Hunt, the nearest the Tories have to an honest politician, cannot acknowledge the damage of Brexit. He has to genuflect to the nonsense that trade deals with the rest of world will over time compensate for what has been lost, as he did on Radio 4’s Today programme. His budget speech pretended that capital spending was protected when in fact it was reduced, with the levelling up department suffering the biggest real cut, and built on impossible assumptions about public sector wages.

Britain needs a serious national conversation for which the precondition is truth telling. There is no growth without an upsurge in investment, for which there have to be ideas to back, finance and markets to enter. Elements of what might make things better are scattered around like Lego, but few are picked up and joined together. Major figures in the City of London float the idea of a national wealth fund. The chief scientific officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, has advocated a sovereign fund to support science and tech scale-ups. Business is beginning to urge the necessity of full access to EU markets.

But there is no cut-through until the wider political conversation is truthful – impossible in the current political climate. No viable tax base is possible with a property tax regime based on 30-year-old residential values; no viable growth plan works with exclusion from the EU single market; first-rate public services cannot be built on third-rate wages. The best on both frontbenches know these truths. Time to acknowledge them and more. Let’s leave Ruritania behind.

Brexit has left the UK economy weaker and isolated, it has severely impacted on our ability to fill key jobs and is destroying our trading base, vital public services are on the verge of collapse because of underfunding, understaffing and underpaid workers, and we are in denial about shrinking private investment levels, and as a result, and because we have cut ourselves off from the EU, we cannot sustain any realistic levels of growth. Is there any good news?

Friday, November 18, 2022

How Brexit is undermining our living standards

Following on from Michael Heseltine's demolition of Brexit yesterday, the Independent reports on evidence given by a member of the bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to parliament's treasury committee.

Dr Swati Dhingra said British workers had taken a 2 per cent real terms cut in their wages due to the UK’s departure from the EU, while Brexit has added 6 per cent to UK food prices. Living standards are under immense pressure around the globe this year due to record inflation, particularly in food and energy prices, but Dr Dhingra said Britain would suffer more as a direct result of having left the EU:

“It’s undeniable now that we’re seeing a much bigger slowdown in trade in the UK compared to the rest of the world,” Dr Dhingra, who is also an associate professor at the London School of Economics (LSE), told MPS.

She said that British households had seen their food shopping expenses rise 6 per cent higher than other countries in recent years, referencing research by LSE students that examined the impact of the UK’s poorer trading terms since Brexit.

She added: “The simple way of thinking about what Brexit has done to the economy is that in the period after the referendum, there was the biggest depreciation that any of the world’s four major economies have seen overnight.

“That contributed to increasing prices and reduced wages ... we think that number is about 2.6 per cent below the trend that real wages otherwise would have been on.”

She said that was followed by reduced business investment and trade numbers were now reacting to the impact of the Brexit deal that the UK signed with the EU.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said Britain’s economy was recovering far worse from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic than that of the eurozone and the US.

Despite this, he said, Brexit’s impacts so far had not been surprising and stuck by the bank’s longstanding estimate that UK productivity would see a long-term fall of around 3 per cent.

“This [estimate] was done pretty soon after the referendum, it essentially assumes that there is a long-run downshift in the level of productivity, a little over 3 per cent,” he said.

“As a public official, I’m neutral on Brexit per se, but I’m not neutral in saying that these are what we think are the most likely economic effects of it.”

We definitely need a bigger bus if we are going to write all this on its side.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Heseltine trashes Brexit

It is no surprise that Michael Heselton is not a fan of Brexit, but his analysis of the damage done by this policy in a speech on Tuesday is damning and stands out as an exceptionally honest and perceptive position for a Conservative politician. His criticism is worth quoting in full:

A short time ago I argued that: ‘If Boris goes Brexit goes’. Johnson was not alone in souring our relationship with Europe. The Atlanticist prejudices of Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black using a power over our media that would never be granted to foreigners in other countries, the populism of Nigel Farage and Paul Dacre’s nationalistic editorship of the Daily Mail all contributed to the propagandist exploitation of the consequences that followed from the implementation of the EU single market.

