Further coverage of David Davis’ call for reform of Police Federation


As Published in The Times:
Police Federation told: reform or we’ll seize your headquarters

Ministers should seize some of the assets of the Police Federation – including its lavish headquarters — if it refuses to carry out reforms, David Davis has said.
The former Shadow Home Secretary urged the Government to set an ultimatum for the police staff association which represents 125,000 rank-and-file officers to implement changes in a Commons debate today.

Mr Davis also said the Police Federation’s cash reserves gave it an unfair advantage in legal battles with those, like Andrew Mitchell, the former Chief Whip who complained about its activities.
It would be a “huge injustice” if the staff association was allowed to “crush” anyone who challenges the behaviour of individual officers.

Last month Sir David Normington, the former Home Office permanent secretary, published a blueprint for the reform of the organisation established by law almost a century ago.

His report, commissioned by the Federation following criticism of its role in the so-called “plebgate” affair, called for greater professionalism, transparency and accountability.

Concluding it had lost the confidence of its members it was particularly critical of the targeting of political opponents like Mr Mitchell but also Tom Winsor, the author of a previous report into police reform and successive home secretaries.

Earlier this week one of the officers involved in the infamous confrontation with Mr Mitchell at the Downing Street gates on September 19, 2002 criticised the Federation for seeking to use the incident as a “silver bullet with which they could overturn police reforms”. Ian Richardson, now retired, said: “It was so wrong, it was nothing to do with them.”

Sir David’s 36 recommendations include sweeping changes to the conduct of internal elections and a radical overhaul to ensure better value for money.In the course of his inquiry secretive “number two” accounts which hold an estimated £30 million of members’ money but are not available for inspection were unearthed.

Federation leaders have declared their support for the proposed reforms but Mr Davis today pointed out that Fiona McElroy, a former head of communications brought in to help drive the change programme, has been dismissed.

The organisation’s headquarters are in a lavish complex in Leatherhead, Surrey, on which a mortgage of more than £10 million has been paid off in recent years. The building houses a hotel, bars, swimming pool and gymnasium.

“Grace and favour” flats are provided in an adjacent block for 11 senior officials who remain serving police officers even though many have been full-time federation representatives for years.
Ms McElroy is believed to have clashed over whether the Federation should be more open about its spending.

Mr Davis called on ministers to insist that the Federation implement all the report’s recommendations before the elections to its ruling body later this month. If it failed, said Mr Davis, they should consider seizing some of the assets selling them off and returning the funds, worth around £500 per member, to rank-and-file officers.

In a backbench debate he was supported by a cross-party collection of MPs including Keith Vaz, David Lammy and Richard Ottoway. David Lammy, the Labour MP, said the revelation that representatives had not told the truth about a meeting with Mr Mitchell over the so-called “plebgate” affair had revealed a “culture of impunity” which had to be addressed.

This week the widow of an officer expressed her anger about the behaviour of officials of the police staff association at last year’s National Police Memorial Day in Cardiff.

“Their drunken excess upsets families every year, hangovers at the service — it’s a memorial not a party,” wrote the woman, who asked not to be named.

As published in The Guardian:
Police Federation: ‘We haven’t changed in 100 years’: disarray in the ranks leaves union hierarchy in crisis: Plebgate, criticism over its lavish HQ and internal discord have taken their toll

In its heyday, senior police officers nodded to the power of “the Fed” in speeches to recruits after basic training. One Scotland Yard stalwart remembers John Grieve, then a deputy assistant commissioner in London, explaining to graduates at Hendon that “the three Fs” would see them through their careers.

“He told them they could rely on their friends, their family . . . and the Police Federation,” said a member of the audience that day. “The message was: the federation would have your back.”

If this remains the truth, it has been somewhat lost in the welter of bad publicity, recrimination and farce that has surrounded the Police Federation of England and Wales over the last year, a period in which Steve Williams, its chairman, has been condemned as a “traitor, a dictator, and an emperor”.

