Friday brief: New team set up to root out corruption in Northants police
Plus another report highlights failings in the safeguarding of Northamptonshire children
Our story from yesterday about a councillor who has been absent has had quite a reaction and we were sent some images of Cllr North on holiday in Italy earlier this month. We have once again tried to speak with Cllr North but struggling to get any response from him. We will keep trying. The post is also now free to read.
A female detective has been put in charge of rooting out misogyny and corrupt officers within Northamptonshire police.
Former Met officer Detective Chief Inspector Liz Wilcox is heading Operation Admiral whose remit is to look at all aspects of culture within the force including vetting procedures, misconduct and whether some staff are prejudice against women.
The team, which sits outside of the existing professional standards department, has been set up following the Casey review into the Met police force which found that there was institutional misogyny, homophobia and racism within the country’s largest police force.
DCI Wilcox told the county’s police and crime panel yesterday that the force has already met the 28 recommendations from the Casey review but wanted to go further to improve the service.
So far her team is reviewing all police staff to cross reference whether any have any unknown criminal convictions and it is looking back at historic allegations against officers and reviewing how former standards investigations were handled.
Overall responsibility for professional standards sits with acting deputy chief constable Ivan Balhatchet, who was also at the panel meeting. He said trust in the police service had been damaged in recent years and needed to be rebuilt.
“We were honest from the start. We said ‘we know we will have issues in Northants Police and bad people. This is our opportunity to invest and do something about it. We won’t stop until we assure ourselves we have the right people.”
In recent months the force has dismissed a number of officers for misconduct issues. The officers said others will be going through the misconduct procedure.
At the meeting police and crime commissioner Stephen Mold said he had recently spoken with a female officer who had told him ‘terrible’ stories of working at the MET police but said ‘there is nothing like that going on in Northamptonshire.’
This week Northants police announced it has the highest number of officers it has ever had. There are now 1501 full time equivalent officers in the force. Commissioner Mold has been increasing the police precept in recent years to help pay for the additional officers.
News in brief
Another damning report about how Northamptonshire children are being failed by public authorities has been published.
Following on from the critical review into the county’s foster service, the Care Quality Commission has this week released a report about Kettering General Hospital after an inspection of its children’s department last December.
Among findings of dirty wards and poor infection control, concerns were highlighted by inspectors about how hospital staff have sometimes failed to raise concerns when a child has been a regular attender with injury.
“For example we saw concerns of a safeguarding nature being noted on 4 occasions in a patient record, however we did not see any evidence that action has been taken to safeguard the child.”
The inspectors discussed the matter with the hospital’s safeguarding children lead nurse who said the incidents had been reported and were in a central log. However inspectors did not find it documented in the nursing record.
“We were concerned there was a risk safeguarding information could be missed and there was a risk of key information not being shared with other professionals involved in plans to safeguard the plans from harm or neglect.”
The hospital has had a high turnover of senior staff recently. The long standing chief executive Simon Weldon left this month, after going on leave last October.
The hospital has not given a reason for his departure.
Read the BBC story on the CQC inspection, plus interviews with local families who say their children have received poor care. There is also a response from the hospital.
Highbury Residential Care Home in Rushden has been placed in special measures after an unannounced visit in February.
The Care Quality Commission, (CQC), said the move was prompted after concerns were raised regarding the home’s ability to look after its eight residents.
A senior CQC director said inspectors saw some ‘totally unacceptable’ interactions that the home ‘must address as a priority’.
The home, in Irchester Road, said it was ‘disappointed’ with the regulator’s findings but said it was determined to improve and was following an action plan.
The inspection found fire safety hazards among the problems, plus residents were not treated with respect.
Craig Howarth, the CQC’s deputy director of operations in the Midlands, said: “Someone asked a member of staff about food, they then responded in a firm and loud manner, telling them to stop asking about food as they had just had a drink of tea.
“Another person told a staff member they had plans to go to the shop, the staff member repeatedly told them they weren’t going out.
“However, it had already been agreed for them to go. These interactions are totally unacceptable and must be addressed as a priority.”
Report by Nathan Briant, Local Democracy reporter
Northampton South MP Andrew Lewer has been reselected by the Conservatives to stand in the constituency at the next general election. Lewer was first elected for the seat in 2017 and won again at the 2019 General Election, extending his majority to nearly 4,700 over Labour.
He was re-selected by his constituency association at a meeting last Friday. Labour last held the seat between 1997 and 2005, when Tony Clarke was the MP. It is unclear when the next general election will be held but it needs to take place by January 2025.
Mike Reader, who works in the construction industry and lives in Northampton, was selected by Labour members to stand in the seat in March. He said he will fight for a “greener, more prosperous, fairer future for Northampton”.
The Liberal Democrats selected Jill Hope as its candidate last year. She contested the seat for the party in 2017 and 2019, coming fourth and third respectively. A councillor between 1999 and 2007, she also stood for the Lib Dems at general elections in 2001, 2005 and 2010 and a by-election in Corby in 2012.
Report by Nathan Briant
The Oundle festival of Music and Drama is taking place on Saturday at St Peter’s Church from 7.30pm. Tickets for the competition are available here.
A farmers’ market is happening in Holcot on Saturday from 9am to 3pm.
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