60,000 patients put on death pathway without being told but minister still says controversial end-of-life plan is ‘fantastic’
(Because it saves money)
Up to 60,000 patients die on the Liverpool Care Pathway each year without giving their consent, shocking figures revealed yesterday. A third of families are also kept in the dark when doctors withdraw lifesaving treatment from loved ones.
Despite the revelations, Jeremy Hunt last night claimed the pathway was a ‘fantastic step forward’.
In comments that appeared to prejudge an official inquiry into the LCP, the Health Secretary said ‘one or two’ mistakes should not be allowed to discredit the entire end-of-life system.
But Elspeth Chowdharay-Best of Alert, an anti-euthanasia group, said: ‘The Pathway is designed to finish people off double quick. It is a lethal pathway. ‘Mr Hunt has made a nonsense of the claim of his ministers that there is going to be an independent inquiry.’
The review follows a public outcry over a string of disturbing cases, highlighted by this paper, in which patients or their families were ignored.
The pathway involves withdrawal of lifesaving treatment, with the sick sedated and usually denied nutrition and fluids. Death typically takes place within 29 hours.
The 60,000 figure comes from a joint study by the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute in Liverpool and the Royal College of Physicians.
It found many patients were not consulted despite being conscious when doctors decided on their care.
Records from 178 hospitals also show that thousands of people on the pathway are left to die in pain because nurses do not do enough to keep them comfortable while drugs are administered.
An estimated 130,000 patients are put on the pathway each year.
Concerns have been raised that clinical judgments are being skewed by incentives for hospitals to use the pathway. Health trusts are thought to have been rewarded with an extra £30million for putting more patients on the LCP.
Critics say it is a self-fulfilling prophecy because there is no scientific method of predicting when death will come.
Norman Lamb, the care services minister, launched a review in November, saying there had been too many cases of families not being consulted.
But Mr Hunt yesterday suggested that concerns about the system were relatively minor compared with its benefits.
‘It’s a fantastic step forward, the Liverpool Care Pathway, and we need to be unabashed about that because it’s basically designed to bring hospice-style care to terminally-ill people in hospitals,’ he told LBC Radio:
‘I would be very sad if as a result of something that is a big step forward going wrong in one or two cases we discredited the concept that we need to do a lot better to give people dignity in their final hours because it’s something we haven’t done well.
‘Lots of people don’t want to die with lots of tubes going in and out of their body – they actually want to die in a dignified way.’
He added: ‘What should never happen is that people should be put on to that care pathway without patients being fully in the loop and their families and relatives being fully in the loop as well.’
The national audit by Marie Curie and the RCP examined a representative sample of 7,058 deaths between April and June last year. The figures were scaled up to give a national picture.
It found that in 44 per cent of cases when conscious patients were placed on the pathway, there was no record that the decision had been discussed with them.
For 22 per cent, there was no evidence that comfort and safety had been maintained while medication was administered.
And it also revealed that one in three families did not receive a leaflet to explain the process.
The LCP system was developed in a Liverpool hospital and has spread across the NHS over the past four years. The review is due to report in the new year.
‘They were treated like dogs waiting to be put down’: Son of couple put on ‘death pathway’ blasts care home’s decision to withdraw treatment
A war veteran and his wife died within days of each other after being put on the Liverpool Care Pathway without consent.
Charles Futcher, 90, who fought in the battle of El Alamein, died alone in a care home after he was put on the controversial end-of-life process. Ten days later his wife Hilda, 89, died in the same home after she too was given sedatives and had vital food and fluids withdrawn under pathway procedures.
Their son, Charlie, said his parents had been treated ‘like animals who needed to be put down’ by doctors who ‘seemed to take it upon themselves to get rid of them’.
The 62-year-old, who was at his mother’s side when she died, said the couple’s treatment had been grotesque and claimed they were put on the pathway without consultation.
