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Hampshire Police Federation

#PayOurPolice: Hampshire Police officer struggling to afford the cost of living as she consider leaving police pension to make ends meet

13 May 2022

A Hampshire Police officer has told how she is struggling to afford the cost of living on her wage - and is considering coming out of the police pension to help make ends meet.
PC Caroline Windridge, 29, had a previous career in the Army before doing a degree and working in private security. She’s in the second year of her three year apprenticeship with Hampshire Police and currently earns just under £26,000 a year. 
She said: “I know a lot of officers from my intake who have withdrawn from the police pension so they can afford to live, and I’ve considered doing the same, as sometimes it seems like the only viable option with the ever-increasing cost of living.” 
Caroline’s housing and energy bills take up a large chunk of her pay and she recently had to sell her car.
She continued: “Rent in Hampshire is through the roof and it eats up over half my pay, and that’s sharing with a colleague. My rent is £600 for my share and I don’t even know how much my bills are going to be now that energy costs are going up. 
“When my relationship ended last year, I wanted to be able to rent a one-bedroom flat, which I don’t think is unreasonable for someone in the policing profession. But one-bedroom flats in Portsmouth are over £850 a month. How am I meant to pay that and all my bills on my wage? How would I be able to eat and live?”
Caroline said she had previously lived in house shares with larger groups, but that it was “constantly stressful” as she was surrounded by people being anti-social while she was trying to sleep in the day after a night shifts. She managed to save a good deposit to buy a property, but is unable to get a mortgage as her salary isn’t high enough.
She said: “My wage doesn’t allow me to get a mortgage bigger than £132,000 and that won’t buy anything in this area. I don’t have family to rely on, and the extra £1,100 a year South East allowance doesn’t touch the sides.”
Career-changers like her were likely to be put off from joining the police, Caroline added, as it was likely to be a significant drop in salary, so the police service would lose out on talented and experienced candidates.
She said: “The private sector does pay more, but I joined the police because I want to make a difference and be proud to wear a uniform and help people who actually need it. I didn’t join this job to get rich, but it is a difficult job and I should be able to afford to go on holiday or live on my own, but I can’t.”
Zoe Wakefield, Chair of Hampshire Police Federation, said: “The Federation are constantly looking at ways we can support our student officers which includes ongoing discussions with the force, Chief Constable and PCC around increasing the South East Allowance and looking at other options for affordable housing. 
“Fortunately the Chief and PCC are both very understanding of the issues and keen to work with us to find solutions. The starting salary is the main issue though and that requires changes at a Government level. 
“When I started in 1994, I was earning just under £14,000. If you put that into an inflation calculator, it comes out around £30,000 which - thousands of pounds difference to the starting salary for student officers in 2022. Those who want to be police officers and make a difference should not be deterred from doing so because they cannot afford to live.”