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PSA and Fed plot new pay system as time runs out for PRRB

Staff bodies are planning a new pay negotiation system and say they won’t respond to next month’s request from the Home Office.

The Home Office’s attempt to start crucial pay talks will be rebuffed by police leaders next month, Police Oracle understands.

The formal letter from Home Secretary Priti Patel requesting evidence for the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) is set to go to the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents’ Association within weeks.

But both organisations abandoned the review board earlier this year in protest at the 0% pay rise and say they are now focused on deciding how they want a new negotiating system to work.

The Police Superintendent’s Association announced in September it was abandoning the body at its annual conference and the Fed walked out in July.

The Home Office has made no announcement of alternative arrangements despite the PRRB’s new Chair being given an appointment of just three months.

And crucially, the term as temporary Chair for former Hertfordshire Chief Constable Andy Bliss runs out on 21 November.

The Chancellor’s spending statement last month was ambiguous: “The government will be seeking recommendations from Pay Review Bodies where applicable," it said.

"To ensure fairness and the sustainability of the public finances, public sector pay growth over the next three years should retain broad parity with the private sector and continue to be affordable.”

The staff side are unambiguous.

PSA National Secretary Dan Murphy said: “We have expressed concerns for some time over the ability of the PRRB to act fully independently and to have a meaningful influence. We also believe that the government has repeatedly prevented it from carrying out its intended role.

"This year, the government’s decision to make pay determinations ahead of any evidence received from the PRRB demonstrated this once more and led to our withdrawal from the PRRB process."

The Fed has been drafting its pay policy since July after a heated meeting of its national council which also passed a motion of no-confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The mood among Fed chairs is understood to be clear that there is little chance of turning back. At the time of the announcement, Devon Fed Chair Andy Berry called on the PRRB board to resign “to prevent their good names being tarnished by further association with this discredited system”.

A senior Fed figure said the leadership is “unlikely to play ball” even if the Home Secretary offered a wide scope for a deal.

“It would be a tough sell to the membership for us to say we were going back to the old process – especially given all that’s happened with pensions and COVID vaccinations,” the source said.

Details on what the alternative approach would look like are scarce. But PSA and Fed officials are also working to compile the data and other evidence needed for a pay claim – such as labour market trends, comparative pay rates and future demand.

And MPs are also being lobbied in a bid to keep up pressure on the Treasury which refused to allow the Home Office to offer a pay increase. The announcement by the Chancellor of the pay freeze, which led ultimately to the PRRB being abandoned, came in last autumn’s spending statement.

This year’s statement said: “Public sector workers will see pay rises over the next three years as the recovery in the economy and labour market allows a return to a normal pay setting process.”

The PSA made clear a return to the PRRB won’t happen. Its first meeting with the Home Secretary after the walk out was described as constructive but didn’t change the fundamental issues causing the dispute.

Dan Murphy said: “We believe that an alternative mechanism is required to determine police officer pay, which is grounded in fairness, independence and transparency.

"With limited employment rights, police officers need a fair process. We are now working with our staff association colleagues to determine the best way forward on behalf of our members and the wider workforce.”

The Chancellor’s autumn statement also added to concern by the staff side that the Police Covenant – which the Home Secretary had claimed would improve support for officers and their families - is unlikely to get the cash to deliver on its commitments.

Both the Fed and PSA are concerned over the pace of work to shape it and that the end offer won't be enough to be meaningful.

PSA President Paul Griffiths said: "As a member of the Covenant’s Shadow Governance Board, I am well sighted on the development of the Covenant to date and have repeatedly stressed the need for tangible impacts that make a difference.

"It’s crucial that we see progress soon and that the intended aims of the Covenant are realised so that officers, staff and their families benefit from this wellbeing support.”

Staff associations fear no new money will be allocated by central government to fund it.That’s despite a Whitehall convention that new commitments are given funding for at least one year.

The Fed source said: “We don’t think there will be any new money. So it will have to come from existing funding mechanisms. The reality is very far from the rhetoric.”

The Home Office said it was committed to keeping the current system

A Government spokesperson said: “It is the role of the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) to consider and make recommendations to the Government on the appropriate level of pay and allowances. We value the independent and expert advice of the PRRB and give very careful consideration to their recommendations.

“The Home Secretary’s remit letter to the PRRB for the 2022/33 pay round will be issued in due course.”

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