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Policing’s senior leaders warn of a ‘bleak’ future for policing, as it shares history of battle for fairness with police pay leads

The Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) is calling on the government to reform its pay process and respond to the workforce morale crisis as it warns of a ‘bleak’ future for policing.
The PSA has submitted evidence to the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB), detailing evidence of a lack of ‘procedural justice’ when it comes to police pay, alongside its latest member survey results, showing a continued decline in senior officer morale and motivation.
Now, PSA President Paul Fotheringham is calling for urgent action from government to prevent a further decline in workforce morale, the further growth of negative workplace cultures, and the potential loss of years of experience from the Service.
He explains: “Our association has serious concerns about the future of UK policing. If we look at the situation facing police officers – a 17% pay cut since 2010, no fair process to decide their pay, no right to withhold labour and horrific stories of misconduct being shared, it is no surprise that our members are painting the worst picture of life as a police officer that we have recorded to date.
“This alone should be enough to worry our government, but we must also look at what this could mean for the future of our service. It is fantastic to know that the 20,000 uplift target is soon to be met, but what will it mean for our communities if experienced police officers begin to leave in droves because they cannot afford to stay or because they have had enough of not feeling valued for the work they are asked to do? We have seen this in our history, with widespread protests in the 1970s against unfair police pay. Whilst police strikes are out of the question – we could see far worse with widespread resignations.  This would be a tragedy for our service.

“We know that 1 in 5 federated police officers surveyed are planning to leave, and we know that only a third of our own members would recommend joining. Our new recruits are entering this same workplace and change is needed now to ensure they feel compelled to stay. Good policing needs experience and good workplaces need positive cultures.”
Within its PRRB submission, the PSA, which represents superintendents and chief superintendents in 49 police forces, outlines communication showing the repeated dismissal of its requests for issues connected to police officer pay to be considered by the pay body.  It also questions the impartiality of the process, which is controlled by the home secretary, and the transparency of the body, which last year rejected all the evidence from those with whom it consulted, by awarding a single consolidated pay uplift – resulting in some officers receiving an 8% pay rise whilst other received just 2%.
The submission also draws on the results of the PSA’s most recent member survey, showing that just 1% of the 1000+ respondents believe the pay awards resulting from the PRRB process to be fair, and that 93% say police treatment by government impacts negatively on their morale.
The survey also shows the worst ever picture of morale and motivation, with 88% of superintendents reporting low service morale, only 34% reporting high personal morale and just 36% saying they would recommend joining the police service.
For the first time, as part of the PSA’s PRRB submission, it has joined with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association in a joint statement calling for an appropriate uplift to police pay, citing the real terms pay cut to police of 17% since 2010.

The PSA represents superintendents and chief superintendents in 49 police forces – the 43 Home Office forces, British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary, Isle of Man Constabulary, the Bermuda Police Service, Royal Gibraltar Police and Gibraltar Defence Police.
Each year, it surveys its members, along with members of the Superintendents’ Association of Northern Ireland (SANI), seeking feedback and insight on pay, morale and motivation.  

The PSA survey results mirror that of the Police Federation, which showed that 82% of respondents experienced feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety or other difficulties with their health and wellbeing over the last 12 months, 95% said their treatment by the Government harmed their morale, and that 1 in 5 police officers are planning to leave.
Paul Fotheringham continues: “These are concerns based on evidence.  We must question the strategy of a government that is prepared to leave this situation unaddressed. The evidence in our PRRB submission and from our members is irrefutable.  
“The process in place to determine police officer pay is entirely unfair and delivers no procedural justice for a workforce of more than 140,000 public servants*. Those who chair and sit on the pay review body are selected by the prime minister and home secretary, and the home secretary dictates what the PRRB can consider – this makes it entirely political, with no independence.  We have repeatedly requested that important matters linked to pay, supported by evidence, are within this remit, and our requests are repeatedly declined.  In 2021, the home secretary made her decision on police pay before receiving any recommendations from the PRRB, and last year the PRRB made a recommendation which was at odds with the evidence it received from all its main stakeholders, including the Home Office.
“This paints a picture of complete disregard for police officers, and of a system that has never been intended to offer independence or fairness.  With our own survey data and that of the Police Federation representing the opinions of more than 38,000 police officers, reflecting record low levels of motivation and morale – the service must be seen as in a critical position.
“Every force is working at pace to meet the recruitment targets set by the government’s uplift programme, yet we have to question the longer-term appeal of a Service full of police officers at all ranks and stages of their careers, at their lowest point of mental wellbeing – with many attributing this to the treatment they receive from government.
“We now ask that the government explains how it will make changes to better serve its policing workforce. If it will not, we must ask why it can accept the fact that only 1% of superintendents believe the pay process to be fair, and that almost all survey respondents at every rank from constable to chief superintendent cite their treatment by government as having a negative impact on their morale. This is the reality our new recruits will face when meeting their experienced colleagues.”

The PSA has stated in its evidence to the PRRB, that a recommendation in this pay round of a pay award that is less than inflation, will result in a further pay cut, continuing to suppress real-term earnings of a workforce that cannot protest or withhold its labour.
Other Pay Survey findings include:
-        34% report high personal morale – down from 40% in 2021
-        50% say their personal morale is lower than 12 months ago
-        88% report low service morale – up from 79% in 2021
-        36% would recommend joining the service
-        19% feel valued
-        1% feel that pay awards resulting from the PRRB have been fair
-        4% feel the PRRB process is fair
-        93% say that police treatment by government impacts morale
The full PSA Pay Survey report can be found here.

The PSA submission to the PRRB can be found here.