Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Home Secretary approves radical overhaul of police pay and conditions

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  • Theresa May backs radical reform of pay and conditions
  • New recruits will see starting salary cut from £23,259 to £19,000
  • Controversial changes were drawn up by lawyer Tom Winsor
  • Police Federation says it 'fails to reflect the dangers' of the job

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said the cut was 'ill-conceived and fails to reflect the dangers and demands inherent in the job'.

There was also widespread anger on social media sites used by officers. One wrote on Twitter: 'McDonalds starting salary £21.5k…'

Mrs May, the home secretary, said the starting salary for police constables in England and Wales will be cut by £4,000 to around £19,000 in the first major overhaul of police pay and conditions for more than 30 years.

She told MPs she was accepting the recommendations of the police arbitration tribunal which would help “modernise police pay and conditions so that they are fair to both officers and the taxpayer”.

Mrs May said she accepted the tribunal's recommendation that the salary for recruits with no experience, such as school-leavers, should be cut by 17 per cent, to £19,000.

Older recruits with relevant experience, such as a period as a special constable, will earn £22,000 a year. New recruits in London will earn a minimum of £21,000, which could rise to £25,500, if they live in an expensive part of the capital.

The move follows a landmark review of police pay and conditions by the former rail regulator Tom Winsor, who is now the first non-officer to hold the post of Chief Inspector of Constabulary, which angered rank-and-file officers.

Mrs May said: “Existing police pay and conditions were designed more than 30 years ago which is why we asked Tom Winsor to carry out his independent review.

“Police officers and staff deserve to have pay and workforce arrangements that recognise the vital role they play in fighting crime and keeping the public safe.”

The home secretary stressed that in reaching her decision she recognised that the police did not have the right to strike and the particular frontline role and nature of the office of constable.

But the home secretary has followed the recommendation of the police arbitration tribunal to delay a decision on the most controversial element of the Winsor package, which is the introduction of a system of making police officers compulsorily redundant for the first time.

The change was to be introduced from April giving discretion to chief constables struggling to make 23% cuts in police funding over three years. The home secretary has now given police staff associations and their employers until July to reach agreement on compulsory severance.

Elfyn Llwyd, a member of the Commons justice select committee, said the move was a “historical low”.

“These repeated attacks on funding for vital public services are counter-productive and grossly unfair,” he said.

“The police service throughout the UK does a fantastic job but both the reputation of these forces and the safety of communities are in jeopardy due to the Coalition's unsustainable budget cuts and proposed changes in working practices which will undermine the morale of hard-working officers.”

He added: “This is a historical low in terms of Government’s lack of respect for the police service and it will have far-reaching consequences including making it more difficult for the police to ensure that they are able to deal with crime and public order.”

Labour's police spokesman, David Hanson, said the £4,000 cut in starting pay could not be allowed to discourage the best quality candidates from coming forward.

"There is a real worry that the proposed starting salary for all police officers will damage the ability of police forces to recruit officers of the right skills and experience and directly contradicts the government's own wish to limit recruitment to those with three A-levels and recruit professional people from outside the police," he said.

"The other proposed changes will hit police morale further at a time when the Tory-led government are making cuts to the police force which go too far, too fast, with the loss of 15,000 police officers by 2015. I'm pleased there will be more discussion on the issue of severance packages and we will continue to discuss with police forces and staff in coming months what reforms are needed."

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said it was the wrong time to cut the pay of ordinary police officers.

"Morale in the police force is already at an all-time low and the landscape of policing is undergoing the most significant reform since Sir Robert Peel. If the home secretary wants her revolution in policing to be successful, she must carry the workforce with her," he said.

Steve Williams, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said officers were disappointed, but had agreed to be bound by the process involving the police negotiating board.

“Whilst we remain disappointed with some of the PAT’s recommendations we acknowledge that the Home Secretary has honoured the process of the Police Negotiating Board,” he said.

“We accept that today’s decision by the Home Secretary is binding on the Police Federation of England and Wales and we will continue to engage fully on behalf of our members.”

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said it was essential that the system of pay and conditions recognised the professional status of policing and moved towards a system where pay levels rewarded expertise and contribution.

"Acpo was concerned about the starting salaries range proposed and the outcome of these negotiations means that chief constables will now have the flexibility to pay a starting salary of up to £22,000 depending on skills and qualifications. Officers can also reach the top rate of pay three years earlier than under the current arrangements," said the chief constables' statement.

"Police service funding has already been considerably reduced and further financial pressure lies ahead. Chief constables must have the means available to them to manage their workforce through these difficult times, even if that means taking steps that are unwelcome. The slow pace of progress through current pay machinery both hampers the ability to secure reform and prolongs uncertainty for officers and staff."

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