25 May 2023
Chair Tony Wetton looks back on an incredibly challenging 2022 for Derbyshire Police Federation and its members...
It already seems hard to remember, but we entered 2022 still coping with the effects of the Covid pandemic with Omicron still rife. While the country’s lockdown rules gradually eased and we all started to move on with our lives, so many of our members continued to bravely put their health, as well as that of their loved ones at risk while protecting the public through their dedicated service on the frontline.
As a Federation, we continue to identify issues affecting our members and raise them with the Chief Constable and her team of chief officers, as well as with senior leaders, middle managers and line managers. We meet regularly with the chief officers and the many departments around the Force and have built a very positive and constructive relationships with them.
It was disappointing but not surprising to read that police officer morale within Derbyshire continues to be worse than the national average. According to a national survey carried out by the Police Federation at the end of 2022, out of 804 Federation members who responded, 63 per cent felt their personal morale was low or very low. And while this figure was a slight improvement from 2021, the same could not be said for those who felt morale was low across the Force, which was up five per cent, to 92 per cent.
The results of the Force survey of Derbyshire officers and staff were also very disappointing, albeit not totally unexpected. They broadly mirror the results of the PFEW survey and show a disappointing lack of improvement from last year. We continue to work with the Force to deal with the issues impacting negatively on morale, particularly around reducing the high workloads and demands some of our members face here in Derbyshire, something that is clearly having a huge impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
Am I shocked by the results? No. Alongside the accumulating pressure and demand mounting on our members, we spent 2022 once again having to call out the Government for fair pay. A small snippet of good news came mid-2022 when it was announced that all police officers would be getting a pay award of a flat £1,900 from September. An announcement which, of course, was not welcomed by all of our members, especially those long-serving or in higher ranks. But as a Federation, I suppose we saw it as the Government finally beginning to acknowledge our constant calls for fair pay, perhaps. We shall see.
Of course, 2022 saw the country experience the ongoing cost of living crisis, with inflation at a high in October, at 11.1 per cent the most it has been in more than 40 years. It goes without saying that with inflation constantly pushing up the cost of living, without a corresponding increase in police salaries, 2022 was an extremely tough financial year for many of our members. We have since called for a 2023 pay award to be given that reflects the rate of inflation and begins to reverse the erosion of police pay over two decades. As a Federation, we feel this is only fair and that Government should do the right thing by hardworking and dedicated police officers.
Furthermore, on the back of our deep frustrations surrounding pay, the Federation demanded that the supposedly independent Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) was no longer influenced by Government when it sets pay awards. The current system clearly does not work and is not fair for police officers, and we continue to insist that Government at least respect the PRRB’s independence. We want to see a return to proper negotiation when it comes to pay and conditions, with recourse to binding independent arbitration when we cannot reach agreement. And we want to see this Government, namely the Treasury and the Home Office, respect the unique position of police officers who have no access to industrial rights are banned from taking the strike action we have seen used so effectively by other sectors.
After frustratingly reading that Derbyshire was just shy (12 officers) of the Year 2 target (at the end of March 2022) set as a part of the Uplift Programme to raise officer numbers, it was great to see us exceed the year 3 target of 2110 officers months earlier than originally planned. The Force were recently able to announce that we had recruited 337 extra officers compared to March 2020, with a total of 598 new officers joining in that time. This has obviously presented (and continues to present) significant challenges but we warmly welcome our new colleagues and we look to support them.
It is obviously a relief to know that the officer numbers lost during the austerity cuts have been replaced, but the onus now has to be on retaining them and their experienced colleagues. It will take time for those new officers to learn the job and build experience, and we know that recovering from those years of unsustainable pressure and demand will be difficult and will take time.
We continued to drive home the need to focus on creating a more attractive package for officers and welcomed the news that the non-degree route into the Force would be retained.
We watch with interest as the future of recruitment into policing is developed nationally and we support the common sense notion of recruiting the right people, in the right numbers, at the right time and giving them the excellent training and resources they need to equip them for a career serving and protecting all communities.
Part 2 to follow next week...