28 October 2021
Yesterday’s announcement by the Chancellor that the pay freeze for the public sector has been lifted is good news, but what does it mean for policing and more importantly police officers?
Read the latest from National Vice Chair, Ché Donald.
To know what future pay awards look like, we need to understand our current pay mechanism. The Pay Review Remuneration Body (PRRB) replaced the Police Negotiating Board (PNB) in 2014. PRRB board members are selected by government and their role is to review evidence submissions provided by key policing stakeholders to make a determination on a pay award.
Before the PRRB can begin to collate the evidence submissions, they are provided with a remit letter from the government, providing details on which areas the PRRB must focus on, along with current government spending policies. If government decide to implement a pay freeze, for example, the PRRB is directed not to make a recommendation of pay uplift, as they did last year. The PRRB is restricted to only considering matters within the remit letter.
Having reviewed the evidence provided to them by policing bodies, they submit their findings to the Home Secretary, who decides whether or not to accept the recommendations. PFEW have no say in this decision making, there is no right of appeal, and the pay award or freeze is delivered regardless.
Whilst the process is described by politicians as being independent, the reality is that the government control the input, agenda and output of the process.
The PRRB, in their own report last year stated “We fully recognise the extraordinary pressures placed on the economy… However, it is disappointing that this has again affected the independence of the review body process, and our view is that we should be permitted to fully exercise our role in making recommendation on pay uplifts for the next pay round.”
Noting the previous pay freezes and below-inflation awards made in the preceding seven years and the points detailed above, PFEW made the decision (by a vote of all 43 branches) to withdraw from future pay discussions and evidence submission.
This was followed up with a letter sent to the Prime Minister, Chancellor and Home Secretary, expressing our concerns with the unfairness of the current pay process. Specifically, that it did not place due regard on the restrictions police officers face in comparison to other public sector workers who have the right to strike.
We have still not received any response from government.
The Chancellor yesterday, stated there would be “fair and affordable pay rises for public sector workers”. However, given the PRRB has not been allowed to operate in a fair and independent manner, PFEW feels political interference in determining police pay is wrong and needs to be addressed before we can see and have confidence in the independence of the pay process.
The Chancellor also announced that inflation is projected to reach 4% for 2022, last month inflation sat at 3.1%, on a pay freeze year for police, which results in a real terms pay cut.
Police pay is down 12.4% in real terms since 2010. In that period, we have suffered pay freezes and below inflation pay awards. The simple fact is that the political interference in determining police pay is wrong and needs to be addressed before we can have confidence in the pay process.
We are not alone in recognising there needs to be a fairer pay mechanism for police. The NPCC and APCC recognise the issues associated with singling out certain public sector workers above others to receive a pay award, in a year that was not like any other on record. The Supers Association have also made the decision to withdraw from the PRRB process.
Returning to the PRRB would not resolve the problems with the process, as they remain constrained by the restrictions that the remit letter will identify. In addition, regardless of the evidence submitted by external bodies, it remains unlikely that the PRRB would award a figure that would be substantial enough to start to address the real term financial losses experienced by police officers over the last seven years. This is on the premise that to do so, requires it to be significantly above the expected inflation rate.
Any award granted for 2022 would need to reflect the impact of the 2021 pay freeze and the projected inflation of 4%, a starting point would need to be at 7% to even begin to address this.
The police funding settlement for 2021 was £15.8B, yesterday the Chancellor announced a £4.2B increase to the Home Office over this parliament, meaning this would take police funding to £16.5B in 2024-2025, a growth rate of 1.9% per year on average.
A 1% consolidated pay rise for policing costs in the region of £100M, a 5% increase would therefore be in the region of £0.5B, so you do not need a degree in economics to understand that the numbers do not add up to a sustainable and fair pay rise for police through this parliament. Additionally, this funding will rely upon PCCs raising their precepts by £10 per household.
We are often told the responsibility for not awarding police pay lies elsewhere within the government, however, collective responsibility for the unfairness in police pay rests with this entire government and must be taken seriously given the ever-changing and incredibly challenging role officers undertake.
As I have repeatedly said, the pay mechanism is broken, all the cards are held by government. PFEW is being hampered in its ability to adequately represent our members and to put it bluntly, it’s time to change the rules.
We expect government to recognise that police officers put themselves in harm’s way day in day out, have restrictions placed on their lives and as such, it is only right that they have a fair and independent process, to consider their pay, free of political interference.
If government will not commit to make these changes, then we will seek the necessary changes through all possible avenues and that work has already begun.