Scottish police board chief Andrew Flanagan resigns. A SCANDAL involving poor governance and accusations of secrecy at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has finally led to the resignation of the Police watchdog’s embattled Chairman – after a series of bruising encounters before two Scottish Parliament committees.
Andrew Flanagan, who was appointed Chair of the Scottish Police Authority in 2015 – announced his decision to resign from the role earlier this week on Wednesday, citing recent media and Parliamentary attention on his disagreement with a former board member and perceptions around SPA transparency.
The statement, issued by the SPA said Mr Flanagan has concluded that debate on these issues risks distracting policing from important work underway on strategy and finance and that it is in the best interests of policing in Scotland that he stand down.
In his resignation letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Mr Flanagan offered to continue in post until a successor is appointed by Scottish Ministers, and to ensure there is no delay in implementing the Policing 2026 strategy and underpinning financial deficit reduction plans.
Mr Flanagan said: “Recent events have focussed on my disagreement with a board member and perceptions of a wider lack of transparency in the SPA. I have apologised to the former board member and put in place changes to the governance processes of the SPA. There are many serious challenges faced by policing in Scotland, but the continued media and Parliamentary debate on these issues risks coming a prolonged distraction.
“With a strategic direction for the service well in train and the right mix of leadership in Police Scotland to deliver it, I do not wish the ongoing debate to get in the way as we move into the implementation phase. I have therefore taken the decision that it would be in the best interests of policing if I were to step down from my role as Chair of the SPA.
“The next few months will involve an intensive period of work to develop implementation plans and effective governance structures to manage and oversee the transformation programme. To avoid any hiatus or delay, I have indicated to the Cabinet Secretary that I would be willing to stay on until he appoints a successor and to ensure an orderly handover.
“I take pride in being a part of this chapter of policing history in Scotland, and for the personal successes I have had since taking up the role in 2015 – in particular shaping a long-term strategy for Police Scotland, recruiting a new Chief Constable and senior leadership team, and setting a clear direction for bringing financial sustainability.
“As a result, I am confident that the single police service in Scotland now has a solid platform from which to build an even better service for the people of Scotland. I hope that is a position on which we can build both consensus and momentum.”
The full text of Andrew Flanagan’s resignation letter to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson is as follows:
Since taking up my role as Chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) in 2015, I have made significant progress on a number of fronts. These successes include creating a long-term strategy for Police Scotland, recruiting a new Chief Constable and re-shaping the senior team at Police Scotland, determining the financial position and setting a clear direction for bringing financial sustainability and significantly improving policing’s engagement at community and local level. I have also reshaped the SPA board ensuring we have a much-improved mix of skills to address the challenges policing has faced. The improvements to the governance of C3 and the full recovery of the monies spent on I6 are further examples of progress and I am pleased to say we have avoided similar controversies to those which arose in the early years of the SPA and Police Scotland.
Notwithstanding these successes, recent events have focussed on my disagreement with a board member and concerns that by discussing with the Board issues raised by HMICS rather than copying his letter this was indicative of a wider lack of transparency, which of course is not the case. To remedy these issues, I have apologised to the former board member and put in place changes to the governance processes of the SPA to ensure there can be no perception of a lack of openness. Despite the limited nature of these matters and at a time when serious challenges are faced by policing in Scotland, there has been prolonged and continued debate in the media and in Parliament. This is not helpful to the SPA or policing more generally and is proving a distraction to the important work we are undertaking.
Last week, I submitted to you the final version of our 10 year strategy, Policing 2026, for your consideration and agreement. We have also recently finalised the senior team at Police Scotland with the appointments of the Finance and HR Directors. With these two important elements in place I do not wish the ongoing debate to get in the way as we move into implementation of the strategy and take the necessary steps to reduce the deficit. In addition, the debate has become quite personalised and has impacted on me and my family. This is not something that I wish to endure further. I have therefore taken the decision that it would be in the best interests of policing if I were to step down from my role as Chair of the SPA.
The next few months will involve an intensive period of work to develop the implementation plans and associated investment and financing plans. Further, we need to build project management capability and the governance structures to manage and oversee the transformation programme. Delivery of the initial cost reductions to meet the deficit reduction targets is also required. To avoid a hiatus or delay I would be willing to continue as Chair until you find a successor and we can have an orderly hand-over.
I would like to place on record my thanks to my Board for their support over the last few weeks. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank you for your support during my time as Chair. I am confident that policing now has a solid platform from which to build an even better service and that the benefits of delivering on the aims of a single service are achievable.
In response to Mr Flanagan’s carefully arranged resignation letter, strikingly offered just over a week from a general election, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson issued a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee, and the Justice Committee confirming the SPA Chair’s resignation.
