If you keep your peepers on the news today, you’re probably going to see something about a rather orderly demonstration making its way through the streets of Westminster. You’ll notice that it’s a little over-policed (pretty much every marcher is a police officer) and that the participants are opposing something called the Winsor Report.
What’s going on though? What’s the reason for this mass foot patrol and why are some members of the police force not happy about the changes to their pay and conditions as proposed by Winsor?
First of all, this is a pretty difficult one to write about for a range of reasons.
The Winsor Report itself is spread over a few hundred fact-filled pages and doesn’t make the easiest bedtime reading so summing it up is far from easy.
There are also a range of opinions about what the proposals really mean and how they’re likely to affect the police – representing all sides fairly is far from straightforward.
This said, I’ll try my best – who is Tom Winsor and what’s he got to say about policing?
Mr. Winsor is a lawyer and Great Britain’s former Rail Regulator. In 2010 the Home Secretary, Theresa May, asked him to sit down and take a look at how police pay and conditions could be reviewed with the objective of improving the efficiency of how the police manage their manpower and to ensure that remuneration and working conditions are fair.
This is set within the context of the harsh economic climate – a national debt of around £18 billion and an estimated cost to the taxpayer for public sector pensions of £32 billion, out of which £1.9 billion is accounted for by police pensions.
Review he did and in March last year the first part of his report was published looking at recommendations aimed at making short term improvements. It predicted that if the changes suggested were adopted, savings from the police pay bill of £1.1 billion were possible over a three year period.
Before Part One could be brought into force, negotiations took place with the Police Federation (who represent rank and file officers) as to which of the recommendations would be accepted. At the conclusion of this process, the Home Secretary announced that she would support the implementation of Part One’s recommendations.
After a pregnant pause lasting a year, the second part of the Winsor Report was published. Part Two looks at longer term changes to the police force with some of the key suggestions being as follows -
- A new direct entry scheme to Inspector level
- Pension age to be raised from 55 to 60
- Compulsory severance for police officers
- A reduction in pay for officers not in a position requiring the use of their warranted powers and for those on medical restrictions
- Introduction of an annual fitness test
- Changes to how officers progress through the pay scales including shorter intervals and payment linked to skills
In favour of these recommendations, Winsor argues that they will reward the hardest working officers and in his words ‘create a more skilled and effective workforce fit to face the challenges of the next thirty years’.
Raising the retirement age should help address the funding gap in public sector pensions and by opening up direct entry to senior ranks, it is proposed that policing will appear a more attractive career path and so attract the best candidates.
Winsor believes the ability to make police officers redundant will help Chief Constables better manage their resources in times of financial hardship and that the skills base of forces will be improved by introducing a stronger financial incentive to gain valued training and experience.
Opposing the report, the Police Federation has expressed concern that the review could ‘dismantle’ the British police service.
It is said that the first part of the review, alongside the Hutton report on public sector pensions, have already dented morale and that officers feel betrayed that the conditions for which they signed up for are apparently being weakened with the perception being that they will have to work longer and contribute more but end up with less on retirement. Job security could be threatened by compulsory redundancies and the report’s focus on front line duties may undervalue important backroom functions.
In addition to these concerns, the Federation say their members are expressing wider frustrations with the series of financial cuts expected of the service (20% across four years) as well as staff reductions and perceived moves towards ‘privatisation’ of the police.
As I said at the start of this blog, this isn’t an easy one to sum up in under a thousand words and as such I think the best I can do, having given a brief overview, is to point you in the right direction to find out a little more about the issues raised by the march. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin -
- This is Part One of the Winsor Report and here is Part Two. If Part Two is a little too much to chew, here’s a fact sheet summarising the key recommendations.
- From the same site on which the report is published, here’s a short bio on Tom Winsor and here’s his (largely citation-free) Wikipedia page.
- The Hutton Report on public sector pensions was mentioned too – here it is in full and again, a summary of the key elements is available here.
- Here is the national Police Federation site on which they have sections for both Part One and Part Two of the report. The West Midlands Police Federation has its own site too.