And that’s just by some of the 127,000 officers he represents. David Davis, the former Conservative shadow home secretary, has said the federation is full of “cronies and bullies”. Little has gone right for Williams since he took over last March; his organisation is accused of having lost touch with its grassroots, and having lost grip of the power it once wielded truncheon-like around Whitehall and the Royal Courts of Justice.

Barbs about federation members being ferried around in stretch limousines have added insult to the injury caused by Plebgate and demands from an independent review that there should be wholesale reforms because of a “worrying loss of confidence and competence” in the organisation’s hierarchy.

Williams, right, is trying to plot a way through the crises from the federation’s new £26m headquarters in Leatherhead, Surrey, which, with its heated indoor swimming pool, 55-room hotel and 11 two-bedroom “grace and favour” apartments, has become a target for critics. “When I took office, I realised we had lost our way. We were no longer the voice of the service, which we need to be,” says Williams. “It’s fair to say we haven’t helped ourselves. The federation has been around for 100 years but we haven’t changed.”

Williams acknowledges he is leading the campaign for reform with knives sticking in his back. Many of the old guard were horrified that he commissioned a report from Sir David Normington, a former permanent secretary at the Home Office, and they were apoplectic when this review called for “top-to-bottom” reforms.

The pressure on Williams reached a peak two weeks ago when colleagues branded him “an absolute disgrace” and accused him of “betraying the organisation”. The following Monday, Fiona McElroy, his head of media, was sacked, prompting her deputy, Chris Webb, to resign in disgust.

An ally of Williams, McElroy was giving him advice about reforms and changes. “It is just an unbelievable organisation,” said one former official. “I cannot express how frustrating it is. It’s like a 1970s militant trade union. The bullying is overt. If you dare to challenge they get really defensive.”

Williams thought about quitting, but decided to tough it out. Earlier this week, the federation’s regional chairmen and women gathered for a two-day “seminar”to discuss Normington’s 36 recommendations. To keep the peace, there were seven “facilitators” to negotiate between the warring sides.

“Despite some initial kickbacks and remarks, it was a positive experience,” said Williams, who once worked as a hostage negotiator. “I think that some

of the more militant naysayers are accepting that this has to happen and we have to do it.” The federation’s structures are so arcane, he says, he has been blindsided by some recent revelations about alleged secret funds. McElroy and Webb had raised questions about the legal propriety of the federation’s “No 2” accounts, which are said to contain £35m held by most of the 43 regional federation chiefs. “It’s crazy that, as the national chairman, I don’t know how much money we have got as an organisation,” said Williams. “It may surprise you to hear that we don’t even have a national database, so I cannot reach out directly to the membership.”

It has been a spectacular and public descent into chaos for an organisation that has for decades been one of the most powerful and effective trade unions in the country. Less than two years ago the federation was flexing its muscles in a way that has frequently cowed governments – 30,000 officers marched through London protesting against cuts and the “privatisation” of the service.

Unable to strike, the police have occasionally taken to the streets in this way, but not in such numbers or with such anger. Their target then was Tom Winsor, who had carried out a review of policing which called for the introduction of fitness tests, direct entry to senior posts and a restructuring of pay. Winsor, who had no experience of policing, is now in charge of the police watchdog; his appointment as chief of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary provoked anger among the rank and file.

However, the Plebgate saga has been the running sore; officers accused Andrew Mitchell, the government chief whip, of calling them “fucking plebs” when he tried to leave through the main gate of Downing Street on his bike. He denied the claim but was forced to quit.

Since then, the story has taken more twists than an episode of Sherlock. Last month Williams had to apologise to Mitchell after an off-duty officer, PC Keith Wallis, admitted he had lied when he claimed to have witnessed the row in September, 2012.

The Crown Prosecution Service found that there was insufficient evidence to charge the man at the centre of the row, PC Toby Rowland, who is now attempting to sue Mitchell for libel, after the former minister accused him of not telling the truth. Rowland’s case will be funded by the federation, which has a long history of supporting civil claims brought by officers with aggressive – and very costly – litigation.

