90 days from today is Sun, 10 March 2024
27 June 2023
The Government’s murmurings to the media in the run-up to the annual police pay award suggests that there are brutal times ahead for police officers. The Government seems to be setting the stage to make an example out of officers by asking them to take ‘one for the team’ as part of a desperate counter-inflation move.
There is little doubt that, for decades police officers in England and Wales have been the poor relation of the emergency services for successive governments. More recently, it was in 2021 when the Government subjected police officers to a pay freeze making them the only group of emergency service workers to not receive a pay rise. This is at the same time as requiring police officers to enforce government-imposed restrictions on members of the public while they are also facing increasing levels of assaults.
According to the latest data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), core inflation (CPI), which excludes energy and food prices, rose by 6.8 per cent in the 12 months to April 2023, up from 6.2 per cent in March this year and making it the highest rate since March 1992. Whereas core CPIH, which is CPI including owner occupiers’ housing costs, excluding energy and food prices, increased from 6.2 per cent in April 2023 to 6.5 per cent in May this year, making it the highest rate since November 1991, when it was also 6.5 per cent.
Now, from the latest government-source-based media reports it transpires that pay review bodies have recommended a pay rise of 6.5 per cent for teachers and 6 per cent or more for police officers, prison officers and junior doctors. However, those sources are also saying that the Government is gearing up to overrule those recommendations, this time for fiscal reasons.
Ironically, the Government has been appealing to the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) to re-join the police pay negotiation process after it withdrew following the 2021 pay freeze. The PFEW’s decision to withdraw from the PRRB was taken in-part in response to the lack of independence the PRRB is afforded. The Government continues to set the remit of the PRRB’s parameters and has final say over its recommendations with no obligation to accept or reject its findings.
How can police officers trust the independence of the PRRB in such circumstances and when the government has shown time and time again, its willingness to overrule the PRRB’s findings and recommendations?
The suggestion of a derisory 6 per cent in the current climate, when independent research has shown that officers have suffered an almost 20 per cent pay cut over the last decade, is jarring.
Police officers are frustrated at the Government’s failure in recognising their contribution to society and unique position in our communities. At our June National Council meeting, the PFEW voted to ballot members on whether the organisation should pursue industrial rights on their behalf.
Of course, such discussions are not easy, but our members are running out of patience.
In March this year, independent research by a non-partisan organisation, Social Market Foundation (SMF), found that real terms police pay has fallen almost 20 per cent behind inflation between 2000 and 2022. This makes the police an outlier among protective services workers, public sector workers, and all other workers, with the report showing that these groups enjoyed real term pay rises over this period of 1 per cent, 14 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively. Also, and over the same period, MPs salaries rose from £48,371 to £84,144.
In a rare gesture, earlier this year, police chiefs and police superintendent ranks have also submitted evidence asking the Government to ensure this year’s police pay award takes account of soaring inflation. It is hard to think what more needs to happen to sway the Government when almost every policing organisation in the country is despatching alerts that poor pay will have a catastrophic effect on society.
The Government must realise that by ignoring police officers, it is ignoring the safety of members of the public. Police officers also have bills and rent to pay. The Government cannot maintain the view that officers will somehow continue to manage putting their lives at risk everyday when they cannot afford to live. To mirror the words of the Government, police officer pay must be “fair”, at the moment it is far from that.
The thin blue line is at breaking point and the decision at the National Council meeting in June should demonstrate that there no more to take here. Give officers the 17 per cent they deserve to bring their pay back in line with other public sector workers and compensate them for the dangers they face and the risks they take whenever they go to work to protect the public.