General election 2010: David Cameron hits out at Metropolitan Police HR ‘waste’

The HR profession has found itself the target of increased criticism and scrutiny during 2010. Examples include Times columnist Sathnam Sanghera’s attack on public sector HR professionals as particularly “grossly overpaid” and last week’s heated debate around the question of whether the time might have come to scrap HR altogether. Last night’s televised prime ministerial debate (ahead of the 2010 general election, which takes place on Thursday 6 May 2010) saw the launch of a new attack on perceived HR ‘waste’ in the public sector (and a dismissal of the profession as a whole as devoted to “form filling) from arguably HR’s highest-profile critic yet – a gentleman who could well be Prime Minister in just under three weeks’ time – Conservative leader David Cameron.Asked by Gordon Brown whether the Conservatives would “continue to fund the police” (followed by Brown’s demand: “It’s answer time, David.”), Cameron responded by highlighting examples of wasted resources in the Police service (PDF format, 1.6MB), (external website) which an incoming Conservative Government would target. These included a direct reference to the Metropolitan Police HR department. Cameron said:

The Metropolitan Police have 400 uniformed officers in their human resources department. Our police officers should be crime fighters, not form-fillers, and that’s what needs to change.

Responding to Cameron’s statement, Metropolitan Police HR director Martin Tiplady told Personnel Today:

The police officers are not form-filling. Most of them are training other cops. I’m quite relieved that police officers are training police officers. They are there because they need to be there to train others.

The Police Professional website reports (external website) that the Metropolitan Police has subsequently “clarified the numbers of officers classified in Human Resources [as 398] with the majority based in training.”

Indeed, the Metropolitan Police HR department is already engaged in an ongoing efficiency drive. The April 2010 edition of the Metropolitan Police internal newsletter The Job (PDF format, 5.3MB) (external website), includes reports on the impact of the Transforming HR modernisation programme (which it says “has centralised some parts of HR, redeploying personnel from across the Met, yet with minimal redundancies”) and on the May 2010 launch of the PeopleServices and My HR SelfService systems (which will automate “many day-to-day HR activities”). It quotes Metropolitan Police HR director (and Chartered Companion of the CIPD) Martin Tiplady (external website) as follows:

We have explored new ways of working and are set to deliver savings of around £58m over the next three years. This has been achieved by reviewing the way we deliver training, HR services, transport, catering and criminal exhibit storage – with little or no impact on the end-user.

Last month, Personnel Today reported that police forces across the UK have been “tasked with delivering £346 million worth of savings in the next three years” in response to demands for savings set out in Chancellor Alistair Darling’s Budget 2010.

  • Earlier this year, benchmarking research from XpertHR on HR roles and responsibilities in 2010 suggested that public sector HR departments could already be leaner than those in the private sector (subscription to XpertHR benchmarking required). Across the whole economy, respondents to the survey reported a median ratio of 90 employees to each member of HR staff. A breakdown by sector reveals a median ratio of 83.6 employees to each HR professional at public sector organisations. This compares with ratios of 87.5:1 in private sector services, and 111:1 In manufacturing and production companies.

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12 Responses to General election 2010: David Cameron hits out at Metropolitan Police HR ‘waste’

  1. Rick Glover 17 April 2010 at 10:10 am #

    I was outraged to hear David Cameron complaining about uniformed officers in the Met filling in forms and Martin Tiplady’s response was excellent. IMHO

    As Chair of WoE Public Sector Forum I emailed CIPD Chief Executive and have had an indirect response suggesting that Jackie Orme has written to David Cameroon ‘privately’.

    Do any other CIPD members believe that CIPD through Jackie Orme the Chief Executive should ‘publicly’ make a statement correcting his assertions which must at best be made out of complete ignorance?

    Cheers

    Rick

  2. Michael Carty
    Michael Carty 17 April 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    Thank you very much indeed for your comment, Rick.

    I whoIeheartedly agree with the sentiments you express here. Cameron’s frontal assault on the Met’s HR department was at best ill-judged, and seems likely to cause widespread offence throughout both the HR profession and the wider public sector.

    In direct contast, Metropolitan Police HR director Martin Tiplady’s exclusive response to my colleagues at Personnel Today was measured and entirely appropriate. Who better indeed than Police officers to train other Police officers?

    Although not a CIPD member myself, I agree that the CIPD has thus far been oddly quiet on this critical issue, notching up a total of a short blog post on the People Management website, two shorter Twitter ‘tweets’ from CEO Jackie Orme and three tweets from the CIPD itself (two of those repeating Orme’s brief statements that “dismissing HR as formfillers not helpful” and that she has written “to David Cameron offering meeting to raise awareness of crucial role of pub sec HR in driving delivery in a decade of austerity.”).

    Whether a campaign-preoccupied Cameron accepts Orme’s invitation remains to be seen.