Just two weeks before his death, Mr Futcher had celebrated his 90th birthday at a family party. ‘He was in a wheelchair and was in discomfort, but he was compos mentis and you could speak to him about anything, he was sharp,’ his son said.
When his sister received a telephone call from the care home to tell her that their father, a former ambulance driver, had been put on sedatives, Mr Futcher Jr did not think it meant he was seriously ill. As a result, the old soldier died without any of his family being present.
Mr Futcher Jr said: ‘I would not have wanted my father to suffer if he had been riddled with cancer or his diabetes was killing him, or if he had made the decision to go. ‘I would have just liked to have been there with him. ‘But somebody else was making those decisions and not telling us.’
After his father died, Mr Futcher Jr, a former teacher who owns a hotel in the Peak District of Derbyshire, lost all faith in those caring for his mother at the care home in Petersfield, Hampshire.
‘I just didn’t trust them so I stayed with her all the time,’ he said. ‘Her dementia was quite bad, but she knew people. ‘She couldn’t hold a conversation any more but she knew who I was and would give me a hug.’
Mr Futcher Jr claims that within days of his father’s death, care home staff stopped giving his mother food or fluids and her health deteriorated rapidly.
He said: ‘They were telling me that she’d forgotten how to eat and when I arrived there she was so frail.
‘I held her hand up to the light and could see the blood going through her veins, that’s the state they got her into. We had a family friend there and I said, “There’s no way that my mother is refusing food and we have to get some fluids in there”.
‘I went and bought a baby’s feeding bottle and put some water into it and she just sucked it down. You just couldn’t pull it out of her mouth.’
Mr Futcher Jr claims the same GP who allowed his father to be put on the Liverpool Care Pathway authorised district nurses to put his mother on sedatives without his even having visited her.
He added: ‘It was a grotesque death. When I watched my mother die over those 33 hours she was so thin and dehydrated, it actually changed the shape of her head.
‘It’s like taking your animals to the vet. I’ve got dogs and they get old and you agree to put them down. It’s no different to that, no different at all.’
Norman Boyes, practice manager at the Swan Surgery in Petersfield, where Mr and Mrs Futcher’s doctor worked, said: ‘We are sorry if anyone is unhappy with the care and advice provided. ‘The practice has a formal complaints procedure, and we would encourage any of the family members who have any concerns to contact us directly.’
The Liverpool Care Pathway is designed to ease the suffering of terminally ill patients in their final hours and can involve the withdrawal of foods and fluids as well as the use of sedatives such as morphine.
Yesterday the Mail revealed that up to 60,000 patients die on the pathway each year without giving their consent.
Yet Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has described the pathway as ‘a fantastic step forward’ – and dismissed concerns as based on matters ‘going wrong in one or two cases’.
British government faces war with equality activists as they axe Labour’s PC curriculum that dropped greatest figures from history lessons
Some of the greatest figures in Britain’s past are to be restored to their rightful place in history, thanks to an overhaul of the school curriculum.
The likes of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill had been dropped from history lessons under the last Labour Government in a move critics said was driven by ‘political correctness’.
But under a new ‘back-to-basics’ shake-up, pupils will again have to study these traditional historic figures – and not social reformers such as Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole and former black slave Olaudah Equiano, who were introduced into the 2007 curriculum.
The revisions, spearheaded by Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove, are certain to anger equality activists who believe history lessons are too skewed towards white British men.
But they have been welcomed by traditionalists such as Conservative MP Philip Davies, who said: ‘The curriculum has to specify figures like Nelson and Wellington.
‘Far too often we are apologising for things in our past, but actually we have so much in our history to be proud of. It is essential that children learn why they should be proud of their country.’
And former Government history adviser Anthony Freeman said teachers needed guidelines to teach about the key figures who shaped our past, saying: ‘Many teachers are more concerned to promote politically correct social themes than to present a narrative.’
Leaked drafts of the new history curriculum, to be published in the New Year, show that schools will be required to cover the Norman Conquest, Henry II and his conflict with the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, and King John and his power struggles with the Barons that resulted in the Magna Carta.
