Police rank and file are threatening a mass demonstration in the run-up to the royal wedding next month to protest against moves to cut the pay of tens of thousands of officers by up to £4,000 a year.
They reacted furiously to proposals for an overhaul of pay and conditions that will leave at least 40 per cent of the country's 143,000 officers worse off. The reform programme was set out in a government-commissioned review by former rail regulator Tom Winsor, who said police pay was based on an outdated formula from the 1970s.
He called for the complex bonuses, salary top-ups and "ludicrously generous" overtime payments to be replaced with more targeted payments to reward frontline posts and unsocial hours.
Mr Winsor's proposals look certain to be endorsed by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, as she searches for savings of more than £2bn in her departmental budget. Ministers are now braced for a gruelling battle with the police, who have successfully fought off two attempts by previous governments to reform their pay structure.
The Police Federation was last night planning its resistance to the moves which would trim £217m from the police pay bill over three years.
Although officers are banned from taking industrial action, the federation said it would do "everything possible" to protest, raising the prospect of a major rally in central London ahead of the royal wedding on 29 April. Paul McKeever, its chairman, said officers already faced a two-year pay freeze and higher pension contributions, adding: "We feel very upset and let down by the Government, which we thought would recognise the sacrifices we make."
Mr Winsor's review concluded that police were "comparatively well-paid", earning 10 to 15 per cent more than other emergency workers and up to 60 per cent higher than the average wage in some regions. He said moves to streamline their pay structure would leave some officers – notably those on the frontline and working anti-social hours – some £1,500 to £2,000 better off.
Mr Winsor concluded that the system, which was devised in 1978, needed to be reformed to recognise the "hardest jobs done in the most demanding circumstances". Not as many officers work at nights and at weekends as 33 years ago, while many others take on more specialised duties, he said.
He said about 40 per cent of officers – typically those in back office roles – would be out of pocket, losing between £3,000 and £4,000. But he said the reforms would mean officers would retain their statutory protection against being made compulsorily redundant.
Mr Winsor said: "People should be paid for what they do and how well they do it, and the service needs modern management tools to operate with the greatest efficiency and economy in a time of considerable national financial pressure and restraint."
Mrs May has already signalled that she backs fundamental reform of the police salary structure in order to minimise the impact on job losses.
Police chiefs have warned that 28,000 posts could go over the next four years – including 12,000 officers' jobs – as a result of the Government's austerity measures, while the Police Federation has put the figure at 40,000.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "The Government is cutting too far too fast and hitting the police budget hard. Ultimately it is local communities that will pay the price."