The harmonisation of the rules and regulations that governed the European economies was one of Margaret Thatcher’s greatest achievements. To introduce one European regulation in place of 28 involved a constant flow of forms. The blame game began. Boris Johnson led the charge to Get Brexit Done.

Well, not quite. Brexit was never going to get done. Brexit was based on an undeliverable set of promises:

Get our country back

New trade deals

Bonfire of controls

End of wealth destroying regulations

Immigration controls

No border in Ireland

That was 2016.

Four Prime Ministers, four Trade Secretaries, five Foreign Secretaries, six Chancellors, six Chief Brexit negotiators and an oven-ready Brexit later, we can see the worthlessness of those promises. I must be fair. The impact of Covid and Ukraine has seriously prejudiced our living standards and those of the Western World. We hope that the worst of Covid is behind us.

The vaccine developed under the regulatory discipline of the European Medicines Agency was the first to achieve clinical approval. The agency which provided hundreds of jobs in London has now been transferred to Amsterdam because of Brexit Ukraine enjoys the support of the Western World, and to its credit we all appear ready to pay a high price for it.

However damaging to us now, the effect of covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine may be relatively short term. Brexit is not. It represents a permanent fracture of our relationship with our closest neighbours and our largest market.

It has led to queues in the hospitals and G.P.s waiting rooms, disruption to supply lines, increased prices and interest rates. It reduces our attraction as a gateway to one of the world’s largest markets and diminishes our ability to influence European decisions over great global challenges.

I followed every Conservative Prime Minister from Winston Churchill up to and including Theresa May in their support for our membership of Europe. You would expect me to be critical of Brexit but I am not alone. Recently the Daily Telegraph put the past six years into context. Under the headline “After six wasted years”.

Alistair Heath summarised the situation as follows:-

“It has been clear for years that our putrefying economy is in desperate need of shock therapy. Yet instead of addressing its many horrific pathologies, our ruling class, well served by the status quo, has stubbornly blocked radical surgery. The result has been catastrophic: Poland and Slovenia are catching up with us in terms of middle-class lifestyles, and our desperate young can’t afford to buy a home.

I quoted the first four words of the headline. Let me quote the whole headline. After six wasted years Truss is about to deliver a Brexit that actually works. The consequence of Liz Truss' seven weeks in office has an eloquence beyond the finest oratory. Let me set out the reality of Brexit.

One pound sterling was worth 1.48 US dollars on 23 June 2016, the day of the referendum. The following day that value plummeted to 1.36 dollars. Yesterday a pound was buying 1.18 dollars. That amounts to a loss of over 20% of the pound’s value against the dollar since 2016. The pound has also lost over 12% of its value against the euro, falling from an exchange rate of over 1.30 before the referendum to 1.14 yesterday.

The London School of Economics has estimated that Brexit alone – before the effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine are accounted for - is responsible for a 6% rise in food prices. Put starkly, Brexit means that more people are unable to pay their mortgage or rent, are having to turn to food banks, or are unable to heat their homes.

The Resolution Foundation estimates that average real pay per UK worker will, by the end of the decade, be £470 lower each year - that’s a thousand pounds for an average couple. Normally, lower exchange rates have an important silver lining in that they make UK exports more affordable and increase their volume. But the signs are that – due to Brexit-induced trade barriers and red tape - this did not happen. Post-Brexit.

UK exports to the EU fell by 14% in 2021. The Centre for European Reform, has estimated that Brexit had, by the end of 2021, reduced trade in goods between the UK and the EU by 13.6% and left UK GDP 5.2% lower than it would have been had the UK stayed in the EU single market. The CER puts the Brexit hit to overall investment in the UK economy at 13.6%.

