Tom Winsor the rail regulator. He wants to do to the police what Beeching did to the railways
A year ago now I wrote an article entitled Police Shafted following the publication of the Winsor report, Part 1. That was quite simply an attack on the pay and conditions of police officers. The outcome of which will be that police officers, who are already demoralised by a totally ineffective justice system, will become further demoralised. Part 2 has now been published. This report recommends further reductions in pay and further attacks on conditions but is largely an attack on the office of constable and on the police service as we know it.
Let's start with fitness testing and get that red herring out of the way. For years now the Government has been softening up the public and media. They have been feeding lies to the press regarding pay and conditions, such as police getting half a days pay for answering the phone at home. This nonsense was swallowed up by shallow journalists such as those at The Mail. All this was done to ensure there was no public support for the police when the Government wielded the axe to castrate the police. Winsor himself has focused on the fitness testing issue to try and suggest that his report contained nothing but quite reasonable recommendations. As long as there are safeguards for injured officers I don't have any problem with fitness testing. Scoring 5.4 on the shuttle run is so easily achievable only the most obese and disgracefully unfit officer could fail it.
In Winsor 2 it is the recommended changes in the makeup and management of the service that are the real issues, such as direct entry at senior management level, compulsory severance, new pay review body, lower pay scales for constables and locally negotiated pay.
Winsor says that the police are paid 15% more than other public sector workers. Really? I would love to see the comparisons. There are some public sector workers, such as nurses, working shifts and dealing with the muck of life. Nurses should be paid more. But most public sector workers are 9-5 Monday to Friday and the worst thing they risk is a paper cut. We deal with violent, disgusting, abusive people. We scrape bodies off the roads . We deal with victims of horrendous crimes. We get called to deal with the difficulties that other public services cannot. We work shifts. We can be required to work at any time. We work 24/7. If we get only 15% more than the average office worker then, quite frankly, it is not enough.
Winsor suggests that there is no shortage of police recruits and so the starting salary can be dropped £4000 to £19000 without affecting the quality of recruits. This is less than the salary of a Police Community Support Officer. I think this gives you a clue as to the standard of recruit he envisages. He is right, there is no shortage of potential recruits but the quality of the average wannabe cop is pretty poor. A starting pay drop will only ensure that there is no other choice than these wannabe monkeys who will do the job for peanuts. God help the public they will be unleashed upon. I have mentioned before that there is no shortage of capable people wanting to become MP's. They earn a basic £66,000 a year plus huge expenses, of course. Over £200,000 expenses in the case of Eric Joyce MP, the drunken head butting yob. There are now more ministers than ever. 108 paid ministers earning between £82,000 and £142,000. After all, it is difficult to pay school fees on a basic MP's salary. The point is, I have never heard it suggested that MP's should take a pay cut as there are no shortage of capable recruits.
Winsor also suggests, to reduce training costs, constables should only be recruited from existing PCSO's, Specials or those who obtain the policing certificate. At a stroke this will ensure that diversity targets remain completely unattainable.
Winsor suggests that the pay scale for constables is reduced from 10 years to 6 before the maximum pay band can be reached. What he tries to hide though is that progression along the pay scales will depend on skill sets gained and in most cases will take much more than six years. Most constables will never reach the top pay scale as they will never acquire the skill sets required to get there. No officer of any rank up to Chief Superintendent will reach the top pay scale unless they have 'critical skills and expertise.'
The most controversial recommendations in Winsor 2 concern direct access to the ranks of Inspector and Superintendent from outside the police service. Winsor foresees that the vast majority of Chief Officers will come from the direct entry Inspector level, in the future. So what he means is that the vast majority of constables joining the police in the future will progress no further than sergeant and will be the low paid grunts on the street. A few ranker's will be allowed to apply to be inspectors but the vast majority will be graduates groomed for the officer classes.
We already have many graduates in the police. Around one in three have degrees and some of those are on the High Potential Development Scheme. They can progress to Inspector in 5 years. Most of them struggle to cope with the knowledge and demands of the role within that time. To do it within two years will simply be setting these young officers up to fail . Some catastrophic errors will occur on the way. We will end up with an officer class completely devoid of reality on the ground.
Inspectors within two years is alarming but of even more concern is the proposed direct entry to the rank of Superintendent. I don't think Winsor understands that a Superintendent is not just a manager. They don't just have to learn management and combat tactics, such as an army major. They are the senior operational commanders who have responsibilities in a vast array of areas of policing including firearms, hostage taking, serious crime etc. I personally do not believe that anyone can successfully enter the ranks at this level and be effective. Again the risks to the public are huge.
Winsor is also recommending that pay is locally negotiated. 'Why should an officer in Durham be paid the same as in London?' He asks. He wants a new 'independent' pay review body set up. Another quango that will impose pay deals on the police ensuring the lowest possible pay, lowest quality recruits and low morale. He wants officers who are not fit for full duties to be given low paid police staff jobs or sacked. He wants Chief Officers to be able to make police officers redundant.
What we are going to be left with is a police force full of demoralised, G4S style, underpaid security guards, led by incompetent public schoolboys and girls who will be the lackeys of their political masters (Police Commissioners.) The position of police officers as servants of the Crown will be gone and Chief Officers will be able to sack officers at will every time they mess up balancing the books. The role of police officer will be no different to any other occupation. If this is where the Government want to take us then we should have the same industrial rights as anyone else. Winsor 1 was a good shafting. Winsor 2 will mean the police service is completely buggered.
The Federation may produce a lot of hot air criticising the report but the reality is that they can achieve very little when we cannot take industrial action. I don't want to sit around and watch this Government completely ruin the police. The time has come for action to stop this nonsense. When the call comes for action officers need to take it. As a start, every officer should write to their MP. With extended families we potentially have more than 1 million votes. Time to use them. Reluctantly, I urge you all to sign the petition for the law to be changed so that police officers can take industrial action. Sign here. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31250