David Davis, a friend of Mitchell’s and one of the federation’s fiercest critics, has some sympathy for Williams, but none at all for the organisation he leads. “They’ve got themselves into this mess through years of extravagance and overspending,” he said. He was particularly scathing of the recent 23% rise in subscription rates. He said the federation was set up by the government in 1919, and it might have to step in again to bring about reform. “If the federation cannot do it to itself, ministers will have to do it for them. That is not political interference in policing; it’s interference in the body that is supposed to be representing policing. There is a difference.”

One former official said the police were suffering “payback by the political class and by the Conservatives in particular”. He said there was a whiff of revenge in the air – for the police inquiry into MPs’ expenses and the unjustified arrest in 2008 of the Tory MP Damian Green over a series of leaks from the Home Office about immigration.

“They didn’t like that. They are getting their own back,” the source said. “The Tories have politicised policing. And the more they have done it, the worse the service has become. They are looking for political control of policing.”

Williams admits the federation has had it coming and lost friends in Westminster. “In recent times we haven’t done ourselves as proud as we could. A couple of years ago we had the unfortunate incident at our conference when some of the audience actually booed the home secretary, Theresa May.”

As published in The Daily Mail:

When the top boys meet, they like to refer to each other by a number of colourful aliases.

The money man is known to his colleagues as Fingers’. He handles the foot soldiers’ subscriptions’ and keeps financial watch over the stratagems and investments into which the millions of pounds are ploughed.

Slipper’ is the front man; a safe pair of hands when difficult questions are lobbed their way. The Bungalow’ is also a valued committee member, even if he lives up to his alias; there’s nothing much upstairs.

But the real boss the capo dei capi, you might say is referred to by his faithful lieutenants as The Agent’. He might not always be present when plans are discussed, but eventually someone will ask: What does The Agent think? Is he happy about this?’ Politicians tremble if he is not.

These gentlemen rule their empire from a £26million luxury hotel complex, which they had built in one of the country’s most expensive locations. The estate contains a gym, swimming pool, restaurant and ten grace and favour’ apartments together worth nearly £3?million, and separate from the hotel, for use by the senior leadership. Some are said to use them for lunchtime naps’. There is also a large, well-stocked bar where, says one insider, senior figures can run a generous tab into the early hours. We shall look later at the undignified late-night behaviour that such lavish refreshment can encourage.

But the aforementioned quartet and their colleagues have recently been feeling the heat of public scrutiny: Scandals, in-fighting, alleged financial irregularities, poison pen campaigns and, most notably, an attempt to frame and bring down a government minister, have rocked their organisation to its core.

Fingers, Slipper, The Bungalow and The Agent are not heading a Sicilian family business. Rather, they are key figures at the top of the Police Federation of England and Wales.

Almost a century has passed since the Federation was established as a non-striking union’ to represent police officers up to and including the rank of chief inspector. Officials are seconded to the Federation from their parent forces, which use public money to pay their salaries.

Not only that, subscriptions from police officers’ publicly-funded salaries run into tens of millions. In 2012, the figure was £23.65million. The Home Office also provides an annual grant of £186,509, which is used towards the salaries of the Federation’s chair, general secretary and treasurer, their pension contributions and travel, and subsistence at statutory meetings.

A further £117,864 is paid by the Home Office towards the attendance of Federation staff at Police Negotiating Board meetings.

Those at HQ receive free mileage, meals, accommodation during the week and a taxpayer-funded salary increase.

Yet if it is to celebrate its centenary in 2019 with any kind of credibility, major changes have to be made. For, at present, the Federation’s reputation lies in tatters.

Earlier this week, a police widow accused officials of using their corporate credit cards to turn the National Police Memorial Day into a drunken jolly’ a claim they denied.

Mother-of-two PC Kate Parker, whose policeman husband Andy died in a traffic accident while on duty in 2005, said the boozy antics of officials upset’ bereaved families every year.

