Home Secretary Priti Patel has been told it is “not too late” for her to win back the trust of police by U-turning on the decision to freeze officers’ pay.
The Police Federation of England and Wales said on Thursday that it no longer has confidence in Ms Patel, branding the bitterly-opposed pay freeze for officers earning more than £24,000 the final straw.
Labour has called on the Cabinet minister to “consider her position” following what the party called a real-terms pay cut, with one chief constable labelling the decision “an insult”.
But national federation chairman John Apter said there is still time for the Home Secretary to regain the support of the 130,000 rank-and-file officers his organisation represents by increasing their wages.
He told LBC: “We feel bitterly let down, betrayed, and this isn’t just about the pay announcement that was, as you say, the final straw.
“This goes back to the vaccination programme. Let’s look at the way that we were vilified and then hung out to dry during the pandemic, with the Home Secretary saying nice things and not following it up.
“It’s not too late to do what the Health Secretary did, which is do a U-turn and make the announcement for the NHS staff.”
Pay freezes were announced this week for the majority of public sector workers, including for police and teachers, but NHS staff will get a 3% rise, which is to be paid out of existing health budgets, the Government confirmed.
There remains palpable anger among police chiefs at the decision not to reward frontline officers who have had a tough 16 months implementing “confusing” coronavirus rules.
The Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police branded the pay stasis as “wholly unacceptable” and an “insult”.
In a statement on his Twitter account on Thursday night, Nick Adderley said: “Over the past 18 months I have seen officers punched, stabbed, shot, persecuted and ridiculed whilst attempting to implement confusing, rushed and ambiguous legislation, in order to protect the public and, rightly, the NHS, only to be ignored when it comes to a pay settlement.
“The announcement today of a 0% pay increase for police officers is, quite frankly, an insult and wholly unacceptable.”
Among the force chiefs to publicly criticise the lack of pay incentive was chief constable Ben-Julian Harrington, who is head of Essex Police, which covers Ms Patel’s Witham constituency.
Mr Harrington described the move as “disappointing” and said that, while he understood there were financial pressures, “we must ensure our people get what they deserve”.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has called for Ms Patel to “change course” following “overwhelming pressure” from senior force leaders to back down over the “disastrous” pay review.
We are saying Priti Patel needs to consider her positionShadow policing minister Sarah Jones
Shadow policing minister Sarah Jones appeared to go further, suggesting Ms Patel should consider resigning following a “litany of errors” during her tenure, citing Boris Johnson’s decision to back his minister earlier this year despite his former ethics adviser finding that her behaviour towards Home Office staff had amounted to bullying.
The Labour MP told Sky News: “We said she should look at her position when she was found to have broken the ministerial code for bullying.
“She has a litany of errors that she has made since she became Home Secretary but the buck stops with the Prime Minister on this one.”
Pushed on whether she was asking for Ms Patel to stand down following the pay decision, Ms Jones replied: “We are saying she needs to consider her position.”
Cabinet colleague George Eustice, however, defended the Home Secretary, declaring that he has full confidence in her.
Asked on Sky News about the vote of no confidence, the Environment Secretary said: “Under her watch we’ve been increasing police numbers and it’s also the case that she’s taken action to make sure the police have got the powers that they need to do their job and to remove some of the frustration, so I think she’s doing a fine job as Home Secretary.
“Whatever job you’re in you will get a degree of criticism, there will be things you have to do that may well be the right thing to do, but aren’t always popular with everyone. That’s par for the course, it goes with the territory.”
Staff working for the National Crime Agency are also facing the same pay freeze.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has demonstrated her commitment time and time again to supporting the brave police officers who keep us safe, giving them the resources and powers they need to fight crime and protect the public.
“We are recruiting 20,000 extra officers, 8,771 already in place, increased taxpayer funding for policing by up to £600 million and gave forces £200 million to meet unforeseen costs of the pandemic.
“This is in addition to enhancing protection of the police, increasing sentencing for assaulting officers and investment in equipment.
“The economy has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, with pressures on public finances and we must protect jobs and ensure fairness.”