Police chiefs' attack Home Secretary over backdated pay


Last updated at 00:41 21 January 2008

Jacqui Smith

Ten chief constables have fired off damning letters protesting at Jacqui Smith's refusal to review her decision over police pay.

Their messages pile further pressure on the Home Secretary as disaffected frontline officers from throughout the country prepare to take to the streets of London this week in defiant protest.

In unprecedented scenes, at least 15,000 policemen and women dubbed the "bobby lobby" will stage a march from Hyde Park to the Tate Britain gallery on Wednesday, calling at the Home Office to hand in a petition.

They are also to vote on whether to demand the right to strike.

The row over Miss Smith's resolve not to backdate their 2.5 per cent pay rise to September and reject the findings of an independent arbitration panel escalated yesterday as the Tories sided with the police.

Nine chief constables independently wrote a spate of hugely damaging letters to Miss Smith, accusing her of a "slap in the face" and warning of mistrust among rank-and-file officers.

They were from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Cleveland, Cumbria, Dorset, Kent, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and West Yorkshire forces, while Humberside Chief Constable Tim Hollis wrote to his MP accusing Miss Smith of "a gross breach of trust" by failing to backdate the pay rise awarded in full to colleagues in Scotland.

The hugely-embarrassing letters were released by the forces under the Freedom of Information Act.

The outcry was led by Bedfordshire Chief Constable Gillian Parker, one of whose officers was murdered on duty last June.

PC Jonathan Henry, a married father of one, was stabbed to death in Luton after coming to the aid of a man who was knifed.

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Jonathan Henry

Mrs Parker wrote: "You may be aware that one of my officers was murdered last year. The impact of his death on my staff and the people of Bedfordshire and Luton was profound.

"Despite this and the other challenges my staff have faced over 2007 they have remained committed and dedicated to serving their communities.

"Failure to recognise that sacrifice and commitment by delaying the pay rise until December 1 has caused great anger and resentment in Bedfordshire."

Sussex Chief Constable Martin Richards told the Home Secretary: "Your decision is a slap in the face for men and women who are delivering impressive results for our local communities, often in very difficult circumstances."

In a vitriolic attack, Dorset Chief Constable Martin Baker wrote of "the utter dismay and total disappointment of myself and my officers at your decision. I cannot tell you how angry and hurt my officers are about this.

"The money, while important, is not their primary concern. It is the principle."

Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence wrote: "This one decision has had a very negative impact on morale within the service - and it has been exacerbated by the fact that Scottish officers will receive the full increase.

"I have not seen a reaction like this to anything for many years.

"I do not believe that officers should ever consider strike action or any activity that might put communities at risk.

"However, in return for this bond of trust I believe officers should receive fair treatment and by refusing to backdate their pay the Government has committed a serious breach of trust."

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "Whilst it is impossible for any Government to give up in totality the right to overrule a pay award in the public sector - simply because there is always the possibility of some unforeseen financial pressures - it is vital to act in good faith on these matters.