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For 2023 - we are now fully retired from IT training.
We have made many, many friends over 25 years of teaching about Python, Tcl, Perl, PHP, Lua, Java, C and C++ - and MySQL, Linux and Solaris/SunOS too. Our training notes are now very much out of date, but due to upward compatability most of our examples remain operational and even relevant ad you are welcome to make us if them "as seen" and at your own risk.

Lisa and I (Graham) now live in what was our training centre in Melksham - happy to meet with former delegates here - but do check ahead before coming round. We are far from inactive - rather, enjoying the times that we are retired but still healthy enough in mind and body to be active!

I am also active in many other area and still look after a lot of web sites - you can find an index ((here))
The Wiltshire Police

How much do the police cost? Where / on what is that money spend? Who pays?

What do they cost?

Questions I had never asked myself until last night when I went along to the Wiltshire Police Authority's "Budget Consultation" with the county's Chambers of Commerce. Clearly a fascinating subject as some 15 members attended out of thousands of members of The Chambers, but at least I can get back to Melksham Chamber and report.

Next year, the Wiltshire Police force will spend 105 million pounds. That's sold to us as 152.59 on each Council Tax band D property, but in fact the council tax money only accounts for 36% of their income - the rest is from central government who are funded by (wait for it!) the taxpayer / population of this country too. So I could also tell you that the equivalent including money passed back from Central Government is 423.86 for each Council Tax band D property, or about 180 pounds for every man, woman and child in the county.

The budget has grown by 3.6% from the 2008/2009 year, with broadly the same expenditure plans. "Unavoidable" increases accounting for 4.1 million - things like pay and general inflation; there is in my view an element of double-speak here as the police force is now up to its full allowed strength for the first time in five years, and had they chosen not to fill all the vacancies, their salary bill would have been lower. However, that's a whole other question, and as I listened to Chief Constable Brian Moore and his team talk about how an officer making an arrest for a small issue at the start of his shift can be 'processing' for the rest of his 8 hours (or pass across to a less well paid civilian to process, taking the same time), I came to understand that there's a lot of the cost which is the cost of bureaucracy. And that only a proportion of that is within the remit and control of the local force - much is forced on by law and government.

Where is it spent?

91 million pounds out of 105 million will be spent on staff. That's 62 million on 1226 police officers - just over 50,000 per officer - and 29 million on around 1100 civilian staff, or 26,500 each. Just under a half of the remainder goes on premises, with IT and vehicles being mentioned as significant "other" elements. 10 million of the 62 million on officers goes back to the government to fund officer's pensions (a money-go-round?) and 15% of the 29 million (4.3 million) goes to the civilian pension scheme which is run with other local governmental bodies such as Wiltshire (county) Council.

Premises include 24 police stations, but few have their front desks manned. "Little point in having someone there for just half a dozen visitors a day" say The Chief, mentioning that only a few larger stations such as Melksham (!) get significant numbers. "Haven't they heard of multitasking - doing other work and breaking from it to answer an enquiry?" muttered another member of the audience and - I confess - that's a good point and something we do at the Hotel; I suspect that the police do, but the "we can't afford to spend your money having someone waiting for enquiries" is a good sound bite, isn't it?

With such a lot of money going on manpower, where is that manpower deployed? Brian Moore told us that some 85 to 90% goes on the policing we see around. The rest goes on a wide variety of other areas such as keeping tabs on organised crime, background work in tracking of prostitutes to and via Wiltshire, drug work (drugs come into the county via Bristol and London, and to some extent Birmingham), counter terrorism work and internet policing, where apparently we have a local team who may end up catching someone in another country. And we have a kidnap team too, as ransom demands from some of the world's hotspots can arrive at family's homes in Wiltshire ...

As I understand it, Special Constables are unpaid officers who police in their spare time, so should be a lower cost option for certain roles. Although paid officers are currently up to the allowed strength of 1226, there are under 100 specials out of an allowed 300. The Chief Constable, new in the job just a year ago and selling a number of significant changes, wants to get 'up to strength' on this, and feels that the specials are a good resource who have been poorly treated in the past. He talked, for example, of giving them a good choice of roles - "if they want to be in the thick of sorting out a pub brawl ... let them". Hmmm - there's a danger of attracting the wrong sort there, me thinks - but I'm sure he's aware.

