11 captures
10 Mar 2011 - 12 Nov 2020
About this capture
Thursday March 10th 2011
Police pay
A policeman’s lot is not a happy one
Mar 8th 2011, 21:46 by M.S. | LONDON
IT'S crunch time for the police this week. Today the Winsor report came out with proposals to cut police pay and benefits when the current three-year pay deal ends in September. At the heart of it is curbing overtime and bonuses and other allowances which have become embedded and conceal real differences in what people of similar seniority do. One goal is obviously to save money; but another important one is to modernise police management, recognising and motivating officers who do more and better than their fellows.

But this is only one of blows police say they are reeling from. On Thursday the Hutton report is widely expected to recommend making coppers, like other public-sector workers, pay more for their pensions (they say they already contribute more than others in state employment). The police service has in any event been in austerity mode for a couple of years, even before the 20% budget cut through 2014-15 was announced last October. And like other public-sector workers they also face a two-year pay freeze from next September.

Is all this a death blow to law and order as we know it? Or the foundations of more efficient and flexible policing?

Policing can be a difficult and dangerous occupation, and the proliferation of laws and form-filling and what-not over the past decade have not made the job easier. But resources, both money and manpower, have also grown tremendously. There has been a sustained increase in funding since 2001, the year in which police officers and civilian staff started climbing. But management has been sluggish. Despite the increase in bodies, overtime more than doubled between 2001-02 and 2007-08, points out Policy Exchange, a think-tank.  

Manpower is undoubtedly going to take a hit now; this has been clear since the 20% fiscal cutback was made public in the autumn. Since pay accounts for 80% of most forces’ budget, and a certain amount of back-office costs were already being squeezed out, it is hard to see what else can go. ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers, estimates that 16,000 police officers and 12,000 staff will be cut. If that is the eventual figure--and the Police Federation, which represents lower-ranking policemen, has put round a bigger number--there would still be more police officers on the strength than ten years ago and many more civilian staff.

Three points are perhaps worth making. The first is that the link between boots on the ground and crime reduction isn’t absolute: many factors influence the crime rate, of which bobbies on the beat is only one. Crime fell through the noughties when resources were being poured into it, and most people definitely like to see police around, as recent polling by Ipsos-MORI for the Police Federation emphasises. Cutting police numbers is not a step that any politician would relish, absent the fiscal deficit. But it is not axiomatic that crime will surge as a result, especially if these proposals (which remain only that) enable police chiefs to deploy manpower more efficiently. Part 2 of the Winsor report is due to hit the stands in the autumn, suggesting wider-ranging management reforms.

The second point has to do with internal police politics. There are two broad police reforms going on, both at a time when money is in short supply. In addition to the pay review is a flagship government policy to create, from 2012, elected police and crime commissioners, with power to set spending priorities and hire and fire chief constables. The Police Federation, the body representing rank-and-file officers (police constables through chief superintendents), is disturbed by the Winsor recommendations on pay but less so by the prospect of new commissioners. ACPO, which groups their bosses, greeted the Winsor report with sang-froid (it gives them more flexibility in managing their forces) but detests the elected commissioners. In the past, the police have met opposition as one. No longer—and just how that may affect the reform process remains to be seen.  

