Police Federation tells LBC a pay freeze by Rishi Sunak would be a ‘slap in the face’

22 November 2020, 11:59 | Updated: 22 November 2020, 13:42

By Joe Cook

The vice-chair of the Police Federation has told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday that a public sector pay freeze would be a “slap in the face” for officers who have served during the pandemic.

Che Donald’s comments to LBC follow reports that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s highly-anticipated spending review will include a pay cap on millions of public sector workers.

Mr Sunak has ruled out a return to austerity, but Mr Donald told Tom a pay freeze “smacks of austerity” and would be “inherently unfair”.

“Considering that it has been our police officers out there in the fight against coronavirus, this just looks and feels like a smack in the face for everything they have done to try and prevent the spread of the virus and to police the public while this has been going on,” he explained.

Mr Donald added: “This has to be struck into the context that when we look at the first three months of the coronavirus, assaults against police officers went up 21 percent.”

“To say that you are going to affect police officer pay, while they have been out there policing this, contracting the virus, some officers even dying of the virus, just smacks of unfairness.”

Read more: Rishi Sunak to outline spending plan but warns of 'economic shock' of pandemic

On Wednesday, the chancellor is to outline a vast spending plan to help the nation's finances recover from the coronavirus crisis, but has warned "people will see the scale of the economic shock laid bare".

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay, also speaking on LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday, said: “We are not going to have a return to austerity. We are going to have big investment in our public services.”

But Mr Barclay refused to rule out a pay freeze, arguing public sector pay needed to be viewed “in the round, in terms of what is happening with the wider economy, what is happening in the private sector and make these decisions in a balanced way”.

Read more: Treasury Minister rules out austerity despite ‘record cost’ of public services

The Police Federation Vice-Chair, who represents over 130,000 officers, told Tom “it is an emotive issue” but previous pay freezes “over a ten year period” had left “police pay around 18 percent down compared to what it should be”.

“We have had police officers joining the line for food banks prior to the coronavirus outbreak,” he revealed.

“That is from the fact that pay has been undermined during the period of austerity.”

Read more: Rishi Sunak calls for 'collective endeavour' to repair damaged economy

Unions have said they may ballot members on strike action if there is a public sector pay freeze.

Christina McAnea, Assistant General Secretary of UNISON, told Tom she could “of course” not rule out strike action.

She added: “During most of the past 10 years, the pay of public sector workers has dropped below the private sector, certainly in terms of pay increases, dropped significantly.

“The value of a nurse’s pay from 10 years ago to now is actually worth 20 percent less than it was 10 years ago.

“How is this going to go down in terms of morale in the public sector?”