Home Secretary Priti Patel under pressure as police pay freeze branded ‘insult’ by chief constable
Pressure is mounting on Home Secretary Priti Patel to rethink a controversial police pay freeze after a chief constable branded it “wholly unacceptable” and an “insult”.
At the same time the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank-and-file officers, warned on Sky News it was “not messing about” after it said it no longer had confidence in the cabinet minister.
Labour, meanwhile, has called for her to “consider her position” following what the party called a real-terms pay cut.
Ms Patel is facing a backlash after announcing the pay freeze for officers earning more than £24,000, which she said will ensure fairness between public and private sector wage growth, with the latter having been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time the government said it would give NHS workers in England a 3% pay rise backdated to April 2021 to recognise their pandemic efforts during an “unprecedented year”.
In a statement on his Twitter account, the chief constable of Northamptonshire Police Nick Adderley said: “Over the past 18 months I have seen officers punched, stabbed, shot, persecuted and ridiculed whilst attempting to implement confusing, rushed and ambiguous legislation, in order to protect the public and rightly, the NHS, only to be ignored when it comes to a pay settlement.
“The announcement of a 0% pay increase for police officers is quite frankly an insult and wholly unacceptable.
“Pay aside, this indicates a complete lack of awareness, appreciation or recognition for the incredible work officers have done throughout this pandemic.”
The police federation’s national chairman John Apter told Sky News the statement of no confidence in Ms Patel had been a “warning shot”.
He said: “It puts the home secretary on notice that we are not messing about.
“This a serious issue.”
Pointing out police were legally banned from striking, he said: “We believe that’s been taken advantage of and it should be the opposite.
“There should be a recognition that police officers are unique, they are in a position where they can’t withdraw labour, they can’t do things as other employees can.
“I would call on the home secretary now, in the wake of this warning shot to review the decision of the pay award, to revisit it.
“What we had asked for was a 3% increase across the board.
“That would cost the public purse in the region of about £138m.
“I know that is a lot of money but in the whole scheme of what we spent during COVID… it’s a drop in the ocean.”
Shadow policing minister Sarah Jones said Ms Patel has made a “litany of errors” during her time in office, highlighting Boris Johnson’s decision to back her earlier this year despite his former ethics adviser finding that her behaviour towards Home Office staff had amounted to bullying.
The Labour frontbencher told Sky News: “We said she should look at her position when she was found to have broken the ministerial code for bullying.
“She has a litany of errors that she has made since she became home secretary but the buck stops with the prime minister on this one.”
Pressed on whether she was asking for Ms Patel to stand down following the pay decision, Ms Jones replied: “We are saying she needs to consider her position.”
But also speaking to Sky News, Environment Secretary George Eustice said he had full confidence in his cabinet colleague.
He said: “Under her watch we’ve been increasing police numbers and it’s also the case that she’s taken action to make sure the police have got the powers that they need to do their job and to remove some of the frustration, so I think she’s doing a fine job as home secretary.
“Whatever job you’re in you will get a degree of criticism, there will be things you have to do that may well be the right thing to do, but aren’t always popular with everyone. That’s par for the course, it goes with the territory.”