Wednesday, 28 September 2011 4:19 PM
Independent Review of Police Officers’ and Staff Remuneration and Conditions
About the National Association of Retired Police Officers
The National Association of Retired Police Officers (NARPO) is a member organisation founded in 1919 to represent the interests of former police officers of all ranks from Police Forces in England and Wales, their widows, widowers and former partners. Currently we have in excess of 80,000 members in over 100 local branches throughout England and Wales. Our principle aim is to safeguard the rights of members and promote measures for their welfare, with particular regards to pensions.
As former police offices, we are proud to have served in that unique role as servants of the Crown in the office of Constable. From our experience we believe that the ‘Office of Constable’ needs to continue as the mainstay of British policing. This role ensures political independence of the service as well as impartiality. We believe successive Governments need to recognise the ‘Office of Constables’ and not by simply paying lip service to the role.
In this response to your invitation to provide evidence to the Independent Review of Police Officers and Staff Remuneration and Conditions, we will not comment on all the areas under consideration in detail but hope what we do say, which is borne out of considerable experience of the police service, will be helpful.
Challenges and Emerging Themes
Before we comment on the specific matters of current interest to the review, it would not be right if we did not challenge some of the assertions made in your introductory remarks effectively outlining the future of British policing’s challenges and in doing so justifying the need for your review. Most of the points raised within this section are obviously not new ‘Challenges’ or new ‘emerging themes’ and could have been cited as evidence of need for change many times in the past.
What the British Police service has done in past years is to recognise those challenges and react to them over time. An approach which is more evolution than imposition and one which is built on a workforce prepared to develop with those evolutionary changes. Many of our members in NARPO can regularly be heard to express the view that the ‘job’ is not the ‘job’ they joined or even the one they retired from. They are of course right because policing has developed as society has changed. The advantage with evolution over imposition is that evolution takes the workforce along with the changes whereas imposition has the opposite effect. There is a grave danger that many will see from the lack of any new ideas in both the ‘Context’ argument and many of the proposals for changes in pay and conditions that what is clearly intended here is more imposition than evolution whatever the intention of your review.
The report asks:
What is the basic pay for ranks from Constable to Chief Constable?
There is a good argument that the current level of pay for all ranks is the right basic pay for those ranks. This is because those pay levels have been reached following negotiations at the Police Negotiation Board over a period since the last Royal Commission on Policing. The PNB was created by that Royal Commission. In setting up the PNB the Royal Commission carefully considered the balance between the official or employers and staff sides. In setting up the PNB official side the Commission included significant representation from national and local government representative as well as Chief Constables. Conciliation and arbitration processes were included but further safeguards, presumably intended to protect the public purse, allowed a position where the Government of the day, through the Home Secretary, could overule the decisions of the arbiters.
In any event negotiation, conciliation and arbitration considered affordability before coming to a decision on a final position in respect of any pay issues subject to consideration. If you take into account that the Government of the day, through the Home Office representatives on the official side of the PNB, has a major role in both the shape and level of police pay and align this to the no binding arbitration condition attached to the PNB, it must mean that Government has had a major say in both the shape and level of pay including its value and affordability. This must mean that the current pay reflects what should be the basic pay for each of the ranks.
The question of a single ‘comparator’ role for each rank is naive in its proposition and in any case reminiscent of previous proposals to compare ‘job weights’ of ranks and roles in the service with ‘job weights’ outside the service. This involved a careful breakdown of job skills and responsibilities. That at least would have been a comprehensive consideration of job weight rather that this oversimplified approach of picking a close single role match to each police role. The proposals to base police pay on job weighting failed to materialise because of the complexity of the proposal. The over simplification of this process that you appear to be suggesting is likely to either end up in a similar position of over complication or be unfair.
The report poses further questions around:
What is the right calibre of candidate?
Do pay scales have an effect on recruitment and retention?
What is the purpose of pay scales?
The Police Service should be attracting the best calibre of candidate possible when set against a nationally recognised standard and without the requirement for higher educational qualifications. This would facilitate both those who are satisfied at the Constable rank without flooding the service with those who are ‘hell bent’ on attaining promotion to a higher rank.
Indeed only a small number of candidates will ultimately achieve promotion and to top load an organisation like the Police with those who seek to attain higher rank could lead to disenchantment and premature exit from the service to other employment in an effort to seek further remuneration, better prospects or less challenging work. The knock on effect is likely to impact on training and personal development costs.