Episodes such as the Black Death, the Wars of the Roses, the growth of the British Empire and the trial and execution of Charles I will also be included, as will the Acts of Union – which will become the subject of scrutiny as Scotland holds a referendum on independence in 2014.
But out go figures including social reformers Robert Owen and Elizabeth Fry, aviator Amy Johnson, nurse Florence Nightingale, and Equiano and his fellow anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce.
However, pupils will still have to learn about social changes such as the abolition of slavery and the suffragettes. In addition, references to cultural, ethnic and religious diversity have been cut, although they will still be taught about immigration.
The changes have been drawn up amid great secrecy by Government advisers, including television historian Simon Schama. Mr Gove said a year ago that too many children were leaving school ignorant about Britain’s past because syllabuses had been stripped of core content.
He pointed to a survey which found a sixth of 18- to 24-year-olds believed Cromwell, rather than Nelson, led the British fleet at Trafalgar.
Mr Gove said: ‘I am genuinely worried that – despite the best efforts of brilliant history teachers, gifted academics and the television and publishing executives who’ve helped to popularise history – our curriculum and examinations system mean that children thirsting to know more about our past leave school woefully undernourished.’
Mr Gove has also criticised the existing curriculum for focusing on certain periods such as the Tudors and the world wars while missing out large chunks of the past.
The national curriculum sets out the minimum that should be taught in schools, but it does not prevent teachers adding any material they wish to flesh out lessons – including events and individuals that have been cut out of the new version. However, they will have to ensure they first cover all the areas specified in the new curriculum.
The national curriculum is compulsory only in maintained state schools; academies and free schools can create their own versions.
The Department for Education said: ‘We do not comment on leaks.’
Europe, wind, warming… we’re slowly waking up to reality
2012: the year of promised ‘drought’ that turned into England’s wettest on record
There could be few more apt epitaphs for the year now ending than a recollection of the headlines in April that greeted a stark warning from the Environment Agency. Fuelled by the predictions of the climate-change-obsessed Met Office (and the the official policy, since 2007, of the similarly fixated EU) that we will have “hotter, drier summers” for decades to come, the agency foretold that the drought conditions of the early spring were likely to last “until Christmas and perhaps beyond”. The prophecy was swiftly followed by the wettest late spring, the wettest summer, the wettest autumn and the wettest Christmas we have ever known – eight months of near-continuous rain and floods amounting to England’s wettest year since records began.
For many of the major stories which have long been followed by this column, 2012 has been the year when long-dominant belief systems and fondly held illusions have been conspicuously falling apart, portending a time of agonising reappraisal when familiar certainties give way to greater realism and painful rethinking.
On Tuesday, for instance, much coverage will be given to the 40th anniversary of the day in 1973 when Britain finally junked “1,000 years of history” – in the famous words of Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell – and threw in her lot with the attempt to create an all-powerful super-government over the nations of Europe. (Gaitskell had shrewdly predicted, in his speech back in 1962, what the Common Market, as it was then known, was intended eventually to become.)
It is 20 years since this column began regularly reporting on the damage that our membership of the European Union (as it was then about to become, under the Maastricht Treaty) was starting to inflict on our national life. In those days, to question our membership was to be dismissed by all right-thinking people as a crank, a nutter, a xenophobe who could not be taken seriously. When at the start of 1992, I first began reporting horror stories about the tidal wave of new regulations hitting so many British businesses with the approach of the Single Market, along with the destruction of our fishing industry and much of our agriculture, we were still locked into that forerunner of the single currency, the ERM (almost unanimously supported, it is salutary to recall, by every political party and right across the media).
When we were forced out of the ERM on Black Wednesday, September 16, 1992, it ushered in a period of dramatic economic growth which, six years later, would allow Gordon Brown to announce his hubristic decision to double public spending in 10 years. We are paying the price for that now: this year the Government has had to borrow up to £18 billion a month to cover its ever-widening deficit.
