The Home Secretary said reform of policing from pay to procurement is essential to improve frontline services, angering the Police Federation who said she was pre-empting a review of remuneration and conditions.
Theresa May spoke at a Home Office event in London this morning claiming the Government had struck a tough but fair settlement for the police in the Comprehensive Spending Review. She said the reality will be that force budgets will be less severely cut than the real terms figures imply.
After a likely two-year pay freeze is taken into account and increases in policing precept as part of council tax bills, the overall average reduction in real terms funding for the police will be much less than four per cent each year.
However, Mrs May said she did not want to downplay the scale of the reductions.
“They are challenging, yet achievable. But they will only be achieved if our police forces reform and modernise. Business as usual is not an option for our chief constables. I am confident that they understand this and will meet this challenge with determination.”
She identified savings would be made in the back office through slashing bureaucracy, identifying savings and efficiencies that could save more than the spending reductions the police will need to achieve – without hitting front line service.
Mrs May said savings of £1.15 billion per year, estimated by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) as possible if the least efficient forces brought themselves up to the average level of efficiency, was not enough. She wants all forces to increase efficiencies to the level of the most efficient.
“Across a range of back office or what we call middle office functions – like finance, HR, training, custody and control rooms – forces can and must improve their productivity. If forces improved productivity and adjusted to the level of spend typical in the more efficient forces, we could add another £350 million of savings to those calculated in HMIC’s report.”
Mrs May said Suffolk and Norfolk will deliver savings of approximately £10 million per annum by creating a shared services platform for back-office functions.
“These forces show that it is possible to make significant savings in the back office to protect and improve front line services. Their example can and must be replicated up and down the country.”
She also said forces should make the frontline more efficient too without spending any more money; better management and organisation can increase availability, and better rostering and shifts can increase availability at peak times.
Patrolling alone and better matching resources to demand in neighbourhood policing is increasing officer availability to the public by 25 per cent in London, she said.
Through an agreed approach, better contracts, more joint purchasing, a smaller number of different IT systems and greater private sector involvement will also deliver hundreds of millions of pounds - over and above the savings identified by HMIC.
But she said pay restraint and pay reform must form part of the package and subject to any recommendations from the Police Negotiating Board (PNB), there should be a two year pay freeze in policing, as across the public sector. This will save another £350 million.
She added that action on pay must be as fair as possible, to be reflected in the soon to be announced Winsor Review.
“Not only are we determined to cut out waste and inefficiency first, we must also make sure that pay recognises and rewards front line service. So when I launched the review I asked Tom Winsor to take this into account.
“But the police leadership need to have the flexibility to manage their forces and protect the frontline. And now, more than ever, the taxpayer needs to get a fair deal from all parts of the public sector.”
The Police Federation reacted angrily saying the Home Secretary had set about her own agenda of reducing police officer pay before a review into remuneration and conditions had been published.
“Once again our trust in this government’s ability to play fair with the police has been undermined by the double speak of the Home Secretary, Theresa May, this morning. On the one hand she celebrates the amazing work done every day by the police, recognising the incredibly tough job officers do, fighting crime and facing danger. Yet she sees fit to reward them with pay cuts and uncertainty over their terms and conditions.
"It has taken 40 years to build fair and reasonable terms and conditions for police officers that encourages recruitment and helps retain those with the most experience. This has resulted in record numbers of police officers, but this government seems intent on turning the clock back four decades in four years.
“Instead of waiting for the Winsor Report to be published next week the Home Secretary has showed her hand and appears set to forge ahead with her own agenda; cutting the pay and terms and conditions of police officers as well as cutting police numbers. This makes a mockery of the independent report Mr Winsor has undertaken and the engagement with police stakeholders.
"The hollow words of praise from the Home Secretary are meaningless today. She has made police officers across the country feel completely undervalued."
The Home secretary said the Winsor Review is now due to be published next Tuesday, March 8.