Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

Smith to scrap police timesheet

Ms Smith said the timesheet would be scrapped immediately

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said a police survey in England and Wales will be scrapped to free up time.

The annual survey requires about 50% of officers to document every 15 minutes of their working day over two weeks.

Ms Smith's announcement comes as former Police Federation boss Jan Berry is due to publish the interim findings of a review of red tape.

Ms Smith told the BBC she did not feel under pressure - after newspapers speculated she could face the axe.

The Sunday Times suggested there were concerns about her track record and question marks over her chances of keeping her job in any summer reshuffle - last week she also defended her use of "second home" expenses for the house she shares with her husband and children.

Asked if she was concerned people were briefing against her, she told the BBC: "I'm home secretary. I quite often feel under pressure but not from things like that - from things like keeping the country safe, making sure the police are back on the streets, protecting this country from terrorism and keeping our borders safe."

Technology

Two reports will be published later - the interim findings of Ms Berry's inquiry into police bureaucracy and top civil servant Sir David Normington's review of data collected by officers.

Ms Smith is expected to announce several measures aimed at reducing police bureaucracy, including a panel of officers to examine the impact of any new policies on staff.

She is also expected to say central government will make fewer information requests to police.

The government says this is the latest in a series of attempts to reduce police bureaucracy, including introducing 10,000 extra hand-held devices for use by officers on the beat to send and receive information.

Ms Smith told the BBC central government could be blamed for some of the bureaucracy.

Asked about the annual survey, she said: "I think that's wrong. I don't think we should expect the police to fill in the sort of timesheets that we have previously. That's why one of the things I will be saying today is that we are ending that, as of now."

Ms Smith said her priority was that police forces reported to "local people rather than up to Whitehall" and drove up confidence locally by "dealing with the issues that actually matter to people".

'Risk aversion'

Scrapping the timesheet should free up 260,000 hours of police officers' time every year, the government says.

For the Conservatives, shadow policing minister David Ruffley said: "This review follows five previous Labour red tape reviews, yet it does not give us any clue as to how many more police hours will be spent on the beat.

"On average a police officer spends just one hour in eight on patrol and the Berry proposals do not even estimate how that can be improved.

"Jan Berry is an experienced police officer but she is struggling to grapple with ten years of Labour red tape and risk aversion. We do not need any more pilots and conferences. We need competent ministers who will get a grip and take radical steps to cut police red tape."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Tom Brake said: "Actions speak louder than words. The government talks the talk when it comes to cutting bureaucracy, yet police officers are struggling under a growing mountain of forms.

"We need officers on the street, not at their desks struggling to complete convoluted tick box forms.

"The government must wean itself off its addiction to centralised police targets and its obsession with creating new offences to allow police forces to concentrate on policing."



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