She was also critical of a picture which showed a Federation official using a stretch limousine to ferry her and a police colleague around Cardiff at the same memorial event last September. Federation sources said the booking of the limousine had been impromptu and it was not paid for by members’ money.

Plebgate which saw the resignation of Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell over disputed claims about what he had said to police officers in Downing Street would seem to have been the glistening tip of a very large iceberg.

The Federation was accused of hijacking’ the affair in order to damage a Tory-led government that has been pushing through substantial police reforms, job cuts and changes to pay, conditions, pensions and other entitlements.

Three of the Federation’s regional officials were subsequently accused of having misrepresented what was said at a private meeting with Mitchell, while a serving police officer was jailed last week for lying about being present during the original Plebgate confrontation.

The bad publicity got worse this week when it emerged that a former senior civil servant had been fired by the Federation after challenging her bosses over bullying, inappropriate behaviour and spending on entertainment. There were also questions about £35million of funds kept in secret accounts. They refused to comment.

Fiona McElroy had been brought in last November as head of communications to help modernise the organisation. Instead she was told by The Agent aka Ian Rennie, Federation general secretary and a sergeant in Greater Manchester Police that her services were no longer wanted.

McElroy has since spoken of a vocal minority’ who resisted her efforts which were, she said, undertaken in good faith and with encouragement, mostly in the absence of any strategy, guidelines, policy or support’.

That was as nothing compared with the attack launched on the Federation leadership by former shadow Home Secretary David Davis during a Commons debate on its future on Thursday. He described the Federation as a bloated and sclerotic body’ which was inefficient, wasteful, profligate and badly governed, and said officials may have claimed up to £5?million in expenses for booze, food and other unjustified’ perks.

Mr Davis, who has been scathing about the recent 23 per cent rise in subscription rates for Federation members, added: Full-time Federation officers are paid a lot more to do a comfortable office job than to perform their tougher duties on the streets of their home towns,’ he argued. There is, therefore, an incentive to their being highly resistant to any form of reform.’

If only Ms McElroy were still there to manage the PR catastrophe.

She had been hired in anticipation of the findings of a review, which made a number of devastating criticisms of the Federation last month.

Chaired by Sir David Normington, a former permanent secretary at the Home Office, the study argued that an organisation such as the Police Federation, involved in an area of public concern so critical to our way of life as law and order, whose members are public servants, and that receives public funding is accountable in ways that may not hitherto have been accepted’.

The programme of change recommended in the report was a substantial one. We are proposing change from top to bottom in culture, behaviours, structures and organisation’.

It added: If the reform is managed with determination and sensitivity the prize is a considerable one. It is nothing less than a Police Federation which has rebuilt trust with all its members and the general public.’

Of the modus operandi of Fingers, Slipper, The Agent et al, it said: A general lack of transparency creates suspicion that the national leadership leads a comfortable life out of touch with the realities of the front-line.’

While the vast majority of its 125,000 rank and file do a superb job, the men and they are still almost entirely men even though women constitute almost 30 per cent of the force who represent their interests seem to live in a bubble.

The physical manifestation of this distance from the real world of policing is the Federation’s modernist HQ in leafy Leatherhead, Surrey.

For almost 40 years the Federation HQ was housed in a substantial Victorian terrace in Surbiton, on the fringes of South London, which the organisation had bought for £180,000 in 1969.

In 2005 the Federation announced plans to move to the Stockbroker Belt. The Surbiton HQ failed to comply with disability and other health and safety legislation. Crucially, it had no conference facilities’ a newsletter argued. Remember that reasoning.

What would replace it was, according to David Davis this week, extravagant enough to do justice to a London Merchant Bank at the height of the City’s excesses’.

Whether this was funds well spent is a moot point. The sense of money being no object began even before it was built; a delegation of Federation officials flew to Italy to source’ the stone with which the building would be clad. Up to £10,000′ was spent on bathing costume drying machines in the swimming pool changing rooms and a further £50,000 on a gym, although members joke that the cost works out at around £1,000 a visit as it is so rarely used.

