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Police chief says 'don't share with partners' e-mail was misunderstood.

Byline: Martin Shipton

AN ASSISTANT Chief Constable who urged staff not to "disloyally" share spending cut concerns with "partners" has said his message was misinterpreted by workers.

Jeff Farrar, who took up his post with Gwent Police two months ago, wrote to the entire workforce warning them he would be "intolerant" towards employees found raising concerns in the public domain about a pounds 10m cuts programme. He later clarified the message, saying that by "partners" he meant professional partners rather than husbands or wives.

A letter, sent to the Western Mail by a Gwent Police employee who wishes to remain anonymous, details the worries within the force: "First to go were all the agency and fixed-term contract staff - over 100 posts in all. Next, staff in seconded posts found themselves moved back into their substantive posts overnight. Then followed the review of (the) IS [Information Services] Department, with more job losses. Now the sights have been aimed at the other business support areas.

"The official response to any challenges from the ACPO [Association of Chief Police Officers] team is that 'the force is doing its utmost to redeploy staff into other posts and avoid any redundancies'. The truth of the matter is that the better qualified staff are applying for jobs elsewhere and those who remain are reduced to applying for any jobs that come up on the redeployment list - no matter their suitability. The result is a thoroughly demoralised and demotivated workforce.

"The final straw perhaps was an e-mail sent to the entire force by the new ACC, Mr Farrar, acknowledging the complaints brought to him by staff but stating that he considered anyone who discussed the situation 'with their partners or anyone in the community' was 'disloyal' and he would be 'intolerant' of such behaviour.

"While all staff in the force appreciate the need to deliver an 'efficient and effective policing service... against a deteriorating financial background', it is difficult to maintain an improved satisfaction rate to (sic) the people of Gwent when the force itself is in despair."

In his original e-mail to all staff, Mr Farrar said: "It is understandable that during a period of change unsurpassed in our 42 years as Gwent Police that some disorientation and frustration will occur. I am more than happy for concerns to be fed into me through your line managers, the Federation or the meetings I have arranged.

"However, there have been a few incidents in which people are deciding to share their personal concerns with partners and others in the community. This is at best unhelpful and at worst disloyal to a force we are all proud to be part of. By venting this frustration externally, it does little to improve the confidence of the community and in turn damages, sometimes irrevocably, the reputation of Gwent Police.

"I, like you, am intensely proud to be serving in the force and would appeal to you to consider how you channel your obvious frustrations. I have put in place effective mechanisms to improve the way we communicate and I will be intolerant of frustrations being aired outside the force."

In a follow-up e-mail, Mr Farrar said: "I foolishly thought everyone would realise that the term 'partners' was to be taken as professional partners not loved ones! The last thing I would want is to be responsible for any relationship breakdowns!" He told the Western Mail: "I accept my original message was open to misinterpretation, and sent another e-mail to put the record straight. I was referring to partners like local authorities and other members of community safety partnerships.

"The changes we are having to make are driven partly by the need to be more efficient, but also more effective. We are actually increasing the number of officers from 1,418 to 1,505. We are cutting back office functions, but so far without compulsory redundancies."

Asked what he meant by being "intolerant of frustrations being aired outside the force" he said: "It was more of an appeal. I think it's quite right to see such behaviour as disloyal."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 29, 2009
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