Police morale plummets – and ministers turn a blind eye
In an editorial first published in The temperatureNational Vice President of the Police Federation of England and Wales, Che Donald, speaks about falling morale.
After more than a decade of salary caps and freezes, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) salary and morale survey reveals a deepening morale crisis in the service police and acts as a health warning to anyone considering joining the service.
The survey results clearly show the financial strain on police officers and their families, and the stress it puts on them just to make ends meet. Policing is a particularly difficult profession with the increasing demands and dangers facing officers – government and police leaders can no longer hide their heads in the sand.
Police have more than stepped up during the pandemic and have faced increasing levels of assault and ever-changing rules and legislation. The reward for their efforts – a zero percent reward. The police heard the warm words of thanks, they saw the government ministers lining up on television to give thanks. However, this thank you was quickly forgotten when it came to recognizing their efforts in their salary.
Instead, they had to watch other public sector workers they had fought with in the fight against the pandemic get a fair pay rise, when they received nothing. How do you think that makes them feel? After an 18% reduction in wages in real terms since 2010, pension reform, and now rising fuel, utility and food prices, as well as a planned increase in national insurance contributions . How can that be true?
To most people, it seems like the government is giving with one hand and taking with the other. But for the police, they go further: they take with one hand and take even more with the other.
The police are realistic. They understand that the public treasury is not a bottomless pit. But the sheer injustice of being snubbed for a deserved pay rise, in the face of rising personal costs, is not fair and will not be easily forgotten by police officers and their families across England and the Country of Wales. I speak as National Vice President of PFEW, the staff association of more than 130,000 rank-and-file officers – the undisputed voice of policing.
Just last July, the Home Secretary said freezing police salaries was to help “put public finances back on a sustainable path after unprecedented government spending on the Covid-19 response”. Since then there appears to have been a lack of strategic awareness at the Treasury on spending policies, while its ‘sustainable course’ has seen the Treasury write off £4.3bn of Covid business loans.
It is absurd that this government has claimed that it cannot afford a salary increase for police officers, especially when the police force has already budgeted the cost of central and local government funds in the regulation of the annual subsidy .
Faced with all of this, is it any wonder that the police have little or no confidence in this government? Police officers are Crown servants – we have no employment rights and cannot take industrial action. The government must therefore demonstrate that it understands this and fairly reward officers for the incredibly difficult and demanding work they do on behalf of society.
The government must restore the confidence of the police. It must understand what the police are telling them and recognize the need for a fair, open and transparent mechanism to determine compensation. Otherwise, the damage will cause morale to drop even further. This will see people leaving the police force in droves and will negatively impact the capacity of the service for decades to come.
We know that the vast majority of the public supports us. They value and value their police officers. They saw them in their cities, towns and cities keeping communities safe during the pandemic. They see we’re there when they dial 999 and need help. When others run from danger, they see us running towards it. So if the government turns a blind eye to the police, it turns a blind eye to the people of England and Wales whom we serve. And they do so at their own risk.