8 Mar 2011

Police warn of pay review protests

As a “radical overhaul” sets out to save over £1bn by targeting overtime and bonuses, the Police Federation warns it will do “everything possible” to vent anger.

Tens of thousands of police officers could take to the streets in protests over measures which the Police Federation – who represent rank and file officers- say will leave forces in a position “worse than the 1970s”.

It comes after the publication of the the Winsor review, which has been billed as the most comprehensive review of police pay in over thirty years. The report has outlined £1.1bn of savings that could be made over the next three years. This will save the taxpayer £485m, with the balance – some £635m – being reinvested.

The report sets the framework for a new pay settlement when the current three-year pay deal expires in September, and follows a warning by the Association of Chief Police Officers that 28,000 police jobs could be lost as a result of the Government’s 20 per cent budget cuts.

It recommends that all chief officer and superintendent bonuses should be suspended and the £1,200 competence-related payment should be scrapped, along with the “discredited” special priority payments of up to £5,000.

Read FactCheck: Police job cuts 'tip of the iceberg'.

Skilled police officers working unsocial shifts should be paid up to £2,000 more, but officers in the middle and back-office roles may lose up to £3,000 a year in allowances, the review recommended. It also outlined savings of up to £60m in the annual overtime budget.

Mr Winsor described the move as a necessary measure.

He said: “These recommendations will allow the police to provide a more efficient, economical and effective service to the public while providing officers and staff with a fairer deal.”

Change must take account of the impact on individual members of staff, but people will accept change if it is seen to be fair. Chief Constable Peter Fahy, ACPO

Despite coming on top of a two-year public sector pay freeze, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) welcomed the review. Chief Constable Peter Fahy told Channel 4 News: “Change must take account of the impact on individual members of staff, but people will accept change if it is seen to be fair.

“Bonuses for chief officers have been unpopular all the way through and we are pleased they are suspended,” he said.

Support from ACPO, who represent senior officers in the country, was in stark contrast to the Police Federation. They accused ministers of “bullying” officers who were powerless to launch strike action.

Federation chairman Paul McKeever said officers were feeling “very upset” at their “unfair treatment” and were exploring all options to challenge the cuts, including marches and judicial action.

“This is a major, major turning point for policing in this country,” he said, warning it could take the police back to the 1970s.
With the financial downturn and other cuts, officers are “in the middle of the perfect storm” and would take whatever action they can to curb “rock-bottom morale”, he said.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The Government is cutting too far too fast and hitting the police budget hard, ultimately it is local communities that will pay the price.”

A serving Met Police officer told Channel 4 News the measures will be difficult to implement after a culture of overtime that has grown in some departments.

It’s very, very rare that a bobby on the beat would get overtime to carry out his ordinary duties. I would be amazed. Metropolitan Police Officer

He said: “The phrase that’s often used is that policing runs on overtime. It really does. It’s very, very difficult to get a grip on it. You keep needing the money to pay staff.”

The officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said there were some who are paid extremely well out of overtime.

“They are the people who man the gates at the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and places like that, and people like Royal Protection Officers, the same can be said for CID departments, simply because they are picking up an inquiry and they have to run with it.”

But other departments, he added, will feel Winsor’s measures are yet another blow to already depleted morale.

“The bobbies on the beat – most of them struggle to get overtime. If they are working on something at the end of their shift, the expectation is that they will hand it on to someone else.

“It’s very, very rare that a bobby on the beat would get overtime to carry out his ordinary duties. I would be amazed.

“Everyone’s looking around and wondering if anyone’s going to keep their job.”

Earlier, ACPO warned that 28,000 police jobs – including 12,000 frontline officers – are in danger of being cut across the country, resulting in an 8% reduction in officer numbers. Those figures conflict with a Police Federation prediction last year that 40,000 jobs could be lost.

Currently three-quarters of the annual police budget, £11 billion, goes on pay, a figure the Winsor review believes could be significantly scaled back.

The review will be followed on Thursday by a review of public sector pensions by former Labour minister Lord Hutton, in which police could be asked to make increased contributions of hundreds of pounds a year.