Although the evening was sold as a budget consultation, there was no talk (and I hadn't expected it) that overtly related to taking our inputs and recording them with a view to making any spending or policing decisions. It was much more a meeting to tell us, and to answer questions on what is pretty close to fixed in stone. There's a Police Authority meeting in Devizes on 5th February at which the budget will be voted on (and no doubt approved); it will be open to the public, but I can't imagine the funding allocations being changed that evening in response to public input.

And on to other matters

There's more that pure finance when it comes to policing - the money is just the means to the end. There was talk of 'boy racers' in the Tesco car park across the way from where we were, and the police powers to seize and crush vehicles ("very effective"). There was talk of the technology that's around the area (I'll spare you the detail) which means that the police know what's going on without being there. 25 years after George Orwell's 1984, we should not be surprised.

As a county that borders many others (and other force areas), the question of mergers, and also of sharing resources for the sake of efficiency, were raised. Mergers suggested by the government a couple of years back won't be happening - now or in the near future - but changes to the law to require forces to work much closer together have come into effect. Changes are painfully slow, we were told, as each force has its own local ways that it wants to protect. But (for example) I can't help but think that some pooling is a good idea; an "Internet team" in Trowbridge, one in Exeter, one in Gloucester, when catching people downloading in the USA (the quoted example) or Japan seems a needless localisation.

The Police Helicopter and Wiltshire Air Ambulance - funded 75% by the police and 25% by local donations - has been renewed for a further five years (1 million pounds per annum); much of its value comes in the form of police relations and publicity and - like having bobbies on the beat at the car park - isn't necessarily the most efficient use of money, but indirectly brings huge rewards in terms of the critical relationship between the police and the community.

Chief Superintendent John Kirby, responsible for the division that includes Trowbridge, spoke of the enhanced neighbourhood policy to help with this community relationship. Although there has been a neighbourhood policing policy in place, it has lacked (in places) a dedicated sergeant to provide management support, and local officers have all too often been seconded elsewhere or have not been replaced when away. There's now an 80% beat pledge, a pledge to replace officers who are away for 28 days or more, and a pledge to have all areas supervised by a dedicated more senior officer rather than one who's main task and mind set is answering 999 calls.

Wiltshire is a safe county. At least that's my conception and that of most of us in the area. Reported crimes are around 30k per annum, and this is down 10% this year. The decrease was sold to us as being a good thing, so I assume that there's no evidence that reported crime hasn't dropped just because people know things they report won't get followed up, or there's no-one at the police station to whom to report them. Last year, before the new Chief Constable arrived, some 21 to 22% of crimes across the county were detected. This year, I understand, detection rates have risen - up to 37% in Salisbury was quoted. Of course, it's not statistically valid to compare the two different measures here (but many people will be tricked into doing so, I'm sure!), but I did come away from the meeting with a re-assurance of an earnest team at the top of our police service, working against some incredibly (over)complex systems, and far better placed that you or I would be to deal with the wide ranging calls on their service.

(written 2009-01-29, updated 2009-01-31)

Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
Z403 - Organisations
  [58] Call Centres, selling, and a pause for thought - (2004-09-22)
  [307] Farming yesterday - (2005-05-10)
  [472] Are you free on 29th October - Charity ball - (2005-10-21)
  [981] Finalist reception - Wiltshire Business of the Year - (2006-12-13)
  [1258] A day looking ahead for Well House Consultants - (2007-07-05)
  [1278] West Wilts Show - (2007-07-26)
  [1280] West Wilts - no longer Wet Wilts - show - (2007-07-28)
  [2015] Service Excellence Awards - (2009-01-30)
  [2026] Melksham Climate Friendly Group - (2009-02-05)
  [2128] Wiltshire - where everybody matters - (2009-04-13)
  [2236] Alumni - revisiting and supporting the old University - (2009-06-13)
  [2271] Dogs Trust, Dog Show, Newbury - (2009-07-06)
  [2574] Summary of Wiltshire Core Strategy responses - (2010-01-13)
  [2585] Consultation in Melksham, on Melkshams future - (2010-01-17)
  [2807] Canal through Melksham - the options and issues - (2010-06-13)
  [2869] Contact Information for Melksham Oak Community School - (2010-07-13)
  [2902] Community consultation - a true open input - (2010-08-04)
  [3317] Self Portrait (in words) - (2011-06-04)
  [3484] A Melksham Timeline - Domesday to present day - (2011-10-17)
  [3511] Melksham has a heart - have your picture taken and support the defibrillator appeal - (2011-11-06)
  [3604] Melksham Campus - a blog you can read, and a place you can comment - (2012-02-08)
  [3677] Some advise for guest speakers at meetings - (2012-03-31)
  [3704] The Bowerhill Villager - a newsletter for Bowerhill, Melksham - (2012-04-22)
  [3712] Some unpublished and historic pictures - Museum of Melksham - (2012-04-28)
  [3774] Melksham - a new dawn - (2012-06-23)
  [4020] Melksham Community - Annual Report / MCAP - (2013-02-26)
  [4039] Seed Swap at Well House Manor - (2013-03-10)
  [4548] Melksham - two small townships, or one big one? - (2015-10-22)

