Police reforms to be abandoned

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The Independent Online
THE HOME Secretary will reject the proposal for fixed-term contracts for the police, one of the key recommendations in the Sheehy report for changing the 'jobs for life' culture in the service.

Senior ministerial colleagues have told the Independent that Michael Howard will not go ahead with contracts because they would do more damage than good to the police service. 'He will go ahead with parts of Sheehy. But short- term contracts destroy career structure and morale,' one senior minister said.

The Home Secretary, who has been under intense pressure from all police ranks to reject Sir Patrick Sheehy's report, is also said to be sceptical about the practicality of replacing the yearly index- linked pay rises with performance-related pay.

Rejecting fixed-term contracts and performance-related pay would tear the guts out of the recommendations but defuse a potentially serious political problem with the police for John Major when the Tories need their support.

That would only leave the abolition of some layers of bureaucracy, with the scrapping of three senior ranks, such as chief superintendent; a tightening of sick leave rules; the virtual abolition of overtime; and greater local flexibility for performance-related bonuses, although the national pay structure would survive. Rent allowances might be curbed.

The Home Secretary is expected to give a clear indication of the climbdown to the Conservative Party Conference in October. Tory business managers plan to use the conference, and the Criminal Justice Bill in the next parliamentary session, to revive support with a law-and- order offensive.

Police opposition to Sheehy would undermine that strategy and could lead to more Commons rebellions if the Government tried to press ahead.

Sir Teddy Taylor, a right-wing Tory backbencher and vice-chairman of the backbench home affairs committee, said he had found no support for Sheehy on the Tory back benches. Another Tory source said: 'A lot of Tory MPs will oppose it. It's likely to be dropped . . . .'

Sir Teddy said: 'The whole principle of the British police force is really the idea that they are a band of brothers. If there is a riot at the Independent newspaper, they all come together and they are not competing with each other. The idea of individual assessment - and short- term contracts are linked to it - is a threat to that principle.'

He added he did not think there would 'much left at all' of the Sheehy recommendations when the conclusions were announced to the Commons in the autumn by the Home Secretary.