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Government urged to rethink pay freeze for police officers

·5 min read

Ministers should perform a “U-turn” over a pay freeze for police officers left angry and frustrated by their treatment from Government, the chairman of the Police Federation has said.

John Apter, accompanied by Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, handed an open letter to Downing Street on Tuesday detailing his organisation’s demands over pay and how its members felt “that they are taken for granted”.

The delivery of the letter at the door of Number 10 comes after the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents more than 130,000 officers from the rank of constable to chief inspector, passed a motion of no confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel last week in a row over pay.

Officers who earn more than £24,000 are subject to a pay freeze this year, compared with NHS staff who will receive 3%, and firefighters and local government workers who will receive 1.5%.

As a result the federation has walked away from the Police Remuneration Review Body, which was set up to advise the Government on pay.

The damning open letter said that for many the pay freeze was the “final straw” after challenges of policing through the Covid-19 pandemic.

It hit out at the “endlessly changing and confusing Covid legislation”, the Government’s “mixed messaging” and a “failure” to take seriously requests that officers should be given early priority for vaccination.

“Police officers are sick of gimmicks.

“Sick of underfunding.

“Sick of mixed messaging putting police at risk.

“Sick of government contempt for police.

“It’s time for a total reset of police government relations,” the letter said.

Chairman of the Police Federation John Apter (left) and Ken Marsh, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation deliver a letter to 10 Downing Street, London (Victoria Jones/PA)
Chairman of the Police Federation John Apter (left) and Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation deliver a letter to 10 Downing Street, London (Victoria Jones/PA)

On Whitehall Mr Apter and Mr Marsh posed in front of a vehicle carrying a large banner displaying a photo of Ms Patel and the messages: “No Covid vaccine. No police pay rise. No confidence in Priti Patel. Police officers have given everything. Yet you’ve given us nothing. #FairPayForPolice.”

A Home Office source later described the billboard as a “cheap political stunt” and a “deeply unpleasant, nasty and personal attack” on Ms Patel.

Speaking earlier to the media in Downing Street, Mr Apter said the letter spelled out three asks of ministers, the first of which was for officers to be treated “with respect”.

He added: “The second point was our pay mechanism. It’s not fit for purpose.

“It’s not truly independent and we need to have confidence in it, because at the moment we don’t.

“So we’re asking the Government to work with us to have a better system in place where everybody can have confidence.

“And finally, we asked for the pay decision, the 0% increase, to be reviewed urgently, with a view to do a U-turn on that and actually give officers what they deserve.”

Mr Apter said that officers needed “more than warm words” from the Government, and warned that policing was “under pressure like it’s never been before”.

He said seeing other public sector organisations being recognised over pay was “a bitter pill to swallow”.

Mr Apter said his organisation had witnessed “an avalanche of anger and frustration” from officers, with some experiencing financial and mental health pressures.

The Government has defended the decision not to offer an across-the-board pay rise to police officers because of economic “difficulties” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Chairman of the Police Federation John Apter (left) and Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation speak to the media after delivering a letter (Victoria Jones/PA)
Chairman of the Police Federation John Apter (left) and Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation speak to the media after delivering a letter (Victoria Jones/PA)

Policing minister Kit Malthouse pledged that the Government would do “other things” to make police officers feel “valued and supported”.

But Mr Apter said: “Warm words don’t pay the mortgage.

“We’ve got officers who are going to food banks… officers who are having to go to charities for help to pay their bills, that is just not acceptable.

“So we’re in a position now where the Government really needs to do what’s right for police officers, especially around pay.

“And this isn’t about us saying police officers want a five, 10, whatever, per cent pay increase, it’s about just treat them fairly.

“Why should firefighters and local government workers and colleagues from the NHS, as right and proper as that is, get a pay rise but our colleagues don’t?

“Despite what is expected of them and despite the dangers they face, the vilification they face, being coughed at, stabbed, spat at… during this pandemic police officers have absolutely stood up.

“We talk about we protect the public, but who protects and supports our colleagues?

“That’s what we need from this Government, more than warm words.”

Asked about the current feelings among officers, Mr Marsh said: “There’s a lot of anger, they’re demoralised.

“They feel let down.

“We’ve got to the point… that they want something done.”

He added: “They’ve come to us en masse, online, emails, tweets, they’ve had enough.

“When this final pay condition came out and the Home Secretary read it out last week, that was it.

“That was kind of the balloon went up.

“We can’t keep going on like this… this is the beginning of a campaign where we should be getting across to the public how poorly we’re treated.

“We’re not asking for anything over and above.

“We’re asking for fairness and it appears this Government aren’t listening to us because they feel they don’t have to.”

A Home Office spokesperson said Ms Patel had “demonstrated her commitment time and time again to supporting the brave police officers who keep us safe, giving them the resources and powers they need to fight crime and protect the public”.

They added: “We are recruiting 20,000 extra officers, 8,771 already in place, increased taxpayer funding for policing by up to £600 million and gave forces £200 million to meet unforeseen costs of the pandemic. This is in addition to enhancing protection of the police, increasing sentencing for assaulting officers and investment in equipment.

“The economy has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, with pressures on public finances, and we must protect jobs and ensure fairness.”

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