Nick Smart is the new chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation.
Here, he outlines his background, what the Federation can do to improve police officer morale and spells out his plans for 2014 and beyond.
What are your plans for West Yorkshire Police Federation in 2014?
The plan is to improve the service we deliver to our members and to work closely and effectively with the command team during a period of unprecedented change. And trying to get the best outcomes for our members. The force is being restructured at the moment – the biggest change for probably 30 or 40 years in how we do business. This is the big thing on the agenda internally. Externally we have obviously got compulsory severance which will fundamentally change the office of constable and how we do business as a service if that comes in.
How will you work with the command team?
We and the command team have some new faces. We have to get to know and trust each other and build that professional working relationship. We are not always going to have the same opinions as we come at it from different perspectives. It’s very much like being a school governor, and as OFSTED state, perform the role of challenging and supporting the organisation and being that “critical friend”.
Does the force listen to the federation?
Yes, but it does not always translate that what we want is what we get, and vice versa. It is important that we have that voice at the table, build and have a relationship where we can do business. We actively campaign on various issues and will put our points across. Ultimately the command team make the decisions but we are there to influence and negotiate and represent out members.
What’s your brief CV?
I started off as a PC in 1995 in Milgarth. I transferred to North Yorkshire in 2000, working patrol in York city centre. Got promoted to Sergeant on the OSU in North Yorkshire in 2001, and also spent time in custody and patrol in York. I came back to West Yorkshire on promotion in 2006 an OSU inspector. I moved to North East Leeds as a neighbourhood policing inspector in 2007, and performed various roles until now. My specialism is public order. As a bronze commander and on the football cadre at Elland Road I’ve been involved in a fair few high profile events and incidents. Public order is often overlooked in terms of recognition and seen as the darker side of modern policing. It’s a true test of policing ability, operating professionally under pressure, making critical decisions when chaos and violence is erupting around you.
Why did you want to become Police Federation chairman?
It’s a once in a career opportunity. It’s a real honour but also a challenge given the current political and economic landscape, but nevertheless it’s a chance to make a difference. I was motivated to join the Federation initially as I am adversely effected by Winsor and Hutton’s proposals and wanted to have a voice. Nothing has changed in that respect by becoming Chair, it just affords me the opportunity to have a voice for members on a bigger stage.
What would you say to officers who question: “What does the Federation do for us….?”
The Federation is there to look after the interests and rights of members and represent, negotiate and influence on their behalf. Members have seen their conditions and pay cut and worsen. We as a Federation have tried to stop that happening. But we are not a trade union but we don’t have the legal basis to strike and force other issues. We are limited to some extent. But some of our limitations are our strengths. Because we can’t strike we have to negotiate and represent – and we do our level best to do so. We have had some good outcomes over the years but at the moment we are dealing with a Government who are ideologically opposed to negotiating with the police service, and do not value or respect us. And they hold all the aces and will change legislation in order to ensure we cannot legally challenge. Without Federation representation, the pension issue would have been far, far worse.
What is your plan for MPs?
There is work to do locally engaging and educating MPs about the major issues. We want MPs to understand that that isolated incidents and actions are not representative of the service. The skill is getting them to listen, and act, as we need their support.
What can the Federation do to boost police morale?
Communication is important, and at a national level we are not good at keep members updated. Informing officers of what we are doing and impacting on their daily working lives. We are not good at celebrating our success, and this is something we need to change. Looking forward to 2014 morale is a key issue.
Date posted: January 9, 2014