The Government has recognised what it refers to as “the extraordinary efforts” of the police service over the past year and, in light of independent recommendations made by the Police Remuneration Review Body in addition to the Senior Salaries Review Body, has determined to award police officers a pay increase worth a total of 2% extra for each officer in 2017 to 2018.
The increase is to consist of a 1% rise in base pay for all ranks, an additional one-off, non-consolidated payment to officers at federated and superintending ranks, a 1% increase to the London Weighting payment and a 1% increase to the Dog Handlers’ Allowance.
Speaking about the announcement, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “The tireless work and contribution of police officers in responding to some of the most challenging situations our country has faced for a very long time has been extraordinary. This pay award strikes a fair balance for police forces, officers and taxpayers. We want to reward and attract the very best police officers within the resources we have, while at the same time making the right decisions for the economy overall.”
The Government believes this pay award to be affordable within the current police funding settlement. The independent pay review body and the police’s independent inspectorate have both highlighted the potential for further efficiencies in the police. Forces have increased their reserves from £1.4 billion in 2011 to £1.8 billion in 2016, while police spending has been protected in real terms since 2015.
Policing remains a very attractive career. Application rates for police officer roles are high. For example, this summer, more than 1,500 individuals applied for 300 police officer jobs on Humberside.
Officers benefit from a competitive pay and benefits package. The starting salary is between £19,971 (no qualifications) and £23,124 for constables, rising to £38,382 within seven years of joining. Officers who have not reached the top of their pay scale receive annual incremental pay of at least 2% in addition to any annual pay awards depending on rank, experience and securing a satisfactory performance grading.
They’re entitled to membership of a defined benefit pension scheme, which is widely viewed as being among the best available in the public or private sectors. Members benefit from employer contributions of 21.3% of their pay towards their pensions on top of their own contribution.
All contributing members are able to take their pension by age 60, with the majority able to take a pension sooner.
Government’s pay rise figures branded “a joke” by Police Federation
The Government stating that police officers have received a 32% pay rise since 2010 has been branded “a joke” – and “a downright lie” when it comes to the majority of officers – by the Police Federation’s vice-chairman Calum Macleod.
“It shows the Government has lost touch with reality and is clueless as to the demands and dangers officers have to face on a daily basis to keep communities safe,” urged Macleod. “Officers are struggling to keep their heads above water. All we’re asking for is fair recognition.”
Macleod continued: “When comparing total pay in 2015-2016 to what it was in 2009-2010, it has increased in nominal terms by +2%, but decreased by -16% in real terms. This cannot be right. We expect police officers to run towards danger every day to protect the public. However, the Government refuses to give them the money they deserve. This issue has to be addressed and the Government must be held to account. How can the Government abide by the independent pay bodies which recommended an 11% pay rise for MPs, but fail to abide by ours which recommended a 2% consolidated rise? This smacks of double standards.”
The Police Federation understands the Government’s 32% figure to be based on a new police officer who started in 2010 with a starting salary of approximately £23,000 and who today – through annual pay progression – would earn approximately £35,000 per annum. That figure doesn’t apply to the majority of officers. More than 50% of officers are at top of scale and, as such, don’t benefit from progression payments.
Such a new starter in 2010 would represent less than 4% of all officers.
The PNB Census of Earnings, Hours and Length of Service shows that, from April 2010 to March 2011, there were 2,063 officers with zero years’ service (ie new officers). The Police Federation’s figures* (see below) refer to averages and total pay (taken from Home Office earnings data) and take account of the fact that more than 50% of officers are at top of scale and thus don’t benefit from progression payments.
The 1% consolidated pay increase amounts to the following for an average officer, taking off average pension and National Insurance contributions etc
*Actual real term figures
Average basic salary for all Federation ranks: £517 extra in take home pay, yearly (less than £10 a week)
Average total pay for all Federation ranks (including overtime, etc): £588 extra in take home pay, yearly
Average basic salary for Constables: £491 extra in take home pay, yearly
Average total pay for Constables: £562 extra take home pay, yearly
View of the National Police Chiefs’ Council
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Lead for Pay and Conditions, Chief Constable Francis Habgood, commented: “Police officers work hard to protect the public and make an important contribution to our society. Chief constables support the decision to reward officers above the 1% limit. This is deserved and recognises the additional costs of living and inflation.”
Habgood went on to state: “For the first time, police officers will see their pay boosted by a non-consolidated pay award. We will work with forces to explain what this means for officers. The opportunity to target bonus payments more flexibly will help us to recruit and retain key hard-to-fill roles like detectives, firearms officers and custody officers. We’re also working with the College of Policing and staff associations to design a new reward framework that will link pay to competence, skills and contribution such that officers and staff are rewarded fairly for the diligent work that they do. All officers and staff will have access to professional development so that they have the opportunity to continuously improve and build new skills over the course of their careers.”
According to Habgood, police officer pay (on average) makes up over 50% of total force budgets, which have had real terms cuts of 18% since 2010. Police chiefs have budgeted in line with the public sector pay cap until 2020, so this change puts financial pressure on already stretched budgets.
“Chiefs and Police and Crime Commissioners are committed to spending the money we have with absolute efficiency at both the local and national level,” explained Habgood. “However, without better real terms funding protection from Government, an award above 1% will inevitably impact our ability to deliver policing services and maintain staffing levels.”
On the point of police reserves, Habgood observed: “Forces have reduced their reserves by around 30% since 2015 and those reserves are projected to fall by another 30% come 2019. Reserves are needed to respond to unexpected costs, such as the uplift in policing to respond to the raised terror threat level in May, and also fund change programmes designed to improve our services.”