    I am very interested indeed to hear all reactions to Cameron’s remarks – and to the stance thus far taken by the CIPD – whether from CIPD members or representatives, Conservative party representatives, HR professionals (in the public sector or otherwise) or from other readers of Employment Intelligence. Please do feel free to leave your comment via the box below, or contact me via Twitter (http://twitter.com/MJCarty).

    Kind regards

    Michael

  3. Terry Clark 18 April 2010 at 2:51 am #

    I agree that the Cameron remarks were crude and superficial – sadly par for the course in an election campaign. I don’t think all the protests in the world will change that.

    The more important question is whether he actually believes it. Whatever the colour of the next government, it is a cast iron certainty that HR Departments in the public sector are going to be under very considerable pressure, both to reduce their own costs and to help their organisations to reduce theirs. This is both a threat and an opportunity: the threat part is obvious, but the opportunity is genuinely one for HR Departments to make a reality of the oft-repeated sentiment that they are there to support their business strategically and operationally. There must be some doubts about whether the existing departments and structures can achieve this. But if the incoming administration can be made to understand the reality of the situation, rather than be hoodwinked by their own rhetoric, the challenge for HR Departments will be a little more manageable.

    Or is that too optimistic a view?

    Terry

  4. Michael Carty
    Michael Carty 18 April 2010 at 7:16 am #

    Thank you very much for taking the time to comment, Terry.

    You raise some extremely interesting points here.

    It is ironic but entirely true that the post-election public spending cuts (a version of which will be enacted whichever party or potential coalition of parties ultimately takes office) represent both a threat and an opportunity for HR.

    Far from the status of mere bureaucratic “form-fillers” bemoaned by Cameron, public sector HR departments will find themselves in an absolutely critical position. To use your words, it seems “a cast-iron certainty” that much of the responsibility for delivering public sector efficiency savings while ensuring frontline services are maintained will be passed on to HR. The HR profession as a whole will consequently be expected by the incoming Government to play a key role in helping to secure the economic recovery – most likely with little in the way of thanks.

    But the experience of the recession suggests that HR is up to the task. As I mention in a recent XpertHR video (http://www.xperthr.co.uk/article/100322/.aspx), HR departments across the whole economy have come out fighting in response to the challenges posed by the recession. Benchmarking research from XpertHR on HR roles and responsibilities in 2010 indicates that – as a direct result of the recession – HR departments are already doing more with less, and doing it much more efficiently and effectively (http://www.xperthr.co.uk/article/101076/.aspx: subscription to XpertHR benchmarking required to access full data).

    It is also fascinating to consider whether Cameron himself actually supports his own frontal assault on HR. In a very well-argued blog post [http://www.hrzone.co.uk/blogs/charlie-duff/charlie-duff-editor039s-blog/election-2010-david-cameron-slams-met-hr-form-filler], HRZone editor Charlie Duff notes that “HR has been cast as chief source of wastage in the public’s eyes with this comment.”

    She weighs up the likely sincerity of Cameron’s words, concluding as follows:
    “I don’t think he means it. I think Cameron is well aware of the important role HR has in modern business: what he’s doing is playing on a stereotype of HR as pencil-pushing administrators which sadly, many of the public believes. And clearly he’s playing for votes.”

    As you rightly observe, Cameron’s attack on HR can be argued to be “sadly par for the course in an election campaign”. At the start of the 2010 general election campaign, I wrote a blog post [http://www.xperthr.co.uk/blogs/employment-intelligence/2010/04/gordon-brown-calls-general-ele.html] quoting Sunday Times economics editor David Smith’s views on what we might expect from the ensuring election campaign (and indeed from all election campaigns). These words are well worth quoting again:

    “[W]e have now entered the world of lies, half-truths, dodgy statistics and even dodgier claims known as a British election campaign. Discount, in other words, everything you will hear from politicians between now and 6 May.”

    The only certainty is that HR will be faced with an ever more challenging workload – and an ever more critical strategic and operational role – once the 2010 general election is past and the inevitable austerity measures begin to kick in.

    However, one thing that Cameron’s ill-judged words on HR have done is give rise to fascinating debate. If you have something to say on any of the issues discussed here, please leave your comment via the box below, or contact me via Twitter (http://twitter.com/MJCarty).

    Kind regards

    Michael

  5. Rick Glover 18 April 2010 at 9:01 am #

    Interesting comments Terry and Michael’s response.

    It’s worth looking at Charlie Duff’s blog post [http://www.hrzone.co.uk/blogs/charlie-duff/charlie-duff-editor039s-blog/election-2010-david-cameron-slams-met-hr-form-filler],

    Charlie states referring to Cameroons condemnation of HR as form fillers ‘I don’t think he means it’.

    If as Charlie also says ‘clearly he’s playing for votes.’ I wonder what else he is saying that he doesn’t mean. Or possibly a better way of putting it would be does he (and others) mean anything they say!

    Politics sucks in my opinion but the duplicity and contradiction of Cameroon and co beggars belief.

    I had hoped that the CIPD as our representatives would be more direct in making a (non Party Political) statement to set the record straight.

