Police launch legal action against government amid row over pensions and pay freeze

Priti Patel to defend police pay freeze and crime policies in speech to conference on Tuesday

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 14 September 2021 02:43

Police officers have launched legal action against the government over pensions as relations sour with ministers.

The Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) alleges that female officers who worked part-time or took career breaks will be discriminated against, and is challenging the lawfulness of the government’s consultation on changes.

The High Court has granted permission for a judicial review of pension plans, and the PSA is also contesting employment tribunals in support of female superintendents on the basis of potential sex discrimination.

The group, which represents senior officers in England and Wales, is separately withdrawing from an official remuneration body following a pay freeze announced in July.

A vote of no confidence in Priti Patel was previously held by the Police Federation, which represents 130,000 rank-and-file officers and said the current system for deciding pay was “not fit for purpose”.

Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths, president of the PSA, is to announce upcoming action at the association’s annual conference on Tuesday.

“No one enters policing to get rich,” he will say. “It is a vocation and a career that provides challenge and demands sacrifice like no other – something clearly demonstrated amidst the pandemic.

“However, with very few employment rights, it is essential that police officers have fair and transparent processes in place to determine their pay, and that they have a clear voice within this.

“The government direction on public service pay has overridden these processes, making decisions around pay in advance of the evidence it requests from stakeholders right across the service.”

Ch Supt Griffiths will also question why there has been an increase of just 25 police superintendents in the last year to manage the recruitment of 20,000 extra police officers.

The uplift was announced by Boris Johnson shortly after he became prime minister in 2019 and has been championed by Priti Patel, amid concerns over implementation and criticism of the Conservatives’ previous cuts to policing budgets.

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The home secretary had been expected to address the PSA conference on Tuesday, but she was unable to attend and sent a pre-recorded video message instead.

She will defend the police pay freeze, saying the chancellor “could not justify an across-the-board pay increase for public sector workers” because of a disparity with public sector wages affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“He asked the advice of the pay review bodies, proposing to raise pay in the NHS but pause pay rises elsewhere in order to protect jobs,” she will say. “None of us wanted to be in this situation.”

Ms Patel will hail a new police covenant, contained within the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill, as a means of reducing demand and protecting the mental health and wellbeing of officers.

However, police leaders have voiced opposition to other parts of the bill amid concerns that a crackdown on protest will stoke conflict with demonstrators, and that Traveller communities will be discriminated against with new laws criminalising trespass.

The Independent previously revealed that policing bodies were not formally consulted on the government’s new Beating Crime Plan, which was revealed unexpectedly in July.

The home secretary will tell the PSA’s conference that the plan and PCSC Bill will work “in tandem” to cut crime.

“A critical element to beating crime is ensuring the police have all the powers they need to do their jobs,” she will say. “We gathered the views of police officers and community scrutiny leaders throughout.”

Other speakers at the conference will include Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

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