Rank and file police have voted by an overwhelming majority to overturn the historic ban on officers going out on strike.
The result of the Police Federation ballot will send relations with the Government to a new low amid anger over moves by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to cut pay and overhaul officers’ terms and conditions.
Officers voted by 45,651 to 10,681 in favour of being allowed to take industrial action. However, as just under half of the federation’s 133,000 members took part in the online ballot it was not enough under its rules to seek a mandate.
The federation said cuts of 20 per cent to policing, as well as “attacks” on pensions, pay and conditions had led to “unprecedented discontent and low morale” among officers.
A review by Tom Winsor, the former rail regulator, has recommended cutting police starting pay from £23,000 to £19,000 and introducing a fast-track scheme to allow high-flying new recruits to become inspectors within three years. His recommendations are expected to be adopted by Ms May.
Steve Williams, the federation’s chairman, said: “A significant proportion of our membership has indicated they want the right to take industrial action. This highlights the pressures currently felt by rank and file officers throughout England and Wales.”
He added: “Our members value their unique employment status as servants of the crown … and I believe the vast majority of them would view industrial action as a last resort.
“However, the significant number that voted in favour of the right to take industrial action have done so in response to the reforms and changes to policing which are being proposed and implemented by the government, and the impact those changes are having on officers’ ability to do their jobs and on their morale.”
Damian Green, the Policing Minister, said: “I am pleased the vast majority of police officers do not want the right to strike - their work is too important. Our police have done a fantastic job to cut crime by 10 per cent over the first two years of this Government, despite having to play their role in cutting the country's record deficit.
“The Federation has a key role to play in driving our reforms on improving professionalism and leadership across all ranks and I look forward to working closely with them in the future.”