Police Reform: A noxious brew of politics, regulation and special interest groups

March 7, 2013

Tom WinsorThe dilemmas of police leadership are fictionalized in a thousand police dramas. These are currently being played out in the UK following the controversial appointment of Tom Winsor, a lawyer with no service experience of police work, as Chief Inspector of Constabulary

The police forces of the United Kingdom are united mostly in a concern that changes imposed on them by outsiders will be ill-informed on the special features that make policing unique among the professions.

Inevitably, the appointment of a Chief Inspector of Police from outside their ranks [July 2012] produced initial hostility from ACPO [The Association of Chief Police Officers, and The Police Federation. And that was even before Tom Winsor got down to work.

An intellectually undemanding profession?

He was quoted as saying that the service was still based on a century-old structure and that:

“For too long policing has been unfairly regarded by many as an occupation of an intellectually largely undemanding nature .. policing today is entirely different. The attitudes of some police officers remain fastened in that mind set and I believe that is holding them back [in order that] all men and women of intelligence and good character consider a policing career on a par with law, medicine, the clergy, the armed and security services, finance and industry”.

Not the words of someone seeking a conciliatory relationship with police leaders.

The Home Secretary’s choice

Theresa May has acquired a reputation of a conservative hawk as Home Secretary, attracting controversy either deliberately or insensitively, according to your political perspective. Her attempts to reform immigration http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15649548 control procedures led to battles and blame-naming “United by love divided by Theresa May” goes one slogan against her policies. .

On the home front, her choice of Winsor is seen as an attempt to finesse the challenge of leading a campaign for police reform, by relying on the inclinations of Mr Winsor to ease the way towards unpopular legislation.

According to the BBC’s home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw

The current system sees all police recruits begin work as a constable, regardless of age, skills or experience. The Home Office proposals being put before MPs herald a fundamental change to the current system of police recruitment. It currently takes about 25 years for a newly recruited constable to work their way to the most senior level, a process that is thought to deter talented people from other professions from joining the police.
The direct-entry plans expected to be put forward follow recommendations in a report last year by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor.

Watch the watchdog

Tom Winsor may be Theresa May’s watchdog but he is no poodle. Brought in as Rail Regulator, he become involved in bitter disputes with the Government over what he considered to be efforts to undermine his authority.


Setanta struggles for survival: the dangers of a growth strategy

June 20, 2009

Setanta logo

Setanta was a successful entrepreneurial start-up which took on the market leader BSkyB in the UK’s pay-to-view satellite sports broadcasting business. Its demise makes for a gruesome but instructive case study

Twenty years ago, two Irish entrepreneurs Leonard Ryan and Michael O’Rourke spotted a gap in the emerging satellite broadcasting market and attacked it energetically and with great success. But eventually its strategy unraveled with disastrous results.

In June 2009 Setanta defaulted on its creditors as the company heads for extinction. Recently [June 9th, 2009] the on-line recruitment for Setanta’s services were blocked with the message “Oops! Something has gone wrong”.

What did go wrong?

As the Telegraph wrote at the time:

The company’s collapse has potential knock-on effects for funding of football in the UK, but also for Rugby and Horse racing.

The company went too far too fast

Maybe it was a classic marketing mistake allowing customers to join for only one month at a time.

Easy come, but easy go. And customers have not been coming. [This analysis of its marketing strategy is much easier to see in hindsight: Ed. Leaders we deserve]
The recession has certainly made matters worse. A second pay TV contract is an easy cut for families trying to scrimp a little. Setanta may simply have overestimated the appetite for sports programming. But the quirky design of the regulator’s auction BSkyB’s competitive advantage by encouraging [Setanta] be too optimistic in its bid.
There just might be a way out. Setanta could give up on direct selling – letting Sky or others to broadcast its games .. But much of the £450m put into the company by investors including Doughty Hanson and Goldman Sachs is likely to be lost.
Setanta managed to get into serious trouble without much borrowing. But – with the UK regulator’s enthusiastic backing – it collected roughly £500m of liabilities to content providers. There are next to no fixed assets, so the company finds itself at the mercy of its creditors.
That loss will only amplify a classic marketing mistake: allowing customers to join for only one month at a time. Easy come, but easy go. And customers have not been coming. Setanta 1.2m customer base is well bellow the estimated 1.9m required to break even. An operating loss of £95m is expected this year.
The recession has certainly made matters worse. A second pay TV contract is an easy cut for families trying to scrimp a little. Setanta may simply have overestimated the appetite for sports programming. But the quirky design of the regulator’s auction amplified BSkyB’s competitive advantage by encouraging the company to be too optimistic in its bid.
There just might be a way out. Setanta could give up on direct selling – letting Sky or others to broadcast its games. The EPL, which has the most to lose if Sky ends up with a pay-TV monopoly, might help by agreeing to reduce the £130m of fees it’s due this year. But much of the £450m put into the company by investors including Doughty Hanson and Goldman Sachs is likely to be lost.
Setanta managed to get into serious trouble without much borrowing. But – with the UK regulator’s enthusiastic backing – it collected roughly £500m of liabilities to content providers. There are next to no fixed assets, so the company finds itself at the mercy of its creditors.

Lessons?

What lessons are emerging from all this? I welcome views of strategically gifted colleagues for comment. Here are a few personal observations

The regulatory move which split football francises between competing organizations was designed to drive down costs through competition. It failed to solve the problem that the bidding arrangements left viewers little additional choice of service.

Are there similarities to the equally unpopular move which was inflicted on the country’s rail transport system? A lumbering monopoly had been restructured into several somewhat smaller monopolies.