Z300 - Politics and Religion
  [216] Cheap purchase - votes paid for with selfish promises - (2005-02-15)
  [257] Politics gets nasty. Must be an election coming up. - (2005-03-25)
  [280] Spotted - the local MP - (2005-04-15)
  [289] MP for Devizes, Wiltshire - (2005-04-23)
  [301] General Election day, UK - (2005-05-05)
  [313] Making bona fide international marriages more difficult - (2005-05-16)
  [326] UK Tax payment totals and where the money is spent - (2005-05-27)
  [335] Sad priorities - (2005-06-03)
  [377] A Strengthened City - (2005-07-14)
  [384] Managing conflict and disappointment - (2005-07-20)
  [415] Campaign Drift and efficiency. - (2005-08-15)
  [469] Yesterday was Kiss and Ride - (2005-10-19)
  [505] Would you steal ... petrol? ... a training course? - (2005-11-26)
  [539] rich and famous - (2005-12-23)
  [602] MP face to face - (2006-02-12)
  [607] On being British - (2006-02-14)
  [671] Both ends of the animal - (2006-04-05)
  [674] Wiltshire to get an extra MP - (2006-04-07)
  [682] Iran has enriched uranium ... - (2006-04-12)
  [696] Is than an uphill or downhill task? - (2006-04-23)
  [750] Almost everyone loses - (2006-06-07)
  [780] Separation and Integration - (2006-06-27)
  [875] Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones - (2006-09-22)
  [967] Realistic on line shoot'em up - (2006-12-05)
  [1003] Room at the Inn, Guy at the station - (2006-12-21)
  [1060] What a relief from the tax office. - (2007-02-01)
  [1109] False imprisonment - a contrast from the news - (2007-03-15)
  [1135] Government pressure on me to shut up after I make the papers - (2007-04-05)
  [1175] Local elections - choosing who to vote for - (2007-05-03)
  [1247] An afternoon at a public enquiry - (2007-06-27)
  [1260] An inspirational business talk from one of our prospective MPs - (2007-07-06)
  [1350] FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) Western Region - (2007-09-13)
  [1386] New software product for warmblooded programmers - (2007-10-10)
  [1428] Travel Across Wiltshire - the game - (2007-11-11)
  [1526] Carers at work - court case changes - (2008-02-01)
  [1573] Budget tax increases hit vehicle market - (2008-03-14)
  [1579] Rome, and the faith of Rome - (2008-03-17)
  [1729] Back from the future - (2008-07-30)
  [1769] July child ponders on August children - (2008-08-23)
  [1872] Barack Obama wins US Predidency - (2008-11-05)
  [1881] Wiltshire Council says - part 1 - (2008-11-13)
  [1882] Wiltshire Council says - part 2 - (2008-11-14)
  [1987] One Cheer for Local Democracy - Asda in Melksham - (2009-01-11)
  [2028] Things people say on the phone - (2009-02-06)
  [2075] Supporting Parkinsons and Trains - (2009-03-11)
  [2178] Melksham Candidates for Wiltshire Unitary Election - (2009-05-12)
  [2206] Spot the odd one out - (2009-05-29)
  [2257] Ramblings on church and state linkage in Melksham - (2009-06-25)
  [2270] Wiltshire - a chance to improve life for everybody - (2009-07-05)
  [2279] Understanding the new local government structure in Wiltshire - (2009-07-11)
  [2288] Wiltshire Community Area Partnerships - (2009-07-15)
  [2353] All change - Wiltshire Parliamentary - (2009-08-13)
  [2640] How is your tax pound spent? - (2010-02-18)
  [2689] Can my dog eat potatoes? Doggie Dietary Research, and political sleaze! - (2010-03-23)
  [2712] A more informed decision than ever before - (2010-04-08)
  [2740] Melksham Hustings at George Ward School - (2010-04-26)
  [2752] Voting day - UK General Election - (2010-05-06)
  [2757] Bodicea, Lincoln, and our new MP - (2010-05-09)
  [2792] Should Government compete with private industry? - (2010-06-03)
  [2824] A pint of Black Rat, and a lazy barman - (2010-06-25)
  [2856] Two sides of the coin - (2010-07-06)
  [2864] Changing with weather and seasons - (2010-07-10)
  [2870] Old prices - what would the equivalent price have been in 1966? - (2010-07-14)
  [2948] Melksham shamefully makes the national headlines - (2010-09-07)
  [2971] Should the public sector compete with businesses? and other deep questions - (2010-09-26)
  [3051] Positively reforming the system - could it be done? - (2010-11-14)
  [3264] Alternative Vote (AV) - explaining and an example - (2011-04-25)
  [3313] What does our MP do on a Bank Holiday? - (2011-05-30)
  [3323] Is Melksham town centre dying? - (2011-06-11)
  [3325] The Olympic Torch, and Melksham House - (2011-06-14)
  [3438] Melksham to become a part of Trowbridge? - (2011-09-13)
  [3592] Are we one man, one vote? No, and we never have been. - (2012-01-26)
  [3676] Rising prices, changing habits and society - (2012-03-31)
  [3806] 2011 Census results - initial figures for Wiltshire. - (2012-07-17)
  [3845] Good cause giving - getting the charity beggars off the street - (2012-08-21)
  [3905] How should we choose our Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner? - (2012-10-27)
  [3921] On rememberance, on war, and on preventing the war cycle - (2012-11-11)
  [4079] Melksham Area - Unitary Council results, May 2013 - (2013-05-04)
  [4223] Democracy - alive and well with the beauty pagent starting up again - (2013-12-16)
  [4275] Eurpoean Elections, and other elections ahead. Some thoughts on campaigns and policies - (2014-05-08)
  [4286] Reaction in Radstock to new First bus prices - (2014-07-12)
  [4343] Politics and the railway the connects Wiltshire - (2014-12-06)
  [4354] Wiltshire Police - assuming someone is guilty just on the say-so of a member of the public? - (2014-12-16)
  [4476] Upcoming election - Chippenham Constituency - the major candidates compared - (2015-04-29)
  [4485] Misusing statistics? - the seedy side of election campaigning - (2015-05-04)
  [4489] Election results - what if we had a party list system? - (2015-05-08)
  [4597] Not standing as your local councillor - (2015-12-18)
  [4614] PC Plod - alive and scaremongering in Wiltshire? - (2016-01-04)
  [4625] Where does Wiltshire bus subsidy money come from? - (2016-01-19)
  [4720] Celebrating our diversity rather than discriminating for it - (2016-11-02)
  [4725] Writing Python 2 such that Python 3 is easy - (2016-11-06)
  [4729] The oldest part of Los Angeles - (2016-11-23)
  [4734] Thoughts on the new Blackmore Ward of Melksham Without Parish - (2017-02-22)
  [4735] Revisiting - should I stand for Melksham Without Parish Council in May? - (2017-02-24)

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