Two aspects of the new HQ remain highly controversial. One is that there is still not enough conference room within the Leatherhead complex. Every two months, nearly 100 officials from the Joint Branch Boards of individual forces meet to discuss important issues.

Rather than gathering at HQ, they have to use central funds to hire large function rooms at nearby Chessington World of Adventures or Epsom Race Course.

It’s like a new football stadium being built, with state of the art changing rooms, physiotherapy facilities, bars and executive boxes, only for the pitch to be the size of a netball court,’ says one observer.

What action does occur at Leatherhead is also a matter of concern. Langley’s bar has been the scene of some heroic drinking by senior officials as well as a heated confrontation one evening between the general secretary Rennie aka The Agent and Federation chairman Steve Williams aka Slipper.

Insiders say that Rennie, a Lancastrian, had heard that, behind his back, Williams was impersonating the late, ukulele-playing comedian George Formby. Rennie and fellow Lancastrian Formby who had a gormless stage persona apparently share a close resemblance.

A source said: It is fair to say Ian was not happy about comparisons with George Formby. Things came to a head in the bar one night.’

More serious is the matter of who pays for such revels.

One of McElroy’s concerns was the liberal use by some officials of the Federation’s corporate Mastercard credit cards to pay large bar bills’.

Bar bills at Leatherhead are simply staggering’, says an insider who witnessed senior Federation officials getting drunk there. The source said: It is not uncommon for senior officials to go in the bar, set up a tab which is picked up by the Federation, and then get completely slaughtered with their guests.

People are ordering doubles, drinking multiple bottles of wine at dinner, all on members’ money. It is obscene.’

The subject of expenses is already a matter of interest to the taxman. The Federation has already paid almost £2?million in tax liabilities on behalf of its officials, against their benefits in kind.

Even the Federation’s continued use of the Leatherhead hotel-cum-HQ was questioned by Sir David Normington’s report. In the course of the review we have heard many views about .?.?. Leatherhead,’ it said.

There are questions about the long-term feasibility of the Federation’s officers and management running a hotel and conference business without distracting from the main job of representation.

Many, particularly in the North and West of the country, think it is in the wrong place. Leatherhead has become in the some members’ minds synonymous with the isolation and remoteness of the leadership from its members.’

The report suggested that a New National Board, which should take over from the current Federation committee, could review the situation by the body’s centenary.

Meanwhile, the Federation’s transparency remains a huge issue. The relationship between serving police officers and the secretive Freemasons has long been a matter of speculation and concern about conflicts of influence. And yet when Leatherhead was opened, a new masonic lodge was created for the HQ Sine Favore Lodge No. 9856. Chairman Steve Williams was reported to be one of the founder members, as was the treasurer Martyn Mordecai aka Fingers’.

The Mail can also reveal that a senior Federation official, tipped by some to become the next deputy general secretary, is a bigamist.

PC Rick Nelson, a former dog handler who sits on the fed’s Police Professional Body Project Board’, was disciplined after it emerged he had wed his girlfriend Janice in Las Vegas while still married to his first wife. Scotland Yard confirmed he attended a misconduct hearing in August 2009 where a breach of conduct was proven. The officer received a fine of 13 days’ pay’. Hardly the behaviour you’d expect from a leading public servant.

There is also growing concern about the Federation’s use of its funds to silence critics.

David Davis told the House this week: There is no downside for a police officer when they pursue a libel action backed by the enormous resources of the Fed.

That raises two distinct and concerning issues. First, action against the Press, who must hold the police to account, is utterly against the interests of a fair and free society except in very clear-cut circumstances. Secondly, there is the action taken against members of the public, whom the police are charged with protecting, who disagree with the police’s version of events. That insulates the police from criticism.’

Glen Smyth, the respected former chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, told the Mail: Of course the Federation needs to change and modernise.

One of the reasons members [of the Federation] are so unhappy is that their pay and conditions have been cut in real terms over recent years.