    Cheers

    Rick

  6. Michael Carty
    Michael Carty 18 April 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Thanks for the comment, Rick.

    Sadly, “duplicity and contradiction” tend to be all-too-common characteristics of politicians of all stripes; and more so when there is an election in the immediate offing.

    A week ago, Dominic Lawson wrote a very interesting article in the Sunday Times, urging readers to look beyond campaign rhetoric in order to discern the main party candidates’ real political agendas (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/dominic_lawson/article7094226.ece – although subsequent events suggest the general election 2010 may not be a two-horse race after all).

    I would also like to second your recommendation of Charlie Duff’s blog post on this topic (http://www.hrzone.co.uk/blogs/charlie-duff/charlie-duff-editor039s-blog/election-2010-david-cameron-slams-met-hr-form-filler) and I would like to add to that a recommendation of the rapid-response coverage from my colleagues at Personnel Today, who spoke directly to Martin Tiplady – the gentleman whose HR department was the focus-point for Cameron’s attack on the HR profession (http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2010/04/16/55262/met-police-hr-chief-insists-nearly-400-officers-in-hr-department-are-essential-for-training.html).

    It remains to be seen if the CIPD will expand upon its limited response to Cameron’s frontal assault on the HR profession as a whole (whatever his actual views on HR).

    Kind regards

    Michael

  7. Andy Spence 18 April 2010 at 10:45 am #

    If the Metropolitan Police only have 400 HR staff then this gives them a HR:Staff ratio of about 1 HR to 135 staff which is pretty good in the UK Public Sector. (assuming the there are about 55,000 employees). Other Government departments show HR:Staff ratios of under 1:50, as detailed in their report from Putting the Frontline First (For info see our analysis “HR Benchmarks – A Government Health Warning” http://www.glassbeadconsulting.com/hr-benchmarks-a-government-health-warning/ )

  8. Michael Carty
    Michael Carty 18 April 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Thanks very much for your comment, Andy. The analysis from Glass Bead Consulting makes for interesting reading.

    Respectfully, I’m not sure that the ratio of HR staff to employees within the Metropolitan Police will ultimately work out as 1:135.

    The article from the Police Professional website (http://www.policeprofessional.com/news.aspx?id=10244) to which my original article linked states that “the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has clarified the numbers of officers classified in Human Resources with the majority based in training. [...] An MPS spokesperson said in 2010/11 the number has reduced to 370.”

    The Met’s own website says: “The Met has thousands of staff, including police officers as well as civilians, who work behind the scenes to ensure that the front line units can do their job. Their functions include recruitment, training, personnel management, provision of information technology, publicity and communications.”

    It therefore appears likely that the Met HR department will comprise a mix of civilians and police officers, with the majority of the latter engaged in training other police officers.

    If any readers of Employment Intelligence are able to provide links to publicly-available data (and I must stress: publicly-available data ONLY, please!) on the ratio of HR staff to employees within the Metropolitan Police (and how this has changed as a result of the Transforming HR modernisation programme), I would be very interested to see them.

    Kind regards

    Michael

  9. Tim @ hr services 28 April 2010 at 1:00 am #

    That’s a very good point I think all the parties should agree on, police should be police, it’s what they want and what the public wants, not more office workers.

  10. Michael Carty
    Michael Carty 28 April 2010 at 8:14 am #

    Thank you very much for your comment, Tim. It is particulary interesting – if also rather disconcerting – to see that there is support out there for the critical view of the HR profession that David Cameron’s comments (however off-the-cuff they might have been) reflected.

    Are these views widely accepted among the electorate? I would be very interested indeed to hear back from you – or from any other readers of Employment Intelligence – as to whether you think Cameron has tapped into a popular view of the HR profession.

    I would also take issue with your statement that “police should be police, it’s what they want and what the public wants, not more office workers”. As my original blog post points out, the vast majority of the uniformed Police officers employed in the Met’s HR department are involved in training other officers. I wholeheartedly agree with Metropolitan Police HR director Martin Tiplady’s view: “I’m quite relieved that police officers are training police officers. They are there because they need to be there to train others.”

    Please feel free to respond via the comments box below.

    Kind regards

    Michael

  11. Andy Spence 26 June 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    Hi Michael – I noticed this interview with Martin Tiplady (see link below) which states that the HR:employee ratio at the Met is currently 1:100, and ranged from 1:35 to 1:130 across 43 constabularies.
    Kind regards,
    Andy

    http://www.hrreview.co.uk/articles/hrreview-articles/hr-strategy-practice/met-chief-hr-could-be-%E2%80%9Cpriced-out-as-an-expensive-overhead%E2%80%9D/8818?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Hrreview+%28HRreview%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

  12. Michael Carty
    Michael Carty 26 June 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    Hi Andy

    Thanks very much indeed for the comment, and for spotting the reference to the Met’s HR: employees ratios. The article as a whole makes for very interesting reading, and I’d highly recommend all Employment Intelligence readers follow Andy’s link.

    Kind regards

    Michael

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