Peter Fahy - Winsor Part Two, 30 March 2012
The second part of Tom Winsor’s review of police pay and conditions has landed on desks in the last couple of weeks. The media concentrated on fitness testing, direct entry and cuts to the pay of new recruits. In fact, there is a lot more substance to the report (at 780 pages) but also some noticeable omissions.
Chief Constables do not believe that police officers are overpaid. But we do believe that the current way of developing and rewarding our staff does not always allow us to get the best out of them. Some police officers are not rewarded enough for the difficult and dangerous jobs they do, while there are also a minority of underperformers who are a frustration to the hard-working, committed and passionate majority.
These changes have to help forces make best use of their budgets and therefore have to be about long term reform not crude pay cuts. We have to watch the cumulative impact on individual members of staff who are seeing the cost of living rise. Just as important, however, is to recognise that policing is becoming ever more specialised and complex and there are changing expectations of our staff. One of my biggest concerns in my own force, Greater Manchester Police, is that we have lots of staff who want to be promoted and take on more responsibility, but not the opportunities for them.
So any changes have to help forces save money. But even more important, they need to allow us to use the skills and talents of our staff to meet the needs of the public. This means we need the flexibility to reward expertise and contribution made by those who consistently deliver high quality.
On some specifics; fitness tests, while important, are not new as we already use them for officer safety training. If extended to the whole workforce it will be important that they are role and age related.
The proposal for a compulsory redundancy scheme will be emotive for officers who do not have the right to strike. Some will say that when soldiers can be made redundant, why should police officers be exempt? This is hard to argue against but this issue is important to officers feeling they are valued by the public. We still await details of a voluntary redundancy scheme agreed by the Home Office and there is likely to be considerable interest in this offer dependent on the terms.
There are proposals to correlate more of an officer’s pay to level of performance and expertise. This cannot be about crude indicators such as the number of arrests but should be built around the key roles of neighbourhood policing, investigation and response policing. It needs a balance between knowledge and the ability to translate that knowledge into practise for the benefit of the public.
Chief Constables’ support accelerated promotion for talented staff to Inspector and will participate fully in the consultation on Winsor's other proposals for direct entry.
Of course the report and publicity focused largely on police officers but much of policing is carried out by unsworn colleagues in police staff. In some forces there is a fifty-fifty split between police officers and police staff: PCSOs, Crime Scene Investigator and those in a wide range of other roles. The report essentially says that in future their pay and conditions should be determined locally but with greater harmonisation between conditions for officers and police staff.
I cannot see any of these changes happening quickly. Staff do not need reminding that we are already under a two year pay and increment freeze and pay will only increase by about one per cent after that. Next month many officers will see an increase in their pension contributions. That means there is little scope to bring in further changes when staff are already taking such a substantial hit. There is also no spare cash about to smooth the impact of any changes.
I have made it clear that we need to look not only at the size of the cuts but also how society and the world of work is changing around us. We do need some radical changes to get through this. It is not about cutting wages or asking staff to work harder for less. Other organisations have got through major changes in their industries by encouraging their staff to work in different ways taking on higher levels of skills and specialisms whilst operating with less supervision. This allows these staff to have more responsibility and professional discretion and a more rewarding role. I am not sure that Winsor fully delivers this but it lays down a foundation.
Ensuring the service draws upon a diverse base of people with the right skills will always be paramount. The Special Constabulary goes some way in supporting that and a form of direct entry may expand it further.
We are unique in this country in that we believe it is not the job of the State to control its people, but the duty of citizens to work together to ensure the laws of a democratically elected parliament are observed for the common good. That is why we have an independent police service, of the people, for the people. Some of this is done by full time paid individuals and some by unpaid volunteers. But all, as servants of the Crown, swear an oath to the monarch, not to any particular government or politician, and that tradition will continue.