Blog: Government’s latest wizard wheeze to save cash

16 August 2018

Dave Bamber

Professional Development lead Dave Bamber

Following the Government’s pay announcement, Federation Professional Development lead Dave Bamber highlights the concerns over new apprenticeship pay.

Just when you thought police pay couldn’t get any worse, along comes a new pay scheme that really does beggar belief.

Yes, it’s the new policing apprenticeship which will see recruits earning a derisory £18,000 a year, unlike other probationers who start in just under £20K (and some forces pay up to £23K where they have difficulty recruiting.)

At this rate, those who dreamed up the idea should have no difficulty auditioning for Scrooge.

The Government announced the new apprenticeship pay at the same time as they unveiled this year’s paltry 2% pay rise for all police officers in England and Wales.

Like so many Government announcements, they employed an element of smoke and mirrors because the 2% increase is really 0.85% when you take into account inflation – or the equivalent of about £2.50 a week for a new PC.

But the new apprenticeship pay really takes the biscuit. Those officers on the apprenticeship scheme will be sworn in and fully accountable from Day One.

They will be tackling the same crimes as every other copper on the streets and yes, like them, they may be put in danger, at serious risk of harm.  And on top of that they will have the added pressure of completing an academic syllabus.

There will be high expectations placed on them, together with poverty level pay packets. Because many of those on apprenticeship wages will truly be living on the breadline.

It’s not all bad news – Chief Constables do have some flexibility to raise the starting salary; in South Wales they are offering £19,971 to new apprentices and it will be interesting to see how much other Chiefs really value their staff and if they follow suit.

We’ve done the calculations and worked out that those on £18K will already be around £39 in debt at the end of each month after spending on basics such as food, rent and travel. In other words, officers would need to borrow each month just to pay their bills, or would have to claim benefits just to survive.

So I am concerned for those starting their police careers on such low wages when we already have the evidence from our own Pay and Morale survey which shows that members are feeling the pinch like never before. It shows that even for those on higher rates of the pay scale, many more are resorting to second jobs and welfare schemes to put food on the table.

It’s not all doom and gloom – for many, these apprenticeships will offer a way into the police service for those without a degree and those not interested in pursuing one first. They will gain valuable and interesting work experience at the same time as a qualification – albeit on a low wage – unlike those who have to self-fund a degree.

We also have to remember that whatever the contention, these apprentice officers are still our members. We will continue to support those members, no matter what, and fight for better pay and conditions.

My concern, though, is whether these low wages are really sustainable. Since 2009, we have lost a staggering 22,000 officers, many because of budget cuts. But also the numbers voluntarily leaving are rising – nearly 2,000 over the past 12 months, or an increase of 31% over the past four years.

If we carry on the way we are, we may find the exodus turning into a flood.  Who is to say that some of those apprentices, having joined on £18K, find themselves struggling so much financially that they are literally forced to quit the service in search of better paid jobs?

Then we might be left with even more gaps in our struggling police service. This should be a stark warning to Government: you get what you pay for.