A final point is also political, but on a bigger and potentially more dangerous stage. There are troubled times ahead as broad budget cuts bite, not least on March 26th, when a large union-organised protest is scheduled to hit the streets. Margaret Thatcher, no friend of the unions, took care to have the police onside whenever she took on organised labour. This time, as Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, points out,  “Those policing the march will be facing deeper cuts than those actually on it.” 
Submit to reddit
Recommend (16)
Readers' comments
The Economist welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our comments policy.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Please login or sign up for a free account.
Oldest firstNewest firstReaders' most recommended
1-6 of 6
Cutters wrote:
Mar 8th 2011 11:14 GMT
A police officers starting pay is £26109, a soldier £17,015. Now I know that a soldier can get more pay when on operations, but it hardly seems right that a police officer starts on better pay than a soldier... Definitely food for thought.
Recommend (6)
Report abuse
migmigmigmig wrote:
Mar 9th 2011 2:22 GMT
I always assumed modern army pay was lower due to the supplement of room, board, equipment, etc.
Is it different in Britain?
Recommend (6)
Report abuse
Cutters wrote:
Mar 9th 2011 10:06 GMT
migmigmigmig: That is indeed wrong. They pay for their food and loggings comes out of their pay. All thanks to Labour cheapskating the Armed Forces.
Not even the police 'pay' for their equipment. Seriously, there is noway a Police Officer should be getting a better basic salary than a soldier.
Recommend (3)
Report abuse
qos wrote:
Mar 9th 2011 2:56 GMT
It's worth remembering Police officers (rather than support staff) can't be made redundant as compensation for not being able to go on strike. The reduction in officers can only be done over time; it doesnt mean Police suddenly join the unemployed. Something that police unions never point out.
Recommend (4)
Report abuse
Scott Yearsley wrote:
Mar 9th 2011 9:09 GMT
If the police do protest, they should prepare to be kettled by legions of students.
Recommend (5)
Report abuse
chipojo wrote:
Mar 10th 2011 11:46 GMT
**Quite different times, different costumes, different needs, tradition has to evolute or loose its basic characteristics, that has to be permanent and not subject to changes. Go, good people, Go.
Report abuse
1-6 of 6
About Blighty
On this blog, our correspondents ponder political, cultural, business and scientific developments in Britain, the spiritual and geographical home of The Economist. It takes its name from a fond but faintly derogatory name for the mother country often used among British expats.
RSS feed
Economist blogs
Americas view
Asia view
Bagehot's notebook
Buttonwood's notebook
Charlemagne's notebook
Daily chart
Democracy in America
Eastern approaches
Free exchange
Global Leadership
Lexington's notebook
Schumpeter's notebook
The World in 2011: Cassandra
Most commented
Most recommended
Charlemagne: No time for doubters
This week's caption competition: Caption competition 7
America’s security commitment to Taiwan: From keystone to millstone?
Turkey and Europe: Mr Erdoğan goes to Germany
America's budget: The elephant in the room
A special report on property: Building excitement
Mormons in politics: When the saints come marching in
Defence budgets: Military ranking
Trains vs. planes: Trains and partisanship
China's foreign policy: Setting sail for Libya
Over the past five days
Latest blog posts - All times are GMT
The sex trade imbalance
From Free exchange - 57 mins ago
Berlin is the future
From Prospero - 22 mins ago
Those spoiled brats
From Free exchange - 1 hour 13 mins ago
What you learn by hanging out with finance directors
From Free exchange - 2 hours 33 mins ago
Letting go of the apron strings
From Buttonwood's notebook - 2 hours 33 mins ago
Reading material
From Prospero - 3 hours 22 mins ago
Link exchange
From Free exchange - March 9th, 22:10
More from our blogs »
Products & events
Stay informed today and every day
Subscribe to The Economist's free e-mail newsletters and alerts.
Get e-mail newsletters
Subscribe to The Economist's latest article postings on Twitter
Follow The Economist on Twitter
See a selection of The Economist's articles, events, topical videos and debates on Facebook.
Follow The Economist on Facebook
Classified ads
About The Economist online
About The Economist
Media directory
Staff books
Career opportunities
Contact us
[+] Site feedback
Copyright © The Economist Newspaper Limited 2011. All rights reserved.
Advertising info
Legal disclaimer
Privacy policy
Terms of use
Log inSubscribeRegisterMy account
Digital & mobileNewslettersRSSClassifiedsHelp
HomeWorld politics All WorldUnited StatesBritainEuropeAsiaAmericasAfricaMiddle EastBusiness & finance All Business & financeBusiness educationWhich MBA?Ideas ArenaEconomics All EconomicsMarkets & DataScience & technologyCultureSite indexPrint edition