Labour says Priti Patel's position 'untenable' after Police Federation no confidence vote

22 July 2021, 16:52 | Updated: 23 July 2021, 11:47

The Police Federation has said it has no confidence in the Home Secretary and has withdrawn its support from the Police Remuneration Review Body
The Police Federation has said it has no confidence in the Home Secretary and has withdrawn its support from the Police Remuneration Review Body. Picture: Alamy Live News

By Daisy Stephens

Labour have said Priti Patel's position is "untenable" after the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) said it "no longer has confidence" in the Home Secretary.

It follows Wednesday's pay announcement, which the federation said offered "no improved financial package to our members".

Ms Patel announced a bitterly opposed pay freeze for police officers earning more than £24,000, with those earning less being given an annual rise of £250.

Announcing the pay freeze in a written ministerial statement on Wednesday, Ms Patel said: "This is in order to ensure fairness between public and private sector wage growth, as the private sector was significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in the form of reduced hours, suppressed earnings growth and increased redundancies, whilst the public sector was largely shielded from these effects."

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In a statement, the body – which represents officers in both countries – also withdrew its engagement and support from the Police Remuneration Review Body, saying the current police pay mechanism is "not fit for purpose".

“We often hear the Home Secretary praise police officers but our members are so angry with this Government," said PFEW National Chair John Apter.

"They have been on the frontline of this pandemic for 18 months and will now see other public services given pay increases while they receive nothing.

"At the beginning of this pandemic they endured PPE shortages and were not even prioritised for the vaccination.

"They continue to be politicised and this pay announcement is the final straw.

"As the organisation that represents more than 130,000 police officers I can say quite categorically – we have no confidence in the current Home Secretary.

"I cannot look my colleagues in the eye and do nothing.”

The PFEW said attendees at a National Council meeting "overwhelmingly" supported a vote of no confidence in Ms Patel and in the process for setting police officers' pay.

They added: "As the undisputed voice of policing we say this to the Home Secretary: you cannot pat our members on the back for their heroic efforts with one hand, while effectively taking their pay with the other. Warm words are no longer enough."

In a letter to Ms Patel, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “It is little wonder that policing representatives have lost faith in you as Home Secretary and the process you have overseen with the Police Remuneration Review Body….I know [police representatives] are deeply hurt by the final offer."

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In a statement, Mr Thomas-Symond said it was the "height of hypocrisy for the Home Secretary to praise the police in public with warm words, but let them down so badly", and it was "no surprise" the PFEW had no confidence in her.

“The truth is it is not just on pay where police officers have been let down," said Mr Thomas-Symond.

“We also saw the Home Secretary promise action on getting priority access to vaccines for police and failed to deliver, in addition to taking the name of police representatives in vain, by suggesting they had been calling for additional powers to police protests, which was not the case."

He added: "The Home Secretary’s position is clearly untenable, and the police deserve nothing less than urgent action from the Prime Minister and this government.

"This must include opening negotiations on a fair police pay rise and work to reconstitute the Police Covenant.”

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In response to the PFEW decision, a Home Office Spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary has demonstrated her commitment time and time again to supporting the brave police officers who keep us safe, giving them the resources and powers they need to fight crime and protect the public.

“We are recruiting 20,000 extra officers, 8,771 already in place, increased taxpayer funding for policing by up to £600m and gave forces £200m to meet unforeseen costs of the pandemic. This is in addition to enhancing protection of the police, increasing sentencing for assaulting officers and investment in equipment.

“The economy has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, with pressures on public finances and we must protect jobs and ensure fairness.”

Mr Apter said the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) is "not truly independent" and "has its hands constantly tied by the Government who continually interfere", adding: "We can no longer accept this and have no confidence in this system which is why we are walking away."

The Federation said it had "tried its level best" to co-operate with Government, but warned: "They cannot be trusted or taken at face value in the way we would expect."

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It comes as the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) said the Government's decision will make many officers feel "undervalued" and would be a "hard pill to swallow".

NPCC chairman Martin Hewitt said: "As the Government makes spending decisions over coming months, we are urging ministers to fund meaningful and fair pay increases from 2022 that properly reflect the important and complex work police officers do."

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary has demonstrated her commitment time and time again to supporting the brave police officers who keep us safe, giving them the resources and powers they need to fight crime and protect the public.

“We are recruiting 20,000 extra officers, 8,771 already in place, increased taxpayer funding for policing by up to £600m and gave forces £200m to meet unforeseen costs of the pandemic.

"This is in addition to enhancing protection of the police, increasing sentencing for assaulting officers and investment in equipment.

“The economy has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, with pressures on public finances and we must protect jobs and ensure fairness.”