Theresa May faces police backlash over pay cuts

The Home Secretary is on a collision course with police rank-and-file after she warned them that their pay and perks would have to be cut back to save jobs. Theresa May vowed to overhaul the rules governing police overtime and working conditions. "No Home Secretary wants to cut police officers' pay packages, but with a record budget deficit, these are extraordinary circumstances," she said.

Forces face a £2bn squeeze as the Government's austerity measures begin to bite – a cut experts believe could threaten 20,000 jobs. Officers' pay is expected to be frozen over the next two years, saving an estimated £350m, but Ms May signalled that she backs reforming a salary structure in which constables can double their income through overtime payments.

Ms May said: "We are doing all we can to minimise the effect of the spending reductions on pay. But changes to pay and conditions have to be part of the package."

But Peter Smyth, of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents officers in London, said the moves would "shatter morale" among his members. He added: "Clearly we are not going to take this lying down."

A review by the former rail regulator Tom Winsor, to be published on Tuesday, will set out recommendations for reforming police funding. Previous attempts to overhaul pay and conditions have failed after fierce opposition from rank-and-file officers – and although police are banned from striking they look certain to mount a vigorous campaign against the changes. Ms May also called for officers in all forces to follow the example of the Metropolitan Police and patrol alone, rather than in pairs; she said this had helped increase the number of officers on the beat by 25 per cent.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "This is a desperate and disingenuous attempt to distract people from the fact that the police have already had to announce cuts of over 10,000 officers this year and next because the Government is cutting too far and too fast."

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