The Office for Budget Responsibility concluded that consequent upon the new trading relationship as set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that came into effect on January 1 2021 British imports and exports would eventually be reduced by 15%. They further concluded that new trade deals with non-EU countries will not have a material impact on GDP. Little surprise that the Truss government did not consult them about the consequences of their budget.

I doubt if the government were consulted about the decision to build a new model of the Land Rover Defender in Slovakia. The queues in the Health service are of alarming proportions. The European doctors and nurses have gone home. The government is left trawling developing countries to replace them.

No one explained that a consequence of Brexit would be that our country - one of the world’s richest - would have to attract specialists trained by some of the world’s poorest.

The OECD in June of this year predicted that in 2023 the UK economic growth at nil would be the slowest in the G20 above only Russia. Three months later the dire energy crisis in Germany had a similar effect there. The three major credit rating agencies . crucial to UK’s borrowing costs - Moody’s, Fitch and S&P have this year all downgraded the outlook for the UK from stable to negative.

These are the judgements of independent organisations and markets and stand in stark contrast to the propaganda of Brexiteers. It was all too easy to promise a bonfire of red tape and demonise Brussels bureaucrats in a cynical exploitation of people’s anxieties and frustrations.

Only yesterday in the Times, Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a pro Brexit think tank, wrote ‘Nowhere has the failure been so stark as in the strange story of the almost complete absence of a so-called Brexit dividend.’

The simple truth is that six years on, the only significant example of that bonfire has been to allow unlimited bankers’ bonuses. Regulation is the difference between civilisation and the jungle. We can all enthuse at David Attenborough’s brilliant depiction of life red in tooth and claw where the only law is survival of the fittest.

Regulations are the codes and standards that hold modern societies together. That is why whenever the government has sought to dilute or lower the standards they uphold, civilised bodies like The National Trust, The Wildlife Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds protest at the legislative processes involved.

The Brexiteers told us new deals with faster growing markets would more than compensate for lost European trade. Six years’ later all but three of those new deals merely replicate those already negotiated by the EU. A deal with the United States has been scuppered by the government’s attempt to unilaterally override the Northern Ireland protocol.

India wants us to reverse our immigration controls as the price of a deal. There are new deals with Australia and New Zealand. The consequences for our farmers are so adverse that even a minister who helped negotiate it says the Australian deal is not good for the UK.

No wonder full implementation is delayed until the late 2030s! I am helped once again by the Sunday Telegraph - Jeremy Warner on October 30th. wrote “Brexit is irreversible, but we must strengthen economic ties with the EU”. I disagree with his irreversible gambit. Public opinion has already moved.

In October an IPSOS MORI Poll reported that 51% of the people thought that Brexit had damaged the economy whilst only 22% thought the opposite. Listen, however, to what Warner says about Brexit. He refers to Rishi Sunak’s commitment to building an economy that embraces the opportunities of Brexit.

He needs to get a move on and indeed articulate precisely what those opportunities are - for six years after Britain voted to leave the European Union all we’ve got to show for it so far is political, economic and financial chaos. From an economic perspective there has been zero payback and particularly in the area of international trade and reputation, considerable harm.

Let's hope his party colleagues are paying attention.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Questions over Welsh Government's 20mph limit plan

It is fair to say that the Welsh Government's plan to introduce a 20mph speed limit as the default on all urban roads is controversial. There are genuine questions about how it is going to be enforced, and whether it is really necessary away from schools and accident blackspots. Their rationale though is that reducing speeds increase safety, and so far, that argument has not be challenged.

There is a report on the wales-on-line website however, that research by Queen's University Belfast has found that reducing speed limits to 20mph has "little impact on road deaths or crashes".

Researchers say that while the lower limits lead to quieter streets with fewer cars, they have "little impact on long-term outcomes including road traffic collisions, casualties and speed":

The research looked at roads in central Belfast before, one year after and three years after 20mph speed limits were introduced in 76 streets in the city centre in 2016. They compared the data with city centre streets where the restrictions didn't apply, as well as streets in the surrounding metropolitan area and similar streets elsewhere in Northern Ireland that had all retained their speed limits of 30-40 mph.

