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Non-Home Office forces lobby to be included in covenant

The three non-Home Office forces are lobbying the government so that their inclusion in the Police Covenant is enshrined in law.

Nigel Goodband, chair of the British Transport Police (BTP) Federation, has criticised the government for overlooking BTP officers in the Police Covenant.

Part of that new Bill covers the proposed Police Covenant that enshrines in law, protection for officers, staff, Specials, retired officers and their welfare and wellbeing. But the Bill doesn't cover non-Home Office police officers, such as those from BTP, Ministry of Defence Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

Mr Goodband said no explanation has been offered by the Home Office or other sponsoring departments in Whitehall.

“You wear a police uniform, you all hold the office of constable, you are all expected to respond and act in accordance with Police Regulations, your cap badge does not separate you when a crime is being committed on or off your jurisdiction,” the chair wrote in his March 2021 blog.

 “The public sees a police officer and the expectations for all police officers are the same regardless of which force you are in.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are hugely grateful to all police officers for their dedication and selflessness, which is why we are establishing the Police Covenant, to ensure better support for officers and their families. This Covenant will be for all police officers, including the British Transport Police, and we continue to work closely with forces and other departments to understand how it can be applied to all police forces in a way that works for them.”

They added that not including non-Home Office forces in the Bill will not exclude them from being included in the Covenant but would mean they are not obliged by law to report to the Home Secretary, "protecting their ways of working and reporting structures".

The BTP Federation is arguing it could be a different secretary of state who reports to parliament to ensure the Bill is enshrined in law for non-Home Office forces, such as the Transport Secretary in the case of BTP officers and staff.

Non-Home Office forces were offered Covenant protection through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) but Mr Goodband told Police Oracle what was being offered to those forces was much weaker.

"It's very much a diluted version of that protection and support that is being offered at the highest government level," he said. "And it could be changed and altered. It could actually not exist if somebody wants to make that decision.”

Planned changes to the pensions of support staff at BTP have also been attacked as “damaging.”

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps asking him to withhold authority for the changes to be made.

The union said it has been told the current final salary pension scheme is going to be closed to new members and replaced by a defined contribution scheme.

The proposed changes could increase costs, are divisive by only affecting civilian staff, and fail to tackle the issue of staff retention, said the TSSA.

General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “British Transport Police bosses are taking damaging action which will undermine the pensions of our members and further divide an already unequal workforce.

“BTP’s pension proposals fail the tests of cost reduction, fairness and common sense.

“I’ve asked the Transport Secretary to withhold authority for the crackpot changes so that our union and BTP can find a solution which saves money, reduces risk and safeguards our members pensions, something the current proposal does not achieve.”

Mr Goodband also said the federation were “disappointed to hear the Home Secretary suggesting on national TV that police officers are receiving the vaccinations through local partnership working with local NHS centres”.

“A very misleading statement indeed,” he said.

He said while officers in certain locations are receiving leftover vaccinations, this isn't happening across the entire country and “certainly not in BTP”.

“We have a very young workforce and we still have major concerns that our officers remain at risk from a killer virus, whilst being expected to get up close and personal.”

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