28 July 2022
Since the announcement of the Government’s pay award just over a week ago, there have been mixed reactions across our membership, and rightly so. We share the anger and frustration of those officers who feel undervalued, disheartened and let down by the award and by the Government.
The award of a flat increase of £1,900 across all ranks is simply insufficient to cover the prevailing cost-of-living crisis – triggered by the 40-year high rate of inflation, which continues to rise – and the amount ultimately fails to address the real-terms pay cut that police officers have been facing for over a decade.
The latest PFEW Pay and Morale Survey results highlighted that 99 per cent of officers strongly agreed police deserved a pay rise in line with inflation. The reality is that 99 per cent probably won’t see any benefit from this pay award at all.
Most officers will receive far below 5 per cent, leaving them worse off financially than they were last year with a 0 per cent increase due to the current crisis. Even for those officers who will receive the top end of the pay award, it will still not be enough to cover the increases in household bills, fuel and groceries. How can we expect our police officers to be able to do their jobs effectively if they are unable to afford to look after their own basic needs?
I am pleased that the starting pay for new joiners on the PCDA route has increased, and this is reassuring for those new joiners, but for everyone else from PC to Chief Inspector, the settlement has fallen far short of what these officers need. Higher rank, experienced officers who are also dealing with the soaring inflation figures, have seen an increase wildly out of touch with the cost-of-living crisis which feels like another insult from the Government.
Across England and Wales, the feeling is that this award is divisive and devalues those officers longer in service. The divide promotes a lack of incentive for promotion and whilst it is right that new recruits should be paid more than they currently are, this should not be to the detriment of other officers which is what the award has achieved.
At any other time, this pay award would be lauded as a success. But set against a backdrop of a 20 per cent lack of a real terms pay rise over the last 12 years, a 0 per cent pay freeze when other emergency services saw an increase and the current financial crisis in the UK, it is just not enough.
Even more concerning is the estimation that as of October 2022, this figure of a real terms pay cut will reach an estimated 28.7 per cent for those PCs at the bottom of their pay scale.
Many outside of policing will say that in comparison to other pay awards, this is a good number and that we should be content, but that doesn’t take into account the huge real-terms pay cuts officers have faced. Neither does it take into account that officers cannot strike.
As the Right Honourable Lord Edmund-Davies PC said in 1978: “The police cannot properly be compared to any other single group of workers.” We hold a unique role in society and the nature of the work that we do makes it impossible for us to be measured against any other group of public sector workers. Of course, we want all workers to get the pay rise they deserve, but we as police officers are asked to put our lives in danger daily to protect our communities. It’s imperative that this is reflected in an ongoing way, namely through a fair pay award, that is worthy of this commitment.
The award poses a further impending risk on attrition rates, which have been rising since 2010. The terrible violence that took place in London last weekend, with three horrific incidents in a matter of hours, shows more than ever that we need more police on our streets. And yet, many forces are already seeing experienced and talented officers leaving for other jobs – the divisive targeted pay structure is likely to be a catalyst for an increase in those numbers.
Given that there is no mechanism to reject or contest the Government’s pay reward based on the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) recommendations, a continued part of our pay campaign will be to appeal for the PRRB to be a fully independent body, empowered to make decisions in the interest of police officers. The remit set by the government impedes this process and makes any outcome unfair for officers.
The Government still has a long way to go to demonstrate they’re treating officers with the dignity and respect they deserve and ultimately, the continuation of the real-terms pay cut remains.
Work has started this week to decide how we will engage, if at all, with the pay mechanism going forward. Our National Board, National Council and all of our Federation reps have worked, and continue to work, incredibly hard to take our members' views to Government, to MPs, to stakeholders and more. There is an incredible amount of work going on in the background to support our members and we will continue to fight for fairness on their behalf as the undisputed voice of policing.
Our campaign demanding fair pay for all police officers of England and Wales will continue until we achieve nothing less than:
1. A complete redresses of the real-term pay cut suffered by police officers since 2010.
2. An alignment of police officers’ pay with cost-of-living increases.
3. A fair pay system that takes account the x/p-factor for police officers, the restrictions on their lives and the danger and unique challenges they face as part of the job.
Ultimately, we want all officers to be treated fairly, to receive a proportionate pay increase and this will be our aim moving forward. We will not stop until police officers receive what they are due. Policing in our country is in huge crisis and the Government must step up.