Police officers must accept cuts to their pay packets to avoid losing thousands of frontline jobs, Home Secretary Theresa May said today.
Mrs May said she did not want to make savings for the sake of it, but ”extraordinary circumstances” mean the Government must reform terms and conditions to keep officers on the streets.
On pay and conditions, Mrs May said that in all likelihood there would be a two-year pay freeze in policing, saving £350 million.
“No home secretary wants to cut police officers’ pay packages,” she said. “But with a record budget deficit, these are extraordinary circumstances.”
In a document by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) which outlined potential savings in August, members suggested scrapping a host of additional payments and bonuses, as well as reducing the amount of overtime paid for working on public holidays.
Other arrangements, including compensation for cancelled rest days, may also be changed or axed completely.
Police have been criticised for a £450 million a year overtime bill and other “out-of-date” remuneration rules.
Figures released by the Met in August revealed five constables boosted their wages by £50,000 with overtime.
In May, police minister Nick Herbert welcomed a call by Scotland Yard boss Sir Paul Stephenson to end the multimillion-pound police bonus culture, saying it reflected the financially “straitened times”.
The Winsor review, which will report on Tuesday, will include scrutiny of allowances, overtime and the cost of officers working in other force areas.
It will cover both police officers and civilian staff, including community support officers (PCSOs), across the 43 forces in England and Wales.
Previous attempts to overhaul pay and conditions have failed.
The last review, carried out in June 1993 by Sir Patrick Sheehy under then-home secretary Kenneth Clarke, recommended abolishing jobs for life, introducing fixed terms of service and scrapping overtime payments.
But most of the recommendations were never implemented after a high-profile campaign by the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales.
Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith tried to save money in 2008 by rejecting a recommended pay increase – but again was forced to back down after marches by officers.
Speaking in central London, Mrs May went on: “In an organisation like the police, where £11 billion – three quarters of total spending – is on pay, there is no question that pay restraint and pay reform must form part of the package.
“And that is why I commissioned Tom Winsor to review police pay and conditions. Not because I want to make savings for the sake of it, but because I want to protect police jobs and I want to keep officers on the streets.
“We can only do that if we reform terms and conditions for all officers.
“As I have made clear today, we are taking action right across the board to find savings and efficiencies in all aspects of policing.
“We are doing everything we can to minimise the effect of the spending reductions on pay. But we cannot avoid the fact that changes to pay and conditions have to be part of the package.
“The review’s conclusions must be fair, and they must be seen to be fair.
“Police officers cannot strike – and that is not going to change. I have emphasised today just how dangerous and difficult their job is. Police officers should be rewarded fairly and reasonably for what they do.
“But the police leadership need to have the flexibility to manage their forces and protect the front line. And now, more than ever, the taxpayer needs to get a fair deal from all parts of the public sector.
“I must be clear: to make savings in any organisation where pay packages are the biggest cost, we have to look at pay.”
Mrs May also pledged that any officers who break health and safety rules by putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others will not be prosecuted.
“Arresting violent offenders, putting themselves in harm’s way, going unarmed into dangerous situations – there are the sort of things that officers know could happen to them any time they put on the uniform,” she said.
“Those officers who are putting themselves at risk to protect the public don’t then find themselves under some form of prosecution.
“I think everybody agrees that is health and safety not being used in its correct way.”
She also signalled there would be a shake-up of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).
“The current structure, status and accountability arrangements of Acpo are not suitable,” Mrs May said.
“Given the changes that we’re doing in the police force, the leadership role they will need to take in the future is slightly different to the role they’ve taken in the past.
“I look forward to an Acpo which is a professional body, a leadership body, and we’re talking to Acpo about the changes that might take place.”