Forty years on from our entry into “Europe”, as we see “the project” plunge deeper into the misery and chaos it has brought on itself by its even more hubristic desire to give the EU its own currency, British attitudes to our membership have changed beyond recognition. In their desperate efforts to save the euro, we see the EU’s inner core driving on towards yet another treaty and “full political union”, in a way that will condemn the UK to remain helplessly on the margin, with less influence over Europe’s destiny than ever. On all sides we hear plaintive cries that we must negotiate a “looser relationship” with the form of government to which we subordinated ourselves 40 years ago, as if we could defy its most basic rule: that powers once handed over to the centre in Brussels can never be given back.
Poll after poll shows that the majority of the British people would now like to see us get out altogether. One way or another – although few seem yet to have any realistic idea of how this could be achieved – we seem to be approaching a turning point in our relations with “Europe”, one as fateful as that step Edward Heath led us into so blindly back in 1973.
Just as significant this year have been the signs of glimmerings of reality breaking in on the delusions that go with the long-dominant conviction that the world is in the grip of a changing climate that we somehow have the power to reverse, if only we are prepared to subordinate every aspect of national policy to doing so and to change almost every aspect of our lives. It is 10 years since I first began reporting here on just one of the countless threads in that story – the belief that we could somehow derive most of the electricity on which our computer-dependent economy now relies from “renewable” sources: for instance, by covering vast tracts of our countryside and sea with giant wind turbines.
Again, back in 2002, to point out that wind energy was an incredibly damaging illusion was to be dismissed as a crank, a Nimby, a Luddite. But 10 years later, the penny is finally dropping that, in practical terms, this is an incredibly foolish and costly mistake. Furthermore, it is only part of a disastrous skewing of our energy policy through an obsesssion, shared with the EU since 1990, that we must lead the world in fighting a threat which, in the past few years, has increasingly come to be seen as a colossal scare story.
Six years ago, with global-warming hysteria still at its height, I first began to suggest here that it might be based on scientific evidence that was distorted or fabricated – as in the “hockey stick” graph, or the bizarre adjustments being made to official temperature records. Again, to say this at the time was to be derided as a “climate-change denier”, “anti-science”, a “flat earther”.
It is three years since, growing out of my researches for this column, I published a book called The Real Global Warming Disaster. It ranks alongside books by Al Gore and James Lovelock as one of the three best-sellers on the subject in the past decade, because it was the first detailed attempt to reconstruct the scientific and political story of the global-warming scare – just before it became clear, at the mammoth Copenhagen conference, that efforts to get a new treaty to combat global warming (and present mankind with the biggest bill in history) had collapsed.
As the scientific case for man-made climate change fell apart, in a welter of scandals which showed how ruthlessly the evidence had been fudged and manipulated, the real global warming disaster, as I argued, was the political legacy it was leaving us with. No one had promoted this more zealously than the EU and the British government, whose Climate Change Act, approved almost unanimously by MPs, is by far the most costly law ever put through Parliament.
At last, in 2012, we have begun to see calls for the repeal of this utterly insane legislation, requiring us to cut “carbon emissions” by four fifths in less than 40 years, which could only be achieved by shutting down virtually the entire British economy. At the same time we have heard influential calls, going right up into the heart of Government, for an end to the insanity of covering Britain’s countryside with useless and ludicrously expensive windmills. We have also heard calls, as in a recent report from the think tank Civitas, for the scrapping of the equally mad “carbon tax”. From April, the steadily increasing costs of this will gradually – as this column has long pointed out – make Britain’s economy the least competitive in Europe, destroying tens of thousands of jobs as energy-intensive industries are forced to relocate abroad or close altogether, and driving millions more households into “fuel poverty”.
At the same time, we have the promise of a national debate as to whether Britain should remain part of the maddest political experiment in history as it staggers deeper and deeper into a relentless crisis which threatens eventually to tear it apart, and our joining of which Margaret Thatcher described in her retirement as “a political error of the first magnitude”.
