Police chiefs urge end to bonus culture

Tens of millions of pounds in police bonuses faced the axe today after chief constables told Home Secretary Theresa May they were not wanted.

A delegation of force leaders told the Tory Cabinet member that bonuses are not part of the country's "policing culture" and should be dumped.

They said the system of making special payments to all ranks was imposed on police despite concerns that private sector remuneration was not suitable for their unique role.

The bonus system was covered during a wide-ranging discussion between a handful of chief constables, the Home Secretary and Police Minister Nick Herbert yesterday.

Among those present were Humberside chief Tim Hollis, Thames Valley chief Sara Thornton, West Midlands chief Chris Sims and West Yorkshire boss Sir Norman Bettison.

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), who also attended the meeting, said bonuses have always been "anathema to policing".

He said: "There is a bigger debate here about the whole public sector. To deliver, the public sector needs to look at the whole reward structure.

"There are some unique things about policing. These guys work in imprecise environments, we rely on them to make split second decisions.

"That has got to be recognised, but we need to recognise it in a fair way. Acpo recognises there is pressure on the public purse. It is about recognising professional working practices and rewards."

News of the meeting emerged after Scotland Yard boss Sir Paul Stephenson called for an end to bonus payments for all police officers to repair public confidence.

Britain's most senior officer said the service was damaged by the bonus culture, it does not motivate police to work harder and warned the payments could be "divisive".

The subject is now sure to feature when Mr Herbert faces rank-and-file officers at the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth today and when Mrs May attends tomorrow.

Prime Minister David Cameron moved to curb public spending by announcing an end to "crazy" performance-related pay for senior civil servants.

Sir Paul, who is paid £250,000 a year and previously called for a "fundamental review" of bonuses, said he has turned down more than £100,000 of performance-related pay since 2005.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "If I had accepted a bonus I always felt as though I would compromise my operational independence and discharge of duties, and that is something that forms the basis to my whole approach to policing.

"I am very disappointed that we still have bonus payments in policing. Now is the time to get rid of them, as far as I'm concerned. They should never have been there in the first place."

The issue of bonuses for top officers hit the headlines last summer when it emerged several forces were paying extra cash to their highest-ranking officers.

Chief constables Ian McPherson at Norfolk, Sean Price at Cleveland and Sir Norman received incentives in addition to their published salaries.

But the latest discussions included bonuses for all ranks of officers, including special payments for frontline officers who undertake particularly difficult or unpleasant tasks.

Sir Paul added: "I've been an opponent right from the very outset of bonus payments for chief officers, special priority payments and competency threshold payments.

"I think there is a whole scheme of payments and remuneration brought into policing that I do not think has served policing very well.

"I think it has been divisive. I think it has complicated the whole purpose of policing and the tradition of police officers being paid a salary and the public knowing that for that salary they will get the officers' independent discharge of their duties."

Paul McKeever, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said bonus payments have always been controversial.

Speaking in Bournemouth, he said the "time is right" for a review of all types of bonus for every level of officer.

Mr McKeever said: "Bonus payments have not been working well for some time. The implementation is patchy as it is down to individual senior officers."

Clive Chamberlain, chair of Dorset Police Federation, said removing bonus would be difficult.

He said the payments were originally implemented to cover for lost allowances, such as clothing payments for detectives and subsidies for firearms officers.

Mr Chamberlain added: "It is not like it is new money. If they take away bonuses then people will have lost out."

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