The text of Justice Secretary Michael Matheson letter to both Scottish Parliament committees, in full:
Dear Acting Convener and Convener,
I am writing in response to letters regarding the Scottish Police Authority from the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee (12 May and 7 June 2017) and Justice Subcommittee on Policing (25 May 2017).
A key issue raised by both Committees is the position of the Chair of the SPA. I have been advised by the Chair that he is announcing today that he plans to step down from his role once a successor is appointed. I am grateful to Andrew for his contribution to policing and the significant progress that has been made in establishing the future direction of policing. However I understand and accept his reasons for stepping down and welcome his commitment to providing continuity until a successor is appointed. That process will start as soon as possible. Continuity will be important over the coming months as SPA is in the process of finalising the Policing 2026 strategy and putting implementation plans in place. It would not be in anyone’s interest for SPA to be without a Chair during this period.
As you are both aware, the SPA has already set out a number of planned changes relating to transparency and openness which I know the Committees will welcome. For example, the SPA Board has agreed to hold its Committees in public while recognising – in line with On Board – the need to hold some items in private; papers are now published on the SPA website in advance of meetings; and all formal correspondence from HMICS and Audit Scotland will now be circulated to all Board members as a matter of routine.
A number of the issues raised by the Committees will also be further explored as part of the inspection by HMICS to assess openness and transparency in the way that the SPA conducts its business. As you are aware, HMICS agreed to bring forward this part of their review at my request. It is due to report to Parliament on 22 June and I am sure we all await this report with interest.
In addition to this, I have also announced a review of the ways in which the SPA Board can be better supported to deliver its statutory functions – including:
• how the executive of SPA works with Police Scotland to collectively provide the information required to support the Board take informed, transparent decisions in the context of the guidance set out in “On Board: A guide for Members of Statutory Boards;
• how the arrangements for engaging stakeholders in the work of the Authority can be strengthened;
• the staffing and operating structure that fulfils the aim of providing the most effective support to the Board;
• areas where processes could be improved.
It will be jointly led by the SPA deputy chair Nicola Marchant and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Chief Executive Malcolm Burr who will provide an independent perspective..
Your respective correspondences also highlighted some detailed points which I will now address.
Steps to ensure Board members understand the practical implications of the On Board guidance
As the PAPLS Committee heard in evidence from members of the SPA Board, those appointed to public bodies receive a copy of On Board as part of their induction. Since 2016, the Scottish Government has implemented a corporate induction for new Board members to support them as they step into their roles. This provides an opportunity for Board members – through networking and inputs from a range of speakers – to explore the practical implications of the On Board guidance. This is part of a rolling programme of networking and peer-learning activities for those involved in public body governance around topics related to On Board, including events for Chairs and development days for Board members. On Board is clear that part of the role of a Board member is to question and, as necessary, challenge proposals made by other Board members.
Information flows between Police Scotland and SPA
My reading of the evidence provided by Mr Graham to PAPLS was that he viewed these as much improved from the position he experienced in his early days on the Board. Again, my first-hand experience is that relationships are much improved and the challenge now will be to ensure that continues. Nevertheless, I am sure there is always scope for further improvement in this area.
The extent to which Scottish Government has prior knowledge of SPA meetings and papers As highlighted by officials in evidence to the PAPLS Committee, the Scottish Government is responsible for the policy and legislative framework for policing and Safer Communities Directorate is the sponsoring directorate, meaning that they have a proper and legitimate interest in SPA’s work. Issues discussed at the Board frequently result in the Scottish Government being asked to comment publically on the substance of the matter. Early sight of papers is therefore of value in the work that officials do in supporting Ministers. I would, however, refute any suggestion that the Scottish Government is using this information to control or dictate the agendas for SPA meetings. Indeed, my view is that the evidence presented to the PAPLS Committee on this point was noticeably lacking in detail and substance.
The number of days worked by Board members
In terms of effective scrutiny and best value, there is a balance to be struck between time and cost. Although the guidance is for a maximum of 5 days a month, there is flexibility at the discretion of the Chair to go beyond this upper limit if there is good reason to do so. I view this as a reasonable approach.
The need to improve diversity on Boards
I agree that there is a need to improve diversity on Boards and Scottish Government is taking positive action to ensure that public appointments are accessible and attractive to the broadest range of talent across Scotland. We have, for example, made notable success in redressing the gender imbalance in recent years with, overall, 45% of our Board positions now held by women. I wrote to the Chair of the SPA on 26 April asking him to consider taking forward activities that would support a diverse range of future potential Board members, including for example co-opting people onto Committees.
Information on the process for the appraisal of the SPA Chair
Guidance for the appraisal of Chairs and Board members is set out in the attached link: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/02/6844. Given the significance of the SPA as a public body, the Chair’s assessment is carried out by DG Learning and Justice. The Chair’s high level objectives for the current year are:
• LEADERSHIP / GOVERNANCE: Drive forward the SPA to become an effective, high performing public body.