As 2013 dawns, with the US teetering on the edge of its own “fiscal cliff”, in many ways not dissimilar to that left to us by Gordon Brown, we are certainly in for “an interesting time”. But at least as the political skies grow darker and Britain gets wetter, there are real signs that we are beginning to wake up from a whole series of collective dreams which turned out to be nightmares. The breaking in of reality on such make-believe must inevitably be painful and bewildering. But if it is a prelude to our returning to our senses as a nation, then this could be an apt cue to wish you all a happy New Year.
The black Florence Nightingale and the making of a PC myth: One historian explains how Mary Seacole’s story never stood up
She was just a good-hearted woman who ran a bar
She is regarded as our greatest black Briton, a woman who did more to advance the cause of nursing – and race relations – than almost any other individual.
On the Crimea’s bloody battlefields, she is said to have saved the lives of countless wounded soldiers and nursed them to health in a clinic paid for out of her own pocket.
Her name was Mary Seacole, and today she is almost as famous as that other nursing heroine, Florence Nightingale.
For decades after her death in 1881, Seacole’s story was largely overlooked, but for the past 15 years her reputation and exploits have undergone a remarkable rehabilitation.
Schoolchildren are taught about her achievements and for many, Seacole, born in Jamaica in 1805 to a white Scottish officer called Grant and a Creole woman from whom Mary learned her ‘nursing skills’, is seen as a secular saint.
Numerous schools, hospitals and universities have rooms or buildings named after her, and shortly she will get her greatest tribute yet: an 8ft tall bronze statue is to be erected to her memory in the grounds of St Thomas’s Hospital, facing towards the Houses of Parliament.
The £500,000 memorial – larger than the statue of Florence Nightingale near Pall Mall – will show Seacole marching out to the battlefield, a medical bag over her shoulder, a row of medals proudly pinned to her chest.
There’s just one problem: historians around the world are growing increasingly uneasy about the statue, amid claims the adulation of Seacole has gone too far.
They claim her achievements have been hugely oversold for political reasons, and out of a commendable – but in this case misguided – desire to create positive black role models.
Now Seacole is at the centre of a new controversy with the news that the story of her life will no longer be taught to thousands of pupils.
Westminster Education Secretary Michael Gove has decreed that instead they will learn about traditional figures such as Oliver Cromwell and Winston Churchill.
So is it unfair to reduce her standing in this way? Not according to several historians.
‘The hype that has built up surrounding this otherwise worthy woman is a disgrace to the serious study of history,’ declares William Curtis of the Crimean War Research Society.
His views are shared by Major Colin Robins, a Fellow of the Historical Society who recently wrote a paper for an academic journal stating that Seacole is the ‘subject of many myths’, arguing that numerous ‘facts’ concerning her life are simply untrue.
Indeed, Major Robins singles out the teaching of some of the stories about Seacole as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘certainly not history’.
Meanwhile, leading the charge against the statue being placed at St Thomas’s is Lynn McDonald, a history professor and world expert on Florence Nightingale, who feels Seacole is being promoted at the expense of Nightingale. ‘Nightingale was the pioneer nurse, not Mary Seacole,’ says McDonald.
‘It’s fine to have a statue to whoever you want, but Seacole was not a pioneer nurse, she didn’t call herself a nurse, she didn’t practise nursing, and she had no association with St Thomas’s or any other hospital.’
So are these protests justified? Was the real Mary Seacole the heroine she has been made out to be?
Textbooks used for the current National Curriculum say that in her twenties, Seacole married a Jamaican merchant called Edwin Seacole and they travelled around the Caribbean, Central America and England until his death in 1844.
Seacole then set up a ‘hotel’ in the town of Cruces in Panama, where she is reputed to have treated cholera victims.
With the outbreak of the Crimean War later that year, Seacole was determined to offer her nursing services to the British and, when she was turned down, paid her way to the peninsula out of her own pocket.
