Police plan mass rally as part of pounds 1m protest: Confrontation with Government over Sheehy

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THOUSANDS of police officers from across Britain will join a Wembley mass rally next week as part of a campaign of grassroots opposition to the Sheehy report's proposals for police pay and responsibilities.

The Police Federation, representing 125,000 lower-ranking officers in England and Wales, is believed to be spending pounds 1m on an advertising and lobbying campaign that could bring it into collision with the Government.

Full-page advertisements were due to appear in several national newspapers this morning quoting Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, the former prime minister who, as an MP, was the federation's parliamentary adviser from 1955 to 1964. He describes the report, by Sir Patrick Sheehy, chairman of BAT Industries, as 'a series of dogmatic conclusions backed with very little argument and based upon an inaccurate analysis of the problem'.

On Tuesday, the federation, with sister organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, expects its rally to fill the 11,500-capacity Wembley Arena. Sharing the platform will be leaders of the Police Superintendents' Associations, against the planned abolition of the chief superintendent rank, and Sir Roger Birch, Chief Constable of Sussex, also opposed to Sheehy. Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, and Tony Blair, his Labour shadow, have been invited.

The bill for the newspaper advertisements and the rally is known to be more than pounds 300,000. Further campaigning both locally and nationally is possible during the summer and the police will take their cause to the party conferences in the autumn.

Last year the federation engaged Westminster Strategy, a parliamentary lobbyist, at a cost believed to be more than pounds 100,000 a year; it will play a leading part in the campaign.

The federation says Sheehy's proposals to replace a national annual pay award with performance-related pay and contracts is a 'blueprint for disaster,' designed only to save money. By ending central bargaining, Sheehy undermines the role of the federations as sole representative bodies; it says chief constables should consult 'but not negotiate'.

Delivering the annual Police Foundation lecture last night, Mr Howard gave no indication of his response to Sheehy, which will be included in the planned autumn Police Bill.

Avon and Somerset police is scrapping the title of detective and giving plainclothes officers the same ranks as their uniformed colleagues. It is hoped it will break down barriers between CID and uniformed officers and help to combat crime.

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