Article submitted by Gloucestershire Police Federation to Gloucester Media for Publication
We have seen over the last 6 months, this Government’s plans to deal with the financial mess this country is now experiencing. Their plan has already delivered a great deal of pain to our communities both locally and Nationally. This is only the beginning, they are looking to bring up to a 20% cut to our Public Services, which many reading this will know we already pay a heavy price for!
We in this country have always been proud of the service our public facing bodies such our nurses, fire fighters, ambulance workers, teachers and many, many more. They do jobs that a lot would not, often in circumstance that are dangerous, difficult and arduous, for that I am sure all the public are grateful for their efforts, all except our current Government.
One group of such people in Gloucestershire, that I have not mentioned are those that I, and my colleagues in the Police Federation represent, over a thousand Police Officers. These Police Officers perform a wide variety of crime fighting functions that help protect the public from unnecessary evil. They are the men and women that can be seen patrolling the streets, regardless of weather, day or night! These Police Officers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
They are the ones who will get assaulted, abused, injured, suffer cancellation of well needed rest days, last minute changes of duties and often forced to work overtime to ensure that the Constabulary can provide a policing presence and continue to provide the service you deserve. These officers will not be able to enjoy special days and family events, because we have to work when we are told to, even when on a Rest Day or Annual Leave. They do it because as the Home Secretary said before putting the knife into the Police Service nationally, they have a “can do attitude” and a great deal of pride in stopping and deterring criminals from blighting the lives of the law abiding, and in assisting others as was seen last week, with Gloucestershire Police Officers being nominated for the National Police Bravery Awards. Your Police Officers are often the ones running towards a problem, when everyone else is running away, and as was the case with those nominated, are often the ones putting themselves in danger, to ensure the safety of others, regardless of personal danger! That is what we join the service to do – Make a difference.
84% of the public are happy with the current service provided by the Police, and do not see the Police as “solely fighting crime”; a sharp contradiction to the Tory Policing Policy. 86% of the public fear the cuts will affect service delivery, which will undoubtedly become a reality with the 20% cuts demanded by the Government. Whilst Police Officers will always strive to continue with the high level of service, the proposed cuts will have a drastic effect. This coupled with the proposed changes to Pay and Conditions of service and Pensions will severely affect Police morale, and undoubtedly have a knock on effect to the service provided. All we ask is that those have can make changes or influence those changes, understand what we do and to treat us fairly.
Unlike many other workers in the Public sector, who are the ones at the moment feeling the full extent of Government cuts, not just to the service they provide, but to their pay and pensions, Police Officers cannot take any form of Industrial action. Instead the Government, will undoubtedly look toward the Police, to not only Police those demonstrations, for which they will then severely criticise them, instead of defend actions, they will also expect the Police to fulfil many of the roles done by other Public Service bodies, as has been the case, so many times before, all at a time when they are being publicly kicked in the teeth! There is only so much pain a person can take before they have to walk away from the job, that to them, has been a vocation.
When we feel that we are being treated unfairly, we voice our opinion, but have to look to the Politicians Nationally in Government and locally to the Police Authority to ensure that we are treated fairly, both for what we do and importantly, to respect what we cannot do. We have not heard anything from either body that indicates we will be treated fairly.
There is no other worker who does what we do, when we do it and where we do it, there is no other worker who has the limitations imposed on them, on and off duty, that affect their families and themselves. There is no other worker who carries the risks, responsibilities and observation as we do. If we get things wrong or tell someone something they don’t like we risk, complaint, censure, the sack and in extreme cases imprisonment. But we still do the job we love because we can make a difference to our communities. We knew when we joined and took our oath of allegiance that our lives would be different, that the standards we set ourselves are far higher than what others would set, but we did so believing that we would be supported and treated fairly by the Government.
Having seen the recommendations from both the review into our pension, pay and conditions of service, we now know Mrs May is never going to treat us fairly. Instead they have made it obvious that because of our can do attitude, and loyalty to the public, and inability to strike, they are going to abuse us. The proposals could mean an effective pay cut of between 10% and 20% over the next few years for Police Officers, and like all other public sector pensions, we will have to work longer, pay more and get less back, when do eventually retire. The prospect of 60yr old Police Officers policing the Friday and Saturday night time economy around the County is not a thought many would welcome, I am sure. If Mrs May and the Government get their way, this is exactly what you will get!
We do not feel that we have in the past, or today, been treated fairly, either by those bodies and groups who make decision, or those who have influence with, and inform those decision makers, and who are often those that manage the Police. We feel that because we cannot take Industrial action, this is seen as a weakness and an opportunity to exploit us. This is seen most obviously in the National media, where the political agenda to enable change in the Police Service, has been given validity by a long campaign of feeding the public misinformation in order to devalue public confidence in the Police Service, as seen lately with what we receive in pay and rewards. A recent example is where the public are told that we receive as a service, millions of pounds a year in “bonus’s” and “perks” , which were actually nothing more than what the then Government of the day, brought in as an alternative to a wage
increase , decided by an Independent Tribunal, The fact that only 40% of Officers could receive it, and was cheaper than the wage increase, was of course incidental. We did not want it and said so at the time, what sort of “perk” would mean that 60% of Officers would lose money.
Whilst we have confidence that our new Chief Constable will, treat us fairly during this period, he is also trying to save £18 million here in Gloucestershire, which will mean having to cut Police Officer numbers, reduce what we do, and deal with a workforce that is feeling that it is not being treated fairly by the Governments politicians and those locally in our Police Authority. The Association of Police Authorities made a submission to the review into our pay and conditions, supported by our Police Authority, which went to great lengths to explain that they did not consider being fair to Police Officers was to be factor in their submission.
Our Chief is currently re structuring Gloucestershire Police, to not only be able to deliver the required savings demanded by Government, but to ensure that the savings imposed, will not affect the standard of policing. This will involve, we were told, 1,100 moves of station or role for our members, reductions in Police Officers, to the extent that we are now almost at the bad old days of the 1970’s, in relation to Officer numbers per 100.000 of the population, but will be a Police Force that is able to put more Police Officers on the streets of our towns and city. Whilst we have to ask what impact this will have on the conditions of service for our members, we have full confidence in the Chief Constable, he does have a thankless and difficult task.
We cannot say the same for the leaders of ACPO, the Government, or our own Police Authority to treat us fairly or with respect, due to their submissions to the pay and condition review. I am sure that politicians, especially those who are currently sitting on small majorities, would love to be able to say that they enjoy an 84% of the public are happy with what they are doing.
Interestingly not one politician, local or National representative has asked us what our view is, or to better understand the needs and problems we as a service face in trying to deliver policing at this time. We can only conclude that they do not care or are interested and would rather follow the Governments “spin”.
The Police Federation is not resistant to change, reform or modernisation, but any change, does have to take into account what the public wants, and to be coordinated. This continual meddling and piecemeal approach, is only helping the Government, and not the Public or the Police. We have for many years been a lonely voice, calling for a Royal Commission, to undertake such a task, independent of political agendas and motivations, taking into account public views and undertaken in a joined up approach with partners to deliver what we all want, prevent crime and disorder, preserve the peace and bring offenders to justice, and pay and conditions that is both fair and appropriate.
In summary, we do not trust local or national politicians and those other organisations who in their submissions to the review, revealed their wish list, in which Police Officers are not people, but mere chattels to use and abuse, which will do nothing to help us keep the people of Gloucestershire safe and a service to be proud of that is both motivated and focused.