Once she had arrived in the Crimea, Seacole tried to work for Florence Nightingale, who supposedly turned her away. Instead, she established her ‘British Hotel’ – part boarding house, part medical centre – from where she sold alcohol, hearty food and ran a daily clinic, as well as tending to the sick on the battlefield, even under bombardment. For all this, she was awarded the Crimea Medal.
After the war ended, Seacole returned to Britain, so impoverished she had to declare bankruptcy.
However, such was her reputation a benefit fund was established for her, which received the blessing of Queen Victoria. By the time she died in 1881, Seacole had retreated into obscurity and not until recently was she ‘rediscovered’ as a heroine of Crimea.
That is the version of events taught to schoolchildren in recent years. Unfortunately, many key details are either untrue or stretch credulity to breaking point.
Part of the problem is that much of the historical record concerning Seacole comes from her autobiography, which contains downright inventions, including meetings with people whom she could never have encountered.
Other key details have been embellished or invented by contemporary accounts. And although Seacole is championed as a black heroine – voted greatest Black Briton of all time in a 2004 poll – she was actually three-quarters white.
Her mother was mixed race and her father white. In her book, Seacole claims her skin is more ‘yellow’ than black, and she displayed more pride in her white Scottish ancestry than her black Jamaican heritage.
Furthermore, although one observer noted that she was ‘a few shades darker than the white lily’, her skin colour seems to have attracted remarkably little attention from those she helped in the Crimea.
However, today, Seacole’s skin colour is seen as being vitally important – and stated as the reason the War Office rejected her offers of assistance.
Seacole did wonder whether she was a victim of racism: ‘Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?’ she asked.
But although race could have been a factor, Seacole was more likely to have been rejected because of her age – she was 50 when she volunteered – and the type of home-made medicine she practised, which was regarded as quackery by the medical establishment.
Seacole herself admitted that when she treated the sick in Panama she made ‘lamentable blunders’ so she ‘lost patients which a little later I could have saved’. She even administered highly toxic lead acetate as an attempted treatment for cholera.
And she knew her lack of qualifications made the Army wary. ‘I am not for a single instant going to blame the authorities who would not listen to the offer of a motherly yellow woman,’ she wrote.
Another myth beloved of the politically correct telling of Seacole’s story is that her offers of help were personally rejected by Florence Nightingale. Once again, this is untrue.
In her autobiography, Seacole says she was not interested in working at Nightingale’s hospital at Scutari and instead only asked the celebrated ‘Lady of the Lamp’ for a bed for the night, which was duly granted.
Throughout her life, Seacole spoke warmly of Nightingale, although the feeling was not mutual. Nightingale regarded Seacole’s British Hotel ‘as something approaching a ‘bad house”, and believed that although she was ‘kind to the men …. and did some good’, she ‘made many drunk’.
‘Anyone who employs Mrs Seacole,’ Nightingale wrote, ‘will introduce much kindness – also much drunkenness and improper conduct, wherever she is.’
Yet if the haughty Nightingale cared little for her, there is no doubt Seacole was a favourite among the men. Despite its high prices, her ‘hotel’ (more a glorified hut) was a popular place to eat, drink ….. and drink some more.
‘All the men swore by her,’ wrote one, ‘and in case of any malady would seek her advice and use her herbal medicines, in preference to reporting to their own doctors.’
But the idea that she ran a clinic or some sort of hospital is a gross exaggeration.
There was no accommodation at the ‘hotel’, and although she may have dispensed herbal home-made medicines to alleviate symptoms of ailments such as diarrhoea, the idea that a single woman working alone and away from a hospital could have done anything to combat an illness as deadly as cholera is far-fetched in the extreme.
In truth, Mary Seacole was more of a mother figure to the officers and men. She was well-liked and she undoubtedly did at some point go onto a battlefield dispensing comforts such as wine and doing her best to deal with the odd injury.
