11 January 2023
A shocking 87% of Gloucestershire Police officers feel worse off financially than they were five years ago, new research has found.
16% of officers never or almost never have enough money to cover all their essentials, and eight in ten (81%) are dissatisfied with their overall remuneration, according to the latest Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) Pay and Morale Survey.
97% of respondents from Gloucestershire Constabulary reported that their cost of living had increased in the last month, with an increase in the price of their food shop/fuel being the most cited reason.
Last year police officers across England and Wales were given an average of a 5% pay rise – but this was way below inflation booming now at more than 10%. Household bills are rising sharply and over the past 12 years police officer pay has fallen in real terms by 25%.
Mood and wellbeing are suffering too, the research has found. 95% of officers said morale within the force is currently ‘low’ or ‘very low’ with 19% saying they intend to resign from the police service either ‘within the next two years’ or ‘as soon as [they] can’.
A huge 94% said that they do not feel respected by the government, with two thirds saying they would not recommend joining the police to others.
Officers are also under attack from the public; 21% had suffered one or more injuries that required medical attention as a result of work-related violence in the last year.
More than half said their job was ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ stressful, and 81% said they had experienced feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety, or other difficulties with their health and wellbeing over the last 12 months.
Steve James, Chair of Gloucestershire Police Federation, said: “The PFEW 2022 Pay and Morale Survey results have been published today, and they paint a bleak picture of the morale and wellbeing of police officers across the country. Nationally, more than half of police officers report that their personal morale is low or very low, and in Gloucestershire that figure is almost 60%.
“Whilst there are undoubtedly local factors that contribute to the morale of officers, the results of this year’s survey clearly show that much of the root cause of low officer morale is how policing and police officers have been treated by this current Government. It was only this summer that our force supplied food vouchers to many of our officers and staff to help with the cost-of-living crisis, and I fear we have not seen the worst of that yet.
“Officers received a flat-rate pay award last year that for many left their wages 25% down, in real terms, over the last decade. This at a time when officers are seeing rises in their fuel bills alone of as much as 400%, can put officers in impossible financial situations. 16% of our officers now report never having enough money to cover their essential outgoings, and 87% state they worse off than they were five years ago.
“At the same time that our pay has been cut, demand on policing has never been higher. As a range of other public services crumble under the results of a decade of austerity and under-investment it has often been the police service, although under the same pressures, who have stepped in to pick up the pieces.
“This rising tide of demand has caused difficulty across policing, reflected in some difficult HMICFRS PEEL inspections, as forces struggle to recalibrate their limited resources to manage new, increasing, and increasingly complex demand. All of this takes its toll on officers.
“Almost 80% now state that their workload is too high, 38% are pressured to work long hours, and more than half are never able to take their due breaks. Worryingly, this overwork in part has led to 81% officers reporting that they have struggled with stress, anxiety or depression in the last year. It is no overstatement to say that the state of policing is breaking police officers.
“It also means that officers all too frequently are not able to do the job that so many joined to do, tackling crime. Already this year we are seeing requests to police forces to help drive ambulances, due to the demand on the NHS, and to provide excess prison cell capacity in police custody suites, as the Prison Service struggles with its own demand.
“The Government will claim that the increase of 20,000 officers under Operation Uplift will help to address these issues. It’s important to note, as always, that that increase will still leave police officer numbers below where they were when this Government took power. Recruitment however is largely ineffectual if it is not matched by retention.
“The pressures on pay and working conditions now means that as many as 19% of officers are now actively considering leaving the service in the near future. Most cite pay, morale, their health and wellbeing, and their treatment by the government as the primary reasons for wanting to leave.
“Of those who stay, almost half report being verbally threatened or insulted and 14% report been physically assaulted, at least once a week last year. A fifth of officers report being injured due to work-related violence in the last year.
“Police officers have had their pay slashed, their workload increased, are frequently abused and attacked, and are unable to do the job the joined for. 72% feel they are not respected by the public and 94% feel, understandably, that they are not respected by the Government. As a result 97% do not feel fairly paid for the stress and value of their work, 75% of officers would not recommend joining the police to others and a fifth intend to leave within two years. These are the responses of a police service reaching breaking point
“In recent weeks we have seen the possibility of the Government introducing legislation to further restrict the industrial rights of public sector workers, notably the NHS. Police officers have had those restrictions for decades - we cannot strike – and are at the mercy of non-independent pay review bodies. We know what the restriction of industrial rights leads to, and it is lower pay and worsening working conditions.
“Across the public sector we see many of these same issues are playing out, especially with regard to pay and working conditions. Were it not for the restrictions placed on the industrial rights of police officers I have no doubt that the discontent of my members is such that they too would be looking at the options open to them to protest the situation in which they now find themselves.”