The current pay scales have proved successful in attracting the right calibre of entrants to satisfy both those seeking promotion and those wishing to be career constables. If the pay scales were set too low the service may fail to attract those with higher qualifications and ambition to reach the top echelons of the service. It seems that the current scales are set around the right level to attract a good mix of both types of candidates, which continues to serve well.
This already exists to a certain extent with London and the South East Allowances and already leads to retention problems for some Forces in that region who lose officers predominantly to the Metropolitan, in most cases after they have completed their probation and in many cases with significant additional training or skills. Invariably their previous Force has invested both significant time and money into training all of which is lost, increasing the costs to some forces whilst reducing costs in others.
If Regional Pay were extended across the country it may lead to a situation where those Police Authorities that are ‘cash rich’ can attract all the best candidates and attract transferees from other Forces, by paying them more whilst others will have a constant battle to recruit and more importantly retain officers once they have invested in them.
Whether we like it or not most people will move for an increase in pay, which will lead to increased costs for those Forces losing Officers particularly around training, developmental and equipment costs.
A simple form of regional pay, rent allowance, was including in police pay and conditions in the past and was working very satisfactorily until it was removed by Government as part of cost savings.
Contribution-related and role-based pay
The idea of contribution and role based pay is not new either. The current pay system includes a form of contribution related pay, competency related threshold payments, and role related pay, special priority post payments. The introduction of these two payments was achieved by negotiations and was driven by proposals made by the official side in the early part of this century.
The ‘new’ pay system was introduced over a three year period between 2002 and 2005 to assure affordability. This new pay system was described at the time by the Home Secretary of the day as ‘the most significant change to the police pay system in a generation.’
Immediately prior to the negotiations over this pay system, police pay had included a contribution or performance related pay provision but a method of accessing this payment was never achieved owing to the complexity of defining performance and the added likely administrative burden the system would have required.
It must, however, be difficult for serving officers to understand how the most recent ‘significant’ change, which included performance and role pay, supported by national and local Government and Chief Officers through the PNB, now appears to fail to find any support in those three bodies. They may rightly be asking whether a ‘generational’ change only lasts for the life of a government and if so how anyone can have any faith when considering a career in policing, that the conditions of service statement for police officers can be relied on to be a reasonable statement of their expectations.
Direct entry routes
This is not a new proposal. In fact it is a very old and regularly proposed solution to ‘new challenges’ going back to Trenchard, through Thatcher and Sheehy to Winsor. It is disappointing that at a time when the service appears to be meeting its ever increasing challenges through attracting and retaining high quality recruits for all levels of policing that this idea finds another champion.
As we have previously stated there should not be a ‘minimum level of academic qualification’ to allow one to join the Police Service, this will inevitably disadvantage those from socially deprived areas and would also potentially disadvantage some from minority and ethnic backgrounds. The service continues to attract the right calibre of applicant at present and ‘direct entry’ to the higher ranks as a police officer would mean that police officer managers and supervisors are supervising and leading other police officers without having the basic understanding of what the role they are supervising entails. It is also true that ‘policing skills’ are also required by senior officers in many operational situations.
The service has included non-sworn specialists in many areas of policing for their particular skill set be it finance or human resource management or some other skill. There are no guarantees that having these ‘specialist’ skill sets are likely to produce respected police leaders.
In some respects there could be no worse a time to consider direct entry routes above constable. As police pay becomes stagnant but with the possibility of reductions in pay in addition to a pay freeze for at least 40% of officers and police pension costs are increasing, possibly more significantly for more senior than junior ranks, any direct entry scheme would be bound to affect, in particular, the most talented of those currently in service as they see their promotional opportunities diminish and the retention of those talented and experience officers would become an even bigger issue.
Career length and pension age
The introduction of ‘shorter commissions’ would inevitably lead to a greater turnover of staff and an inevitable greater expenditure on recruitment, training, development and equipment as people are released and recruited on a much more frequent basis. It will also lead to a significant loss of experience and knowledge. It is likely to attract a much less committed recruit and will change the nature of policing.
Again this is not a new idea but is being put forward at a time when the question of retention should be an utmost consideration. The nature of the proposed changes to pensions and pay are likely to impact badly on the question of retention. Short term contract are no long term or even short term solution to the retention problem.
Any pension system to facilitate this increased turnover of officer should obviously need to be much more portable and flexible allowing it to be easily and readily taken with the person upon leaving the service but leading to a more difficult administration of the pension system.