It was her popularity that led to a benefit fund being set up for her when she returned bankrupted to Britain – much to the chagrin of Nightingale, who felt Queen Victoria had been misled into supporting the campaign. ‘A shameful ignorant imposture was practised on the Queen,’ she wrote privately.
And contrary to many historical accounts, Seacole was never awarded a Crimea Medal for her efforts. Although she often wore the medal, her name does not appear on any of the official rolls.
Although some would say she was morally deserving of recognition –- and indeed a statue – for her warm heart and personal courage, the story of Mary Seacole has been spun out of all proportion, her memory hijacked and her achievements embellished in order to provide a role model. It may be good politics, but it is poor history.
It’s no wonder the British public are losing faith as figures show some police officers would rather look after their own narrow interest than protect the public
By Dai Davies
When the Coalition embarked on its austerity programme to tackle Britain’s colossal fiscal deficit, Labour warned in doom-laden terms that cuts in police budgets would lead to soaring crime and public disorder.
The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, claimed austerity would lead to ‘Christmas for criminals’.
But the forecasts were wrong. Far from undermining the work of police, the cuts have in fact seen Britain become a safer place.
This just proves what I have always argued: in the fight against crime, the use of resources is more crucial than the size of the budget.
In my career, I served as head of the Royal Protection Squad and as Chairman of the Police Superintendents’ Association in London.
And that experience taught me the importance of efficiency over mere numbers. That is why I believe the Coalition is right to press on with reform of our police forces.
As the Home Office figures imply, there is far too much waste and inefficiency, reflected in outdated working practices, enfeebled management and excessive bureaucracy.
Some police have lost sight of their central purpose: to protect the public. Instead of serving those who pay their wages, they can end up looking after their own narrow interests.
The publication of the figures yesterday has thrown the focus once more on the running battle between government and police, which exploded into life in the Plebgate affair that cost Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell his job.
He was, of course, accused of swearing at officers in Downing Street and calling them ‘plebs’. After a month of intense pressure, the Police Federation got their scalp.
But last week it emerged that an email giving an eye-witness account of the confrontation came from a police officer who hadn’t even been present: round two to the Government.
Over the weekend damaging stories have emerged which can only give further impetus to reform. The revelation that 23,000 police staff have second jobs does not surprise me. Time and again, I have come across officers with second jobs in the ‘pseudo-security’ business.
What raises my eyebrows is that some seem to think they can combine police work with being undertakers or pole dance teachers.
This eagerness to take on extra jobs shows how under-worked some personnel are.
When I was in the force, I worked up to 12 hour days, sometimes six days a week. I was too exhausted to take on any other duties.
But I wouldn’t have thought it right to serve another master: policing is meant to be vocation, not just a job. A job on the side is bound to interfere with an officer’s commitment – indeed, there are suspicions that shift patterns are being organised in some stations to accommodate moonlighting staff.
Outside employment can mean staff are not available for sudden emergencies. Nor is there any justification for it: police enjoy reasonable pay, pensions, holidays, career progression and conditions which are the envy of those in the private sector.
Just as worrying is a study which shows police are ‘visible and available to the public’ just 11.8 per cent of the time. The rest of the working day is taken up with paperwork, meetings, court appearance, and backroom duties.
It is a huge misuse of resources, and a prime reason why the public is losing faith in police is that they rarely see bobbies on the beat.
The retreat to the station is all the more reprehensible when forces now employ a huge support army to take away the bureaucratic burden from front-line officers.
The vast expansion of support staff seems to have done nothing to free up more officers to go out on patrol.
This is partly because of the disastrous introduction by the Labour Government of Police Community Support Officers.
With just a fraction of the powers of sworn constables and little of the experience, these ‘plastic bobbies’ have been a hopelessly inadequate replacement.
Just as regrettably, the growing reliance on PCSOs encourages a spirit of self-importance among officers who are taught to believe daily patrolling is beneath them.
The police must bring back their traditional ethos of serving the public, not themselves. Too much of the Police Federation’s rhetoric smacks of naked self-interest.