• STRATEGY / DELIVERY: Work in partnership with Police Scotland to maintain momentum on the 2026 strategy to develop – and then deliver against – the final strategy, implementation plan and financial plans.
• RELATIONSHIPS / REPUTATION: Establish good relationships which enhance the reputation of the Scottish Police Authority and improve outcomes for the people of Scotland.
• FINANCE / FINANCIAL RESILIENCE: Ensure that the Accountable Officer and Police Scotland are held effectively to account for enhancing the financial capability, capacity and leadership with a strong strategic approach to financial planning.
Within Leadership / Governance, progress I expect to see includes an effective review of the SPA corporate governance framework, taking account of the feedback received, and making demonstrable progress towards the commitment of 50:50 by 2020.
Information requests to SPA by Ms AH
Scottish Government officials have been encouraging (and continue to encourage) SPA to be as helpful as they can be in dealing with Ms Ali’s requests for information. Ultimately, SPA has the responsibility to respond in a way that is consistent with the appropriate legislation and agreed processes.
I believe I have addressed all of the issues raised by the committees and, as noted above, we await the conclusions of HMICS’ initial work on governance and transparency issues, scheduled for publication on 22 June.
Copies of this response have been sent to – Andrew Flanagan, SPA Chair; John Foley, SPA Chief Executive; Derek Penman FIMICS; Paul Johnstone, Scottish Government DG Learning and Justice; and Margaret Mitchell, convener of the Justice Committee.
The review – referred to by Andrew Flanagan and the JUstice Secretary, is to be jointly led by Nicola Marchant – appointed as deputy chairwoman by the current board which includes Andrew Flanagan, and Malcolm Burr, chief executive of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
It will report back to Mr Matheson in the autumn.
Speaking to the media Mary Fee, convener of the justice sub-committee which was the first to declare it had no confidence in Mr Flanagan’s leadership, said “openness and transparency have decreased during his time as chair of the SPA”.
She said: “We should view this as an opportunity to work proactively with the SPA to put in place a chair who will lead the board in an open, transparent manner and take the SPA forward.”
Jackie Baillie, acting convener of the public audit committee which led much of the questioning, said there had been “serious concerns” about Mr Flangan’s leadership.
She said: “With the announcement of his resignation today, we hope the SPA will now head in the right direction and put an end to its culture of secrecy. This is desperately needed in order to restore public confidence.”
Mr Flanagan’s resignation was welcomed by political parties, with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson saying the move was “needed to allow the correct focus on oversight and delivery”.
Labour’s justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said it “must only be the start of the complete overhaul that is needed at the top of the SPA”.
Green MSP John Finnie said Mr Flanagan “should have resigned weeks ago”, while Lib Dem Liam McArthur said “serious damage has already been done to the reputation of the organisation”.
TRANSPARENCY FIRST: Former Board member Moi Ali spoke out on transparency concerns at Police Watchdog:
A glimpse into the world of the Scottish Police Authority’s board meetings features an excerpt from the SPA’s meeting of 15 December 2016, in which Board Member Moi Ali raised serious concerns about recommendations in relation to the publication on the day of board meetings and the holding of committees in private.
More on the discussion around the Governance Framework and input from Moi Ali who raised her concerns at the meeting can be viewed here:
Ms Ali said she understood there were good reasons for those recommendations she had serious concerns about the lack of transparency around the two proposals, and that there were real drawbacks in relation to holding committee meetings in private.
Moi Ali said her concerns were two fold – the perception issue in relation to private meetings where it may be perceived that decisions may be taken behind closed doors, and that defacto decision may well be taken behind closed doors and that the process of decision making will be hidden and there is a danger in due course this will morph into a different kind of body in which effectively real decisions are taken albeit not in name but then come back to the SPA Board for rubber stamping rather than transparent debate.
UNFIT AUTHORITY: – Crisis continues at Scottish Police Authority after Board members criticise MSPs scrutiny of Cop Quango:
SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan’s decision to stay in the lead role at the now discredited Scottish Police Authority comes after one of it’s Board members – Graham Houston – launched a blistering attack on open hearings at the Scottish Parliament’s PAPLS Committee’ – after it’s members quizzed the Chair & CEO of the SPA, along with Scottish Government Civil Servants at an earlier meeting of 20 April 2017.
Critisising MSPs scrutiny of the Scottish Police Authority, Board member Graham Houston said: “I also think as an example of good governance I think the treatment of my fellow board members by an audit and scrutiny committee was frankly appalling and I think if that is an example of what is expected of good scrutiny it leaves a lot to be desired. And I suggest that the members of that committee look to themselves about setting an example and also look to the guidance on board about how they conduct themselves in doing that.”
