Police Federation extend 'olive branch' over pay

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Indy Politics

The Police Federation extended a New Year's "olive branch" to the Home Secretary yesterday and urged her to reconsider her position over the bitter police pay row.

Jacqui Smith sparked outrage when she announced that a 2.5 per cent rise agreed at arbitration would not be fully backdated, effectively slashing it to under 2 per cent.

Several Chief Constables have attacked her stance and the Police Federation will ballot its members early in 2008 on whether they want the right to strike, which they are currently denied.

In an open letter to the Home Secretary, Jan Berry, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said officers were "angry and bitterly disappointed" at the pay settlement.

Mrs Berry wrote: "I want to take this opportunity to offer an olive branch. It's not too late to change course and stop this situation escalating.

"You know the mood of police officers, the public and many of your political colleagues. I can assure you, we have no intention of letting this go.

"I would ask you therefore to urgently reconsider the decision. Do the right thing for policing, for police officers and for the good of the country.

"Restore honour in the office of Home Secretary, rebuild trust with the police service and honour the decision of the independent Police Arbitration Tribunal in full."

The Federation, which represents 140,000 rank-and-file officers, called for the Home Secretary's resignation earlier this month.

A Home Office spokeswoman said Ms Smith would meet Mrs Berry in January to continue talks and hoped to find a "constructive way forward".

She continued: "The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have both recognised the disappointment and anger of police officers over this year's pay award.

"The Home Secretary has been clear throughout the process that in a tough year for public sector pay, the police settlement needed to balance a recognition of the important contribution of police officers with the need to keep inflation under control.

"The police pay award is higher than the original government offer and is now in police pay packets in full.

"However, staging the award from December ensures that it is fair to both police officers and to other public sector workers, and is right for the future of our economy."

Labour MP Keith Vaz. chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, welcomed the tone and content of the Police Federation's letter.

He urged Ms Smith to engage in talks with officers with a view to meeting their demands over backdating the pay settlement.

Mr Vaz said: "The Prime Minister has said we must step up the fight against terrorism in 2008.

"Let us do so with the full participation, enthusiasm and focus of our excellent police services on this important agenda. This is not the time to short-change them.

"We need a New Year's resolution from the Home Secretary to end the bitterness and move on."

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