Some police officers have enjoyed a huge boost to their pay packets over the past few years, Theresa May has claimed – risking a further clash with rank-and-file staff.
The Prime Minister also refused to guarantee that her decision to lift the pay cap – but require forces to fund it – would add to 20,000 job losses since 2010, during stormy questions in the Commons.
The claim came despite a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) warning he would be forced to shed more officers if he was forced to foot the pay bill.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn warned that public sector workers “are worse off again, and they have been made worse off every year for the past seven years”.
The clash came after the Government announced that police will receive a one-off two per cent pay rise for 2017-18, ending the one per cent cap on public sector salaries.
The decision was greeted with derision by union leaders, who pointed out that – with inflation now standing at 2.9 per cent – the award was another real-terms cut.
But Ms May insisted it was wrong to claim long-running pay restraint had left police officers worse off, because that ignored “progression pay” and income tax cuts.
“They have actually seen an increase in their pay of over £9,000 since 2010 – a real terms increase of 32 per cent,” she told MPs.
However, the Prime Minister acknowledged the “calculation” applied only to “new police officers”. They are most likely to have automatically moved up the pay scale.
The Labour leader went on the attack, saying: “Does the Prime Minister understand that inflation is now 2.9 per cent?
“Anything less means that dedicated public servants are worse off again and they have been made worse off every year for the past seven years.”
Today, John Campion, the Tory PCC for West Mercia Police, in the West Midlands, warned a higher pay bill – £50m nationwide – would trigger inevitable cuts.
“The funding has to come from somewhere and there is a risk that by using it for pay increases, it leaves gaps elsewhere, which could potentially lead to reductions in officer and staff numbers,” he said.
In the Commons, Mr Corbyn said: “Can the Prime Minister guarantee that no more police, or prison officers, will be lost as a result of the decisions she has made this week?
But Ms May sidestepped the question, instead insisting she had followed recommendations made – for both police and prison officers – by independent bodies.
That was rejected by one Labour MP, Louise Haigh, who said the recommendation was for the Treasury, not police forces, to fund a pay rise above one per cent.
Afterwards, Downing Street claimed a new officer’s take-home pay had been about £18,000 in 2010, but – because of progression pay and a higher tax-free allowance – that was now £27,500.
But Labour said a constable or sergeant had lost £6,100 in real-terms since the start of the decade, because of a pay freeze, followed by the one per cent cap.