Mr Houston then attacked the media, accusing the press of abusing the ‘openness’ of the SPA and concludes by stating “I think that what will transpire is that probably we are one of the most open public authorities in Scotland.”
The SPA’s statement on the outcome of the meeting claimed it had strengthened the transparency and accessibility of its governance arrangements by making a number of revisions to Board and committee meetings and publication of papers.
The changes decided at the meeting, which will come in to effect from 1 June 2017 include:
SPA committee meetings held in public, with items taken in private only when necessary and with a clear articulation of the reason.
The publication of agendas for all public Board and committee meetings will be available on the SPA website 7 days in advance of meetings.
The publication of papers for all public Board and committee meetings will be published on the SPA website (under embargo) 3-working days in advance.
The publication of agendas for closed Board and committee meetings will be published on the SPA website (redacted if necessary) and a summary of the business conducted will be reported to the next public Board meeting.
The public will also have the opportunity to pose questions about policing matters to the SPA Board in advance of meetings.
In addition, the SPA Board has established a new Deputy Chair role. Nicola Marchant has been unanimously appointed to that position with immediate effect.
Full details of the changes and next steps agreed by the Board are outlined in the following paper: http://www.spa.police.uk/assets/126884/400419/governance
Houston’s criticism of the refers to the following hearing, in which evidence revealed to MSPs portrayed the Scottish Police Authority as a haven of secrecy, run in the style of a “kremlin” operation – according to former Cabinet Secretary & PAPLS member Alex Neil MSP (SNP):
A full report on the PAPLS meeting of 20 April can be found here: POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’
A further appearance of current and former board members of the Scottish Police Authority before Holyrood’s PAPLS Committee on the 11th May – established evidence in relation to a sequence of alarming events at the SPA – giving MSPs significant cause for concern of how the SPA Chair was in effect, personally running the Police watchdog as a “secret society”.
A full report on the PAPLS hearing of 11 May can be found here: UNFIT AUTHORITY: Chair of Scottish Police Authority “is not fit to continue on any public board” – says former SPA board member in evidence to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee scrutiny of Police watchdog
The hearing also established not one board member of the now discredited Police Watchdog backed former board member Moi Ali – who was forced to resign from the SPA after she bravely raised issues of transparency and accountability during a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority in December 2016.
Then, at a hearing of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub-committee on Policing, Andrew Flanagan was asked by MSPs several times to consider his position as SPA Chair – yet Flanagan refused each call to stand down and allow the Scottish Police Authority to move on from the current crisis.
A more detailed report on the 18th May 2017 hearing of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing can be found here: AUTHORITY LOST: Chair of Scottish Police Authority refuses to resign after facing challenge from Justice Committee MSPs to consider his position on discredited Police watchdog
SLOW SECRETARY: Justice Secretary Michael Matheson was criticised for lack of action in Police watchdog governance crisis
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson ducked out of taking immediate action on tackling the leadership & governance crisis at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – despite calls from across the political spectrum to act on restoring faith at the discredited regulator of Police Scotland.
During ‘Topical Questions’ at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 30 May 2017, MSPs from all parties called for a resolution to the crisis at the Police Regulator, and Andrew Flanagan’s refusal to step aside.
In response, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said he was “conscious of the issues” and promised to consider the reports sent to him by the committees.
In Holyrood’s main chamber, Mary Fee MSP (Scottish Labour) told Michael Matheson that Andrew Flanagan had “lost the confidence of MSPs from all parties, including back benchers from the governing party.
“It is clear that his position is untenable. It seems that Mr Flanagan and the Justice Secretary are the last two people to see that.”
She called for a “drastic overhaul of how the SPA is run”.
Shying away from immediate action on the crisis at the Scottish Police Authority, Matheson replied: “I am sure that the member will recognise that it is important that ministers give thorough consideration to these issues in coming to a determination,”
The Justice Secretary added: “On the wider issue of the governance and structure of the SPA, there is no doubt that there are aspects of the way in which the SPA has operated over the past few years that have not worked as well as they should have and that there are areas in which I believe further improvements could be made.
“I have been clear about the need for the SPA to operate in an open and transparent manner as it undertakes its processes and considers matters, and I have repeatedly made that clear.”
A full report on MSPs questions to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson can be viewed here: Justice Secretary dodges call to fire Chair of discredited Scottish Police Authority – as cross party MSPs say Andrew Flanagan’s position is untenable, and crisis will impact on diversity, recruitment & transparency at public bodies
Previous articles on the Scottish Police Authority can be found here: Scottish Police Authority – Poor governance, private meetings & lack of accountability at Police regulator