They don’t feel supported by Government and no one appears to be standing up for them. They are not hearing anyone talking on their behalf.

Perhaps those who could are too busy discussing George Formby in Langley’s bar.

As the Normington report observed: The Federation should be a powerful voice for standards in British policing. But at present it is badly placed to be that voice.’

As published in The Sunday Telegraph:
Angry widows shine a light on dark side of Police Federation

ON SEPTEMBER 23, 2005, Pc Kate Parker’s world disintegrated. Her husband, Andy, like her a serving officer with North Wales Police, was killed in a motorbike crash coming home from a night shift. Widowed at 30, she was plunged into a “harrowing fog of grief” and left to care for their two boys, aged three and four.

From the outset, National Police Memorial Day provided a release. Last September’s event at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, was the eighth Pc Parker had attended. Accompanied by her sons, she sat in silence as thousands of blue and green petals of remembrance were released from the gallery, brushing the shoulders of the congregation. Some were kept by the bereaved as keepsakes.

During the service, led by the Prince of Wales, a video montage was played and her husband’s image flashed up. “Seeing Andy’s picture on there, it made me want to tell him – ‘look, that’s you’,” she wrote afterwards. “My youngest boy, now 11, reached over and took my hand. I looked at him, he had tears rolling down his face. I put my arm round him and he sobbed quietly into my shoulder, hot, overwhelming tears for his Dad. His brother, crying too, took his other hand. Tears of loss and pain, but also immense pride that his Dad was being remembered and was not forgotten. He said, ‘I tried to be brave, Mum, but I cried for my Dad’ .”

Moments like this, says Pc Parker, are what the memorial day is all about. Yet this week, she was forced to speak out to expose an altogether different side, one where Police Federation officials are content to rack up bar bills on union credit cards and nurse hangovers during the service. “Every year the reps at National Police Memorial Day upset grieving families with their drunken antics late into the night and they treat it like a holiday,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Their drunken excess upsets families every year, hangovers at the service. It’s a memorial not a party.” Pc Parker added that while some bereaved families cannot afford to attend the event, Police Federation officials used a stretch limousine to ferry them around Cardiff at the last memorial day.

The union – which represents 130,000 rank and file officers across England and Wales – says it received no complaints about the event. Yet there have been plenty directed at it this week.

Pc Parker’s outburst came after whistleblower Fiona McElroy, a former top Whitehall civil servant brought in to modernise the Police Federation’s press office, said she was sacked after raising “serious concerns” about the management of some of its accounts. She said her posi- tion had become untenable after challenging alleged acts of “bullying, inappropriate behaviours and attitudes” within the federation. She was marched out of its offices last Monday after three months in the job. Her deputy, Chris Webb, has since resigned in disgust.

Even more serious allegations were raised by MPs in a debate in Parliament on Thursday. David Davis, the Conservative MP and former home secretary, alleged that bosses may have claimed up to £5million in expenses for unjustified perks.

The federation, he said, had acquired the worst characteristics of the worst trade unions in the Seventies, not only profligate but viciously pursuing vendettas – from dragging victims of crime through the courts to the “Plebgate” saga, where one of the officers involved has now condemned the federation for hijacking the altercation with Andrew Mitchell, the former Chief Whip, for political gain. According to Mr Davis, the Police Federation has become a “bloated and sclerotic body”, and one that, if it doesn’t change, should have some of its assets seized by ministers.