They found that a 20mph speed limit was associated with little change in short or long-term outcomes for road traffic collisions, casualties, or driver speed. Specifically, they found crashes were reduced between three and 15% after one and three years but there was no "statistically significant" difference over time.

Casualty rates fell by 16 and 22 per cent one and three years after implementation, but these reductions "weren't statistically significant." Average traffic speed fell by only 0.2 mph one year and by 0.8 mph three years after roll-out.

The most significant findings was the reduction of vehicles on the roads. During the morning rush hour between 8am and 9am there were 166 fewer vehicles a week compared with similarly matched streets where the 20 mph speed hadn't been applied.

A decrease in traffic volume of 185 fewer vehicles a week was also found when comparing all sites before and three years after roll-out.

Study author Professor Ruth Hunter said: "Previous research has suggested that 20 mph speed limit interventions should be supplemented with other interventions such as driver training, social marketing, community engagement, closed-circuit television (CCTV), in-car interventions, community interventions (eg, speed watch), and police communications.

"Such success may then have the capacity to facilitate an ambitious culture change that shifts populations away from the car-dominant paradigm and help us recognise that 20 mph speed limits are not simply a road safety intervention, but instead part of the fundamental reset of the way we choose our life priorities-people before cars.

"Our findings showed that a city centre 20 mph intervention had little impact on long-term outcomes including road traffic collisions, casualties and speed, except for a reduction in traffic volume.

"Future 20 mph speed limit interventions should consider the fidelity [enforcement], context and scale of implementation."

This research casts doubts on claims that the new default speed limits would save Wales £100m in the first year from less medical treatment needed because of fewer crashes. They claim that the cost savings alone are a "gross over-simplification and underrepresentation" of the health benefits of the lower speed limit, although studies have shown a 20mph limit encourages more walking and cycling, therefore improving physical and mental health.

Perhapsx the Welsh Government need to go back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Home office failing on fraud

The Guardian reports on findings by the National Audit Office that the Home Office has an incomplete and out-of-date grasp of the cost of fraud in the UK and a poor understanding of who commits the crime.

The paper says that the government's current estimate of the cost of fraud to individuals is based on data and prices from six years ago and that that the Home Office has no reliable estimate of the cost of fraud to businesses, or how much firms spend on tackling the crime:

Fraud made up 41% of crime in the year to June 2022 and 987,000 fraud offences were recorded by police in England and Wales.

However, only a fraction of fraud cases end with a criminal charge or summons to appear in court – 4,816 in the year ending March 2022.

The NAO report said: “The [Home Office] does not have a complete or up-to-date estimate of the cost of fraud to the economy.

Its most recent estimate of the cost of fraud to individuals is £4.7bn [in 2015-16 prices]. This is based on 2015-16 data and the department is currently working on a more up-to-date estimate.

“It does not have any reliable estimate of the cost of fraud to businesses. It also has a limited understanding of the perpetrators of fraud or those who enable it by their action or inaction.”

The NAO also found that the Home Office did not have a complete picture of what was being spent on tackling fraud by businesses or the public sector.

There were also “inherent tensions” between the government and the private sector over some anti-fraud schemes that could “slow the customer journey”.

The head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, said: “Five years on from our last report on this subject, the Home Office has taken limited action to improve its response to fraud.

“Its approach has lacked clarity of purpose, it does not have the data it needs to understand the full scale of the problem, and it is not able to accurately measure the impact of its policies on this growing area of crime.

Given the way that the government itself was taken for a ride during the pandemic on the supply of PPE, you would think that they might have learnt their lesson by now.

Monday, November 14, 2022

A toxic culture

Wales-on-line has picked up on this story in the Times, on how the contents of a dead police officer's phone has unveiled a tocic culture in the Gwent Police force.

