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Priti Patel risks fury as she defends pay freeze in video message

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Priti Patel provoked fury today as she defended the decision to freeze police pay in a pre-recorded video message after failing to attend a conference for high-ranking officers in person. 

The Home Secretary has told the Superintendents' Conference at the Crowne Plaza in Stratford-Upon-Avon that the government 'can't justify' higher salaries. 

Ms Patel would normally be expected to attend the conference, as she did in 2019, although last year she spoke virtually for Covid reasons. She is believed to have been invited to attend this year, in person.

PSA president Paul Griffiths told delegates: 'It is disappointing that the Home Secretary is unavailable to attend our conference in person.' 

Meanwhile, Police Federation chair John Apter tweeted: 'At the @policesupers conference, hearing that the Home Secretary is now not attending in person. 

'In addition, the meeting I had with the Home Secretary later this week has also been cancelled. Seems engagement with the organisations representing police officers is not a priority!' 

A conference attendee said Ms Patel's comment on the pre-recorded video that she was 'delighted' to attend the conference was met with laughter. 

Allies of the Home Secretary would note that she was in Parliament voting on the social care bill at the time of the conference. 

The Home Secretary is addressing the Superintendents' Conference at the Crowne Plaza in Stratford-Upon-Avon by pre-recorded video

A conference attendee said Ms Patel's comment that she was 'delighted' to attend the conference was met with laughter 

It came as event organisers the Police Superintendents' Association (PSA) announced it was withdrawing from the independent system that sets their salaries after widespread outrage over a pay freeze. 

The PSA is joining the Police Federation - which represents other ranks - in leaving the process following a bitter row over the Government decision to freeze pay for officers who earn more than £24,000.

In contrast, NHS staff will receive a 3% increase and firefighters and local government workers a 1.5% rise.

Today, Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick defied ministers by backing union calls for higher pay, saying: 'I do believe police deserve a pay rise and a fair system for calculating it.'

Mr Griffiths would normally make his annual conference address to Ms Patel in person but this year she will instead provide a recorded speech.

In the video, she said: 'The pandemic deepened the disparity between public and private sector wages - many private sector workers lost jobs, or saw their wages seriously reduced.

'This meant the Chancellor could not justify an across-the-board pay increase for public sector workers.

'He asked the advice of the pay review bodies, proposing to raise pay in the NHS but pause pay rises elsewhere in order to protect jobs.

'This pandemic is something we have never experienced before - a truly seismic event which has affected many sectors and employers across the entire economy.

'It has meant even tougher choices than usual. None of us wanted to be in this situation.'

PSA president Paul Griffiths would normally make his annual conference address to Ms Patel in person but this year she will instead provide a recorded speech.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the pay review system must urgently be reviewed.

He added: 'Now that the Police Superintendents Association has joined the Police Federation in withdrawing from the pay-review body, the Home Secretary must - urgently - address how it can be reformed so police have confidence in a system that works for them.'

Currently, the independent Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) gathers information from various groups including those representing officers as well as the Home Office, before recommending what pay levels the Government should set.

Today, Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick backed union calls for higher pay, saying: 'I do believe police deserve a pay rise and a fair system for calculating it'

The Police Federation, which represents more than 130,000 officers from the rank of constable to chief inspector, withdrew from the system in July, with chairman John Apter calling it 'inherently unfair'.

Mr Griffiths told delegates at the PSA annual conference: 'No one enters policing to get rich. It is a vocation and a career that provides challenge and demands sacrifice like no other - something clearly demonstrated amidst the pandemic.

'However, with very few employment rights, it is essential that police officers have fair and transparent processes in place to determine their pay, and that they have a clear voice within this.

'The Government direction on public service pay has overridden these processes, making decisions around pay in advance of the evidence it requests from stakeholders right across the service.

'Currently, we have no procedural justice when it comes to pay and police officers are not being heard.

'It is for this reason that I can announce today that the Police Superintendents' Association is withdrawing from the PRRB process.'

The announcement of the pay freeze provoked fury, with the Police Federation passing a vote of no confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel over pay, and chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council Martin Hewitt writing to her to stress that officers 'deserve better'.

Inspector Andrew Berry, chairman of the Devon & Cornwall Police Federation, said: 'At the heart of the issue is a Police Pay Body, the PRRB, (Police Remuneration Review Body) which is incredibly unfair in its design and biased against police officers of all ranks. 

'The Home Secretary tells the PRRB what it can consider and then once the PRRB has produced its recommendations the Home Secretary is at liberty to ignore them. 

'This year even the independent members of the review body commented about the restrictions the Home Secretary had placed on their independence. 

'The Home Secretary currently presides over a shoddy, patently unfair sham of a process that is a continuing insult to officers.'

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