Following a proposed one percent pay increase for police and prison staff, British Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May has come under fire from top law enforcement officials regarding the source of funding.
Senior officers said, though they support May’s move, the extra £50m – which covers the increases – could not be absorbed by police force coffers. The senior officials are complaining that their current budget absorbs a long-standing cap, but is now being challenged to find additional funds to accommodate May's increase.
The general one percent increase would apply to all officers, but the addition will only be awarded to constables, sergeants and inspectors higher-ups.
Jeremy Corbyn accused the Conservatives of trying to divide and rule workers and threatened industrial action. He later avoided the question of whether he would back illegal strikes over pay, saying it was a “matter for the unions.”
In a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, May’s spokesman said a recommendation from the independent pay review body for prison officers was approved – a standard one percent pay rise with an extra, one-off one percent sum added for the next 12 months, beginning immediately.
National Police Chiefs' Constable Francis Habgood pointed out that wages make up more than 50 percent of total force budgets, which have suffered real terms cuts of 18 percent since 2010.
He explained that: “Chiefs and police and crime commissioners are committed to spending the money we have with absolute efficiency at both local and national level.
“However, without better real-terms funding protection from Government, an award above one percent will inevitably impact on our ability to deliver policing services and maintain staffing levels.”
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson referred to the PM's announcement as a “hollow gesture” and “the worst of all worlds.”
But Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “This award strikes a fair balance for police forces, officers and taxpayers.”
Tuesday's new inflation rate of 2.9 percent shows the offers to the police and prison officers as being a cut rather than an increase.
General secretary of the prison officers union Steve Gillan said he would be seeking to take industrial action. “I have made it clear that it is a pay cut. It is not acceptable,” he said. “Our executive will be looking to coordinate action with other trade unions.”
GMB said the pay offer was “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Steve White, the chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said many would be “angry and deflated” at their pay award. “We were not greedy in what we asked for,” he said. “Officers have been taking home about 15% less than they were seven years ago.”
The police and prison officer pay rises will be financed by their departments, prompting a warning that for the police this could threaten services because of the extra strain on resources.
The pay announcement is also unlikely to quell discontent in many parts of the public sector, including the NHS, with the Royal College of Nursing threatening strike action without a significant rise.