Police pay tops my priority list

01 October 2018

National Secretary Alex Duncan

National Secretary Alex Duncan

New National Secretary Alex Duncan sets out his vision for the future as he settles into the hot seat for the first time today, 1 October.

When I first joined the service in a busy South Bristol nick in 1990, my primary focus was in helping the community and nabbing villains.

I knew very little about the Police Federation but that all changed when my path crossed with that of a particularly officious commander, whose interpretation of the rules and regulations was questionable. I took issue with his view that we should be working our rest days for no compensation with little to no notice. The outcome of my challenge was one rather sulky commander but a group of happy colleagues who decided that I was the right person to fill the vacant Federation rep’s position.

So 19 years ago I became a Fed rep. In 2014 I was elected to the National Board, little imagining I would be sat where I am today. And guess what? Police pay and conditions are still top of my ‘to do’ list.

Put simply, for the second year running we have been dealt a bitter blow by the Government who have refused to implement the recommendations of the pay review body.

We asked for a 3.4% salary increase and the PRRB (Police Remuneration Review Body) said we should get 3%. Even the Home Secretary Sajid Javid privately wrote to the PM asking her to honour the PRRB recommendation.

But no, those pleas fell on deaf ears and we have been stuck with a derisory 2% for the second year in a row. This is only worth a miserly 0.85% taking into account inflation, and works out at about £2.50 a week for your average constable.

When you consider that in real terms police pay has now decreased by about 18% since 2009/10, you’ll understand why officers – a group of people with little or no employment rights – are up in arms.

We’ve done the maths – and this was spelt out to Government in our pay submission – that those recruits starting on the new proposed £18,000-a-year apprenticeships 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 our argument isn’t with the PRRB, or with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, who have made clear that they believe the recommendation should have been accepted in full. No, it’s with Government, and that is why I anticipate that a fair proportion of my time will be spent fighting for a better deal for officers.

No poker player would ever dream of showing their hand prematurely but I can promise our 120,000 members that we are currently exploring all the options. It is quite simply not just or fair to ask us to participate in a pay negotiating process, only for the Government to walk away because they don’t like the outcome.

This is one fight I will not give up. I want to continue the excellent work achieved by my predecessor Andy Fittes who has been at the helm of pay negotiations for the past few years, and also helped steer the organisation through a particularly difficult period.

Five years ago it was a different story but now the recommendations from the Independent Review have been completed, with the recent elections marking the end of that phase of reform, a transition overseen by Andy.

Of course no organisation ever truly stops evolving. But we are in a great position now with dozens of new reps, a new National Board and a new National Council to pull together and concentrate efforts on seeking the best for our membership who we recognise as being catastrophically under-resourced, over-stretched and underpaid.

I feel the same as I did 19 years ago when I started my Federation journey. The things that mattered then still matter now, the only difference being that hopefully my achievements will resonate on a larger scale. Together with my colleagues, I am going to do my very best to represent all those officers who make up the backbone of policing across England and Wales. They deserve nothing less.