When the Metropolitan Police was created in 1829, the first Commissioner Sir Richard Mayne said the force had to demonstrate ‘absolute impartial service to the law’, and must retain the support of the public at all times.
‘The police are the public and the public are the police,’ he said, stressing the ideal of policing by consent. That ethos should be as relevant today as it was nearly two centuries ago.
We’ve brought back fairness to welfare in Britain
No longer will hard-working taxpayers have to pay for Labour’s benefits profligacy, says Iain Duncan Smith
Labour’s legacy on tax credits tells a sorry story of dependency, wasted taxpayers’ money and fraud. At the most basic level, Labour used spending on tax credits as an attempt to gain short-term popularity. It knew what it was doing – this was a calculated attempt to win votes. Tax credit payments rose by some 58 per cent ahead of the 2005 general election, and in the two years prior to the 2010 election, spending increased by about 20 per cent.
Yet pumping up welfare transfers not only increased people’s dependency on the state – worse still, it pushed the public finances almost to breaking point. Between 2003 and 2010, Labour spent a staggering £171 billion on tax credits, contributing to a 60 per cent rise in the welfare bill.
Far too much of that money was wasted, with fraud and error under Labour costing over £10 billion. Small wonder really, given that the system was wide open to abuse. In 2008 Gordon Brown increased the income disregard in tax credits to £25,000. That meant any claimant could claim they had increased their earnings by an additional £25,000 – a substantial amount by anyone’s standards – before their award would be reassessed. It will come as no surprise therefore that fraudsters from around the world targeted this benefit for personal gain.
Little attempt was made to clamp down on potential fraudsters. In the year before the last general election, only 34,000 checks were carried out on what were deemed high-risk awards. In the DWP today, we carry out around 30,000 checks a month on what we consider ”high-risk claimants”.
Even for those in genuine need of support, tax credits were not fit for purpose. They were haemorrhaging money while at the same time trapping people in a system where those trying hard to increase the amount of hours they worked weren’t necessarily better off. What sort of a message does that send to someone who is trying to get on?
The system I inherited punished hard-working taxpayers and was in need of reform. Welfare spending had increased by a massive 60 per cent under the last government, rising even before the recession hit.
By 2010 this was costing every household in Britain an extra £3,000 a year. That is too much to ask from Britain’s hard-working majority.
As the Prime Minister said yesterday, it is not cruel to expect people to work; getting people into work is vital not just for them, but for all of us.
This Government is returning fairness to the welfare system. We are taking 2.2 million people out of tax and getting public spending under control, in a way that helps the poorest into work. Universal credit is designed to make work pay at each and every hour – 1.5 million people will keep more money as they increase their working hours, on average seeing an extra 14 pence in their pocket out of every single pound earned.
This is a dynamic reform, which will benefit hard-working people across the country.
As a result of the last government racking up such huge debts, taxpayers have had to foot the bill. This Government is on the side of hard-working taxpayers, the people across the country working in the private and public sectors who have seen their pay frozen or cut, as businesses have struggled to keep them in work. And all the while these people have watched those on tax credits or benefits see their income rise, outstripping their earnings.
Hard-working people have felt the impact of an economic mess left by the last government, and do not deserve to be hit twice – having to pick up the bill for ever-increasing welfare spending at the same time. The sad truth is that despite leaving Britain with its worst deficit in living memory, Labour is now voting against the measures this Government is bringing forward to reduce our debts. Labour voted against the benefit cap, against reducing the cost of housing benefit, against universal credit and now Labour will vote against the Uprating Bill in the new year.
Labour’s argument – it doesn’t think it’s fair. It would rather see benefits increase more than wages.
What we get from Ed Miliband now is merely platitudes; he says Labour would try to bring the welfare bill under control. The question every taxpayer should ask Ed Miliband is this: what is fair about making taxpayers who, in a time of growth, paid for Labour’s extravagant welfare system, now pay for further rises to benefits? The answer Mr Miliband, is nothing.