Freezing police pay to keep bobbies on the beat

There is an urgent need for savings to be made in police forces across the country. Theresa May, Home Secretary, yesterday made an announcement on the how the Government will reform police spending.

The bill for staff makes up three quarters of the overall police budget, so there is almost no option but to make savings in this area.  There are also examples of police being offered extra payments for overtime or bonuses on top of their salaries that don't seem to offer value for taxpayers' money (the £450 million a year overtime bill has come under considerable criticism) these payments need to be reviewed too.  The coming review could see the biggest changes to police pay and perks in 30 years.

I debated the issue of police spending reform this morning on BBC Radio Oxford with Graham Smith, chairman of Thames Valley Police Federation.  I brought up an example I’ve heard several times, where four hours of overtime are paid if a policeman picked up his phone once in an evening off. Graham Smith said this was an urban myth, then went on to concede that high ranking officers who took an important call in the night making a decision could then claim four hours of overtime.

The reality is there are examples of over generous deals, where there is a logical argument that money could be better spent. The “grab a grand” bonus mentioned in this video has to reviewed along with all the whole package of perks.  With huge pressures on police force budgets there just isn’t the money for overgenerous arrangements and decisions have to be made on how limited funds can be best channelled towards frontline policing.

During the recession those working in the private sector faced tough decisions.  Many people took pay freezes, were made redundant or they took pay cuts in order to help the companies they worked for stay afloat. It’s a tough position to be in, but for many of my friends it was the only option to save their friends’ and colleagues’ jobs; you do it because you care about the company you work for and its future. We all know that police are dedicated and will want to have enough officers on the frontline.  Policing is different to other private sector jobs, but ultimately those who care about their force know that finding savings and giving up some perks to ensure money is spent more efficiently is crucial.  If that means missing out on a Christmas bonus, police might not be jumping for joy, but it’s the same situation as many taxpayers faced and it’s the right time to practice a bit of restraint.

We all want effective policing and appreciate the protection the force provides us but big savings have to be made in ways which have least impact on frontline policing. The police do a crucial job which involves long shifts and dedication which taxpayers appreciate, but the reality is that compensation designed to reward police for the risks they take are applied to increasing numbers of roles that are well behind the frontline. The overtime and deals negotiated for police who go into dangerous situations shouldn’t be applied to those in pencil-pushing roles. Earlier retirement and pensions deals that apply to non frontline police support staff seem too be given too readily and certainly need reform to bring them into line with what is reasonable and provided in the wider economy. Or course there will be disappointment when deals aren’t so lucrative, but there was disappointment when the age of retirement for those without public sector pensions went from 60 to 69 for women.

Now more than ever there are too many costs and piles of paperwork that decrease police productivity. Too many officers who are primarily in active service still find themselves handcuffed to their desks because of government imposed bureaucracy, we’ve heard from police who find this frustrating. Theresa May has to find ways to offer relief from the additional time consuming processes that have been added to the police workload. Reform has to include reining in bureaucracy. This means listening to common sense and police ideas on how to streamline paperwork. There are too many laborious tasks that don’t add to the quality of policing, the Government must be reassess the burdens they are putting on police time. This is well overdue and is the key to ensuring police productivity can increase to counter the restraints of a more limited budget.

It is more important than ever that taxpayers and police demand that wasteful spending is stopped There are plenty of examples of waste in police spending. I mentioned some stories in an earlier blog, and Matthew Sinclair commented this week on publicity spending in Cumbria, this kind of unnecessary spending is occurring in forces around the country and needs to be stopped. Less silly spending and more austerity can ensure that the police service operates better. Police who notice waste should be encouraged to make suggestions of schemes or spending that should be scrapped before frontline police numbers. If internal processes don’t allow for this then contact the TPA

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