The Times says that WhatsApp and Facebook messages on the phone show Gwent police officers openly discussing the sexual harassment of junior female colleagues; racist, homophobic and misogynistic abuse; the leaking of sensitive police material; and corruption. 

They add that in September, two Gwent police chiefs were dismissed for gross misconduct after a junior female officer was groped at a party for the outgoing chief constable in 2019. A third would have been dismissed had he still been a serving officer. But the mobile phone reveals such behaviour to be the tip of the iceberg for a force of 1,300 officers, covering an area of 600 square miles of southeast Wales.

The Chief Constable says that "The content shared with us paints a picture of a toxic culture which does not represent the majority of our service. We have also made it clear that those who do not uphold these standards have no place in Gwent police — or in policing.” 

Of course, we only have her word for it that this abuse is limited to a minority of officers. There is no way that we can verify that statement without a comprehensive investigation by an independent body with full access to all the facts. The details published in the Times though, are very disturbing:

Jones and his former colleagues regularly shared pornographic videos and images of naked women. The Sunday Times tracked down several former female officers. “We call it the boys’ club,” said one. “It’s like a mob mentality. People say the police are racist, misogynistic and homophobic. Gwent police tick every box.”

Perhaps the most offensive exchanges were sent to Jones by a retired sergeant we are calling Officer A, who spent 30 years in the force and will receive a large police pension.

Officer A messaged Jones about a mutual friend — a traffic cop caught having sex with another officer while on duty: “He has been shagging on duty and it’s been recorded on his tetra [police radio] mate,” he wrote. “Didn’t he learn anything from me at all?? I thought I taught him well and how not to get caught.”

In 2018 and 2019 Officer A sent a number of racist images to Jones, mostly about Muslim women. A picture of Grenfell Tower on fire is titled “The Great Muslim Bakeoff”. In May 2019 Officer A sent Jones a racist image about the new royal baby.

In another exchange, on Facebook Messenger, Jones is discussing a possible divorce. Officer A offered him help in carrying out a possible fraud, saying he had done the same in the past for a Gwent police chief.

“I didn’t realise things were so bad,” Officer A wrote in December 2019. “If you need to hide some money, I will look after it or open an account for you in my name if you want. I did it for (name of senior Gwent police officer).” Hiding money from a partner during divorce is fraud and can be punishable by a custodial sentence.

Jones shared regular messages with his friend Clarke Joslyn, who served in the Gwent force for 26 years and carried out public order training with new recruits.

In November 2018 at a misconduct hearing female officers gave evidence of domineering, controlling and physically abusive behaviour by Joslyn, then aged 46.

He resigned from the police before the hearing was completed, but the panel determined that he would have been dismissed.

The Times records that when a former partner, who was a serving officer, reported Joslyn for abuse, the police later dismissed her on a data protection breach. Gwent police arrested her at home in front of her neighbours and searched her house. She was never charged. The paper lists other incidents where female officers were targeted within the force.

Wales-on-line reports that Gwent police, which covers Newport and Gwent, has been at the centre of allegations about behaviour within its rank for a number of years:

In September three senior members of Gwent Police were found to have committed behaviour amounting to gross misconduct. Former Gwent Police chief superintendent Mark Warrender was found to have committed gross misconduct by "inappropriate touching" while he and two senior colleagues were found to have held an "inappropriate conversation" with a more junior member of staff as a police social event and “failed to challenge and report” the alleged improper behaviour of others in that conversation.

Warrender and colleagues chief superintendent Mark Budden, who held the role of acting assistant chief constable, and chief inspector Paul Staniforth faced allegations of gross misconduct which they each denied. All officers have been barred from policing. Their disciplinary hearing was held in private with only basic details shared with the public despite the overwhelming public interest in s spotlight being thrown on the culture at the force.

All the evidence points to a force that is not fit for purpose, is not safe for female officers and where many officers are abusing their position. The question has to be asked as to why management has allowed this toxic culture to persist for so long, where is the Chief Constable in all this and what has the Police and Crime Commissioner been doing to stop it?

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