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I want to pay police more but times are tough, PM tells LBC

28 July 2021, 07:11 | Updated: 28 July 2021, 10:27

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson has defended the freeze of police officers' pay but admitted in an interview with LBC that the government is "going through a tough time financially" caused by the pandemic.

Speaking exclusively to Nick Ferrari, the prime minister was grilled over the Home Office's decision to freeze the pay of police earning £24,000 or more between this year and 2022. Those earning less than this amount will receive an additional £250.

"You’ll know that any police officer who’s earning above £24,000 per annum gets no pay rise," Nick said.

"Anything below that gets £250 per year. That’s about 60-something pence a day. It’s the cost of a Mars bar. I know we want a thin blue line, but this is ridiculous."

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Boris Johnson told LBC he wants to thicken the thin blue line
Boris Johnson told LBC he wants to thicken the thin blue line. Picture: LBC

Mr Johnson replied: "The objective is to thicken the blue line with more officers and that’s what we’re doing."

He added: "No one would want to pay our fantastic police more than I would. We’re just going through a tough time financially for the government and I think most people do understand that.

"I just ask people to recognise that, but also that the government is doing what it can to expand police numbers as fast as we can."

Mr Johnson said: "I understand why people in public services across the country right now want pay to go up and everybody feels that.

"Everybody gets that. I think the difficulty that we have been going through is a massive financial expenditure caused by the pandemic, looking after jobs and families for 18 months now, £407 billion and rising, that we’ve spent on that and it’s, it’s not possible to meet every obligation at once.

"What we are doing is putting a huge amount into policing, £15.8 billion into supporting the police, making sure that we protect police officers from those who would commit crimes of violence against them, those who would attack them, those who would abuse them, putting in new protections for police officers ."

The PM told LBC that one of the best things that can be done to protect officers is to recruit more of them.

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"I’m a strong believer in officers feeling that they’re not alone. So, we’re halfway towards our 20,000 target that I set on the steps of Downing Street just two years ago," he said.

However, while the Conservative Party has been in power, the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by 20,600 between March 2010 and March 2019.

Mr Johnson added that the government is helping the force by giving them "things that they need", such as body-worn cameras, greater ability to use Tasers, more stop and search powers, and protections against disorderly behaviour or assault from the public.

His comments come just a day after he launched his Beating Crime Plan alongside Home Secretary Priti Patel, who just days earlier received a vote of no confidence from the Police Federation of England and Wales.

Asked whether he believed Ms Patel was the right woman for the job, the prime minister told LBC's Nick Ferrari: "Yes, I have got absolutely every confidence in the home secretary."