A radical review of policing has outlined a number of reforms to pay and conditions that would save £1.9bn over the next six years and lift the ban on making officers redundant so that force chiefs can respond better to budget pressures.
Tom Winsor, a government-appointed reviewer, said the remuneration system that has been used for more than three decades was “unfair and inefficient”. The wide-ranging report, published on Thursday, comes at a time when police forces across the UK are facing budget cuts, anticipating the introduction of elected police and crime commissioners, and contending with increasing outsourcing to the private sector in response to government austerity measures.
Although Mr Winsor, the former rail regulator, insisted that officers who worked on the front line in difficult circumstances had “nothing to fear” from his proposals – and that two-thirds of the £1.9bn saving would be reinvested in a new and improved pay scheme – the review includes a number of significant reforms that are likely to cause alarm among the rank-and-file if they are taken forward by the government.
Among the most controversial ideas is the suggestion, endorsed by David Cameron in the immediate aftermath of the summer riots, of a new “direct entry” scheme so that non-police applicants can enter the service at inspector rank, and even at superintendent rank, after “rigorous testing”.
In addition, Mr Winsor proposes powers for chief constables to make officers redundant at any stage of their career, thereby ending the rule that officers can be discharged only after 30 years’ service. That is partly to allow forces more flexibility in their efforts to cope with a 20 per cent cut in central government funding over four years. Further cost savings would come from raising the police pension age by 10 years to 60, to bring it more closely in line with the rest of the public sector, the review suggested.
Peter Neyroud, former head of the National Police Improvement Agency, told the Financial Times that if chiefs were allowed to sack their officers, those officers in turn might seek the right to industrial action, which police are currently denied.
“This strikes at the very heart of the office of constable,” Mr Neyroud said. “Why should a once-in-a-generation series of cuts be the cause of a new move to start a policy of severance in the police force?”
However, James Taylor, who is responsible for police in Deloitte’s public sector team, said that since about 80 per cent of the police force’s costs go towards the workforce, it was sensible that any big reform of the service should focus on giving chiefs the flexibility to reduce costs in this area.
In an effort to improve officer standards, Mr Winsor has called for police to pass a yearly “shuttle run” fitness test, and any who fail will have their pay docked. New research shows that about three-quarters of Scotland Yard officers are overweight.
Paul McKeever, who chairs the Police Federation, said that this and other changes contributed to officers feeling that they were under “sustained attack” by the government. “They find themselves contending with cuts to pay and conditions of service, increased stress and pressures, falling numbers of police officers, low morale and the privatisation of essential police functions,” he said.
Keith Vaz, the Labour MP who chairs the home affairs select committee, added his concerns that the direct entry principle risked creating an “officer class” in the police.
“I would be against the manager of the local Tesco …suddenly coming into the police force as an inspector,” Mr Vaz said.
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