The current restricted duties system allows a Force to make qualified assessments of individuals dependant on medical and other evidence as to whether they wish to retain the skills and expertise that an officer possesses without having to medically retire them. This national agreement was intended to encourage the retention of officers who met all the requirements for medical retirement but who still had skill and experience required by forces providing there was a realistic prospect of a future career for the officer. It is unfortunate that many forces have mismanaged the system more from the need to hit targets than from a careful consideration of the individual circumstances. This has led to a situation where some officers are retained when they should have been retired whilst some officers are offered restrictive duties when they should have been encouraged to resume full duties. Local mismanagement has brought the system into disrepute in some forces but the fundamental principle is sound, based on the Pension Regulations and Police [Injury Benefit] Regulations and does not require changing just better management.
The proposal to transfer officers on restricted duties to become a member of police staff is not a new proposal either. I does in any case blur the distinction between the role of constable and non sworn staff. It would be grossly unfair and allow management to simply transfer officers from one set of terms and conditions to another to avoid their responsilities under the Police Pension Regulations. In addition this would seem a harsh way to treat those injured in the line of duty in particular, by reducing their salary and denying them any injury award entitlement – hardly an encouragement for officers to put themselves in the line of fire to protect the public.
There are in addition adequate provisions for the management of absence and capability. It seems to be management’s constant claim that these are not working so the provisions need to be more draconian when in fact what is needed is better management.
Inso far as the length of police service is concerned, the Hutton enquiry has already made a concession in respect of ‘uniform’ service that retirement should be at age 60 years. NARPO would hope that your review would conclude that that was a reasonable proposition and support that position.
Pay negotiating machinery
Before considering the question of a new pay negotiating machinery, it would be worthwhile just dwelling on how the current system came about. Although reference has been made by your review team to the Edmund Davies Royal Commission the emphasis appears to be on the poor state of police pay prior to the Commission. This however was not the sole drive for a Commission on behalf of the service and in fact a fundfemental issue was over the then pay negotiating machinery, the Police Council.
Police officers representatives had in fact lost faith in the Council and so it is a NARPO view that a major consideration by the Commission was to set up a pay body that would attract the confidence of the service but as we have pointed out earlier, allow Government to have a significant controlling interest in that body.
The PNB has worked successfully for many years despite the fact that it has come under challenge in the past, in the same way it appears to be under attack today, and it should be retained. This would allow police officer pay to continue to be negotiated nationally to ensure a ‘fairer and consistent’ system across the country. It does seem a bit anomylous that the police national pay negotiating machinery appears to be under threat when there appears to be some support in the review for a national machinery for police staff.
NARPO also believe that a national pay body is more cost effective than regional bodies even if some element of regional pay is being considered. The PNB has a good history of dealing with regional allowances in the past.
Finally, insofar as the pay machinery goes, a key issue has got to be the trust of the workforce. If the reviews proposals for police pay are accepted and 40% of police officers, many amongst the most experienced, loose significant amounts of pay, including pensionable pay, what chances are there that those officers will accept a new negotiating system proposed by the same review body.
NARPO, like the majority of police officers, do accept that the Government need to make savings in the public sector and that policing, as part of that sector, needs to contribute to those savings. What is difficult to accept is despite savings being made by way of an effective ‘pay freeze’ and pensions contributions increase that on the back of those measures there are further proposed significant changes to the police remuneration system that could see up to 40% of officers loosing up to £4000.00 of pay in addition to that freeze. This restructuring of pay and further savings could not have come at a worse time and is bound to affect moral and ultimately recruitment and retention.
We understand that the review is intended to support ‘front line policing’ however it is defined but we feel that structural change should not be driven by a pay review rather a pay review should follow a careful consideration of a wider debate about the role and purpose of police in the 21st Century, the structure of that service and the role and requirement of those within that service. In effect the review has defined ‘front line policing’ by default and could leave many experienced officers, currently in roles their Chief Constables think essential but which the review team think are not ‘front line’ considerably out of pocket. This must also show a difference in opinion on what constitutes an essential role worthy of additional reward.
We, like many others within the service, have called for a Royal Commission to address these wider questions. We are disappointed that successive Governments have failed to listen to those requests and fear that until such a Commission is appointed the service will have to meet future challenges from within and resist the continued short term approach to drive change by pay review. We hope, but are sceptical, that the service will recruit and retain sufficient people of high calibre to meet these future challenges.
Clint Elliott QPM