Some of those who know Pc Parker have expressed surprise at the outburst from a dedicated police officer and mother, but backed her none the less. She is one of many to have lost faith in a seemingly rudderless organisation failing on the most basic levels. “The majority of federations do absolutely nothing in relation to getting their families to the memorial day service,” says another police widow, Christine Fulton, 53, whose husband Lewis was fatally stabbed by a schizophrenic 20 years ago. She has since been honoured with an MBE for her work with bereaved families of fallen officers. “It’s not even about the train fares, but providing support on the day.” According to Mrs Fulton, Greater Manchester Police Federation, which makes a point of paying for bereaved family members to attend the event, is the exception among the 43 regional branches. The Police Federation says it is done locally on a case-by-case basis. Its funding reserves – around £200,000 of which a year come through taxpayer contributions – remain used for other things, including, its lavish Leatherhead headquarters equipped with hotel, bar, indoor swimming pool and 11 “grace and favour” apartments. To pay for this, members’ subscription fees were raised by 23 per cent. Mr Davis describes it as “extravagant enough to do justice to one of the London merchant banks at the height of the city excesses”.

One former police officer and branch constable secretary at the West Yorkshire Police Federation for 19 years, retiring in 2006, said excessive spending on union credit cards was commonplace. She describes one trip to London where officials stayed in an expensive hotel and enjoyed dinner at £65 a head.

On other trips, the secretary, who has asked not to be named, claimed that asking for non-itemised hotel receipts was used as a way of racking up large bar bills. Only last month, some officers complained after Sussex Police Federation spent £21,000 on a “lavish and grand” dinner for 270 officers at Brighton’s Hilton Metropole. Detective Sergeant Paul Sellings, chairman of the Sussex Police Federation, insists that the event was outside working hours with every officer in Sussex invited, providing an opportunity to raise concerns with the chief constable and police and crime commissioner. Its accounts, he stressed, are run with the utmost integrity and accountability.

Graham Cox, who retired as a chief superintendent four years ago and is now a Conservative Party councillor in Brighton, says he also witnessed excessive behaviour among union officials during his time sitting on the national executive of the Police Superintendents’ Association. “People end up doing things they don’t realise look bad,” he says. “It is very easy to end up with a sense of entitlement without even realising it. But towards the end, I used to think, ‘who is paying for all of this?’ Some of what is happening now is a long overdue reality check.”

A critical report ordered by federation leaders in the wake of the “Plebgate” affair and published late last month, has laid bare the scale of the reality check. Sir David Normington, a former permanent secretary at the Home Office, has uncovered a “worrying loss of confidence and competence” in the organisation. In particular, he raised concern about a lack of transparency in the federation’s finances, highlighting notorious “No 2” accounts thought to contain at least £35million held in secret by most of the 43 regional federation chiefs.

The report also uncovered “serious and universal” criticism from members, 91 per cent of whom are demanding change. “I do sometimes think, ‘what are my subs [£21.50 a month] going on?'” says one detective inspector in a northern force and a longstanding member of the federation. “I do think it has become a bit of a boys’ club. The beer tokens get dished out. It just hasn’t moved with the times.”

Inspector Nick Glynn of Leicestershire Police, a vice president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA) and a former federation representative, agrees it has become the preserve of the white middleaged male. Currently only 11 per cent of federation officials are women and one per cent are ethnic minorities (compared to 27 per cent and five per cent in police forces across England and Wales). Insp Glynn recalls a recent federation meeting where he and Franstine Jones, the NBPA president, were “the only black faces in a room of 100 people”.

According to Mr Davis, the default response of the federation to criticism has been to attack. An estimated £8million a year is spent on legal actions. Much, of course, goes on rightly representing its members, yet Mr Davis says on many occasions aggressive litigation is also carried out against those bringing complaints against the police. But what is clear, for officials holed up inside their gleaming Leatherhead offices, is that now they must look at themselves.

The federation is fully cooperating with HMRC over a compliance check which relates to the expenses allegations made by Mr Davis. Chairman Steve Williams, meanwhile, says he accepts the urgent need to reform and the 36 recommendations set out in the Normington review are being worked through.

It was a pugnacious predecessor of his, James “Jim” Jardine, who in industrial disputes of the Seventies earned the reputation for “wielding words like batons”. This, for the federation, is now no longer enough. They must act to earn not only the trust of their members, but to restore the public’s trust in the police.

‘Drunken reps upset families at Memorial Day every year’

‘Some of what is happening now is a long overdue reality check’