I want to thank you all for attending today’s open meeting.
I also want to thank every Joint Branch Board for the role they have played in preparing for this meeting.
We are here because of the unprecedented attack on police officers’ terms and conditions of service that has been launched by a number of supposedly “independent” reviews being conducted in quick time by this government.
We have the former rail regulator Tom Winsor looking at the pay and conditions of police officers and police staff; we have the former Head of the National Police Improvement Agency proposing the introduction of a so called “professional body” to change the way we recruit and promote leaders in the Service, and like everyone else in the public sector we have Lord Hutton proposing changes to our pensions.
No one is considering the cumulative effect of these reviews on the Police Service and the public we serve, which together with the introduction of Policing and Crime Commissioners have the potential to change policing forever.
Sir Hugh Orde and I have not always seen eye to eye, but as he said last week at the ACPO conference
‘It may now appear sensible to give serious consideration to reviewing and taking stock on just how many loose ends, some of them critical to policing, remain before deciding on whether the overarching plan is achievable within the current timescales’.
So why are we rushing headlong into this?
Winsor delivered the first part of his review of police pay and conditions of service on 8 March.
The Home Secretary referred the Winsor report in its entirety to the Police Negotiating Board and expects us to negotiate and agree on his recommendations before the second part of his review is published in January next year.
She has set a deadline of 26 July for the Police Negotiating Board to consider and reach agreements on Winsor’s recommendations.
Anyone with any knowledge of the PNB will understand that this is a challenging timescale for such a significant change to our pay and conditions.
We have now met with the Official Side on eight separate occasions, with another meeting scheduled for tomorrow and two further meetings scheduled for the following two weeks. If we reach no agreement by the PNB meeting on the 26 July, then time runs out for the negotiating process.
If there is a failure to agree registered at that PNB meeting, then the matter will be referred to the Police Arbitration Tribunal.
Should it get that far – I expect the Home Secretary to honour her commitment to the negotiating machinery and allow the PAT to hear the evidence and decide the outcome.
That decision should be binding on the Home Secretary – but, as we all know from bitter experience, it isn’t.
The Home Secretary has used the word ‘fair’ a lot in relation to police pay, so I hope the Government follows the policy it adopted in opposition, that any decision of the PAT should only be overturned by parliament.
After all, when you cannot withdraw your labour, the very least you expect are some basic safeguards that guarantee fair treatment.
We have already seen the widespread anger at some of the cuts being made across other parts of the public sector. We have seen strikes and demonstrations across the country and we have, as always, policed those demonstrations and protests.
Just like other workers across the public sector, we face a proposed two-year pay freeze while inflation runs at 5 per cent.
We also face the prospect of a major hike in our pension contributions
But unlike other workers, police officers face actual cuts in pay as well as an expectation that we will be available and work additional hours for no extra money.
It’s hard not to conclude that we have been singled-out by this Government precisely because of our weak bargaining position.
That is why I am pleased that Brendan Barber, the General Secretary of the TUC has joined us here today. It is important that we are all aware and appreciative of our respective situations. Also, that there is an understanding by others of the difficult restrictions that we face as police officers.
I am also pleased that Ben Priestley from Unison is here supporting our meeting. Winsor has proposed radical changes to the pay and conditions of police staff which could also be detrimental to the Service.
One of the several restrictions on police officers’ private lives is that we cannot associate with trade unions, but we are grateful for their attendance and support here today.
We are not a trade union and our regulations make that clear. But what we must not forget is that union members, just like police officers, are professional workers who are also members of the communities we serve and protect. We all deserve to be treated with fairness and dignity.
In January next year we can expect to deal with Winsor’s final report. His recent consultation document confirms the direction of travel, which was apparent from many of the ill-informed comments in his first report. He is examining the case for:
- • Military-style short-term commissions. By Winsor’s own admission this will lead to a change in the nature of the type of person who becomes a police officer
- • Basic pay being set locally and based upon where you live not just where you work
- • Pay being “at-risk” depending upon performance
- • Role-related pay and job evaluation
- • Direct Entry to the police service and entry based upon prior academic qualification
Winsor has referred to our conditions of service as “a barnacle encrusted hulk that needs to be reformed”.
He either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand.
Police pay and conditions were comprehensively reformed in 2002.
Performance and conduct regulations were overhauled in 2008.
To those who think that you can go to the private sector, cut and paste its systems of performance, and role related pay linked to qualifications onto the police service, you need to answer these questions:
What happens to the criminal justice system when pay is linked to performance targets, particularly sanction detections?
How is that in anyway compatible with the discretion inherent in the office of constable that this government and Winsor support so vocally?
And how do you raise the professional status of police officers by reducing their terms and conditions of service whilst expecting them to pay for the privilege to join and for career progression during their service?
And what happens to our modest progress on diversity when candidates from the poorest families, predominantly from BME backgrounds, have to fund their studies to join the police service?
Remember this, too: women now account for 40 per cent of officers under five years’ service. The service has benefited from recruiting more women but the Winsor Report contains no proper analysis of the impact of his recommendations upon women in the service, or officers with families or caring responsibilities. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and other high profile inquiries have clearly set out what is at stake when police officers fail to properly discharge their responsibilities.
The Lord Scarman Report after the Brixton riots established the need to attract candidates of sufficient maturity into the police service.
As a result the average age of police recruits – when Forces were recruiting – has been around 27 for a number of years.
The Service has been an employer of choice for those with life experiences wanting a second career in the police – and the Service and the public we serve have benefitted from that.
How will this attempt to drive down police pay and conditions of service affect the sort of people we attract and retain?
I have heard Winsor say that nobody should expect to have a job for 30 years.
Mr Winsor, I’ve got news for you, this is not a job, which is something else you have clearly failed to understand. We are professionals and serving the public is a vocation.
In other professions people may change their employer, but they rarely change their occupation.
If I was a lawyer like Winsor, I could have a 40 year legal career, and I could move from one law firm to another. I could do the same if I was a nurse or a teacher by moving to a different hospital or school.
But we are police officers and in each part of the country there is usually only one employer of choice for us and that is the police force that we join.
Winsor is complacently attempting a wholesale transformation of the very nature of the police service without any understanding of what society expects from policing.
We urgently need a holistic review which examines what the public wants, which then makes recommendations on the structure and functions of the police service and then determines the appropriate remuneration mechanism and conditions of service.
If only Tom Winsor had included within his report what he said to me on two occasions: “if there was ever a case for a Royal Commission in Policing it’s now”.
I personally feel let down by him simply because, at our first meeting last year, I actually believed him when he told me that everything was on the record. This was clearly not the case.
We are where we are today because of history. We have evolved as a police service because of the expectations and service demands which the public has rightly placed upon us. Far from “modernising” the Service, Winsor has the potential to put policing back years.
This is not just about cutting costs. His recommendations must be assessed in terms of the people we recruit and are able to retain in the service, and the impact upon the communities we serve.
This is not just about pay and conditions – this is about the very future of policing and our ability, as the current holders of the office of constable, to protect and serve our communities.
Be under no illusion, we are engaged in a fight for the very future of policing itself. If we lose this fight it won’t just be police officers who lose, but society as a whole.
We are the professionals that know policing. We should be the ones shaping the future of the service.
The service now needs to come together to protect the future of policing. That is why we are all here today.