Labour warns that unfunded off er would further hit stretched budgets
THE government’s “unfunded” increase in police pay could push forces to breaking point as it will be paid for by a further cut to their budgets, Labour warned yesterday.
Shadow policing minister Louise Haigh said the announcement might see the government “run down their general reserves” to fund the extra staffing costs.
Ministers announced this week that police officers would be offered a “1 per cent pay rise and a 1 per cent, one-off, non-consolidated payment that is non-pensionable.”
Police chiefs are concerned that, having only budgeted for a 1 per cent rise this year, in line with the long-standing public-sector pay cap, they must now find an extra £50 million to cover the wage increase until September next year.
In an urgent question on the 2017-18 police pay settlement and funding, Ms Haigh said: “The government has been on warning for some time that the police is nearing breaking point — today we are telling them this move may finally break them.”
She said the plans would cost the Metropolitan Police £17.7m, while West Yorkshire and West Midlands estimated they could lose 80 front-line officers as a result.
Ms Haigh also mentioned that the “vast majority” of police reserves were “earmarked for projected spending and only £363m remains in general reserves.”
She asked: “Could the minister therefore confirm if they are actually requiring police forces to run down their general reserves to fund staffing costs and if she considers this fiscally responsible?”
Home Office Minister Sarah Newton said it was “really doing our hard-working police officers the most horrendous disservice to [be] constantly portraying them [as being] at breaking point, that they can’t serve communities.”
She said the government had accepted the pay review body’s recommendations and officers would be receiving a 2 per cent increase. The cost of delivering the extra 1 per cent is “absolutely affordable for forces,” she also claimed.
On average, police officers have seen their wages fall by almost £6,000 in real terms since 2010, according to Labour analysis of government data.