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Superintendents slam ministers after court challenge over pensions

Government plans to shut down pension claims are in tatters after being criticised by the Court of Appeal.

Police Superintendents have criticised “deceitful” and “Machiavellian actions” by the government in the latest twist in the botched pension reforms.

The Court of Appeal ruled a consultation on public services pensions schemes carried out this year was unlawful and that the government had breached its Public Sector Equality Duty.

But it ruled the government had the right to introduce legislation.

It means a fresh legal action for discrimination by affected officers against the government is likely.

The case was brought by members of the Police Superintendents’ Association who had been impacted by the pension reforms and are waiting for a settlement.

Their action was brought against both the Treasury and the Home Office. Up to 10,000 officers are affected.

The PSA – usually one of the more reflective staff organisations - issued a hard-hitting statement that accused ministers of being “deceitful and showing complete contempt for officers” and being “underhand and unfair”.

General Secretary Dan Murphy said: “Treating the police workforce in this way shows nothing but disrespect and is the latest in this kind of behaviour shown by government towards our Service.

“From the total disregard to PRRB evidence, to the lack of any meaningful pay increase, how on earth can a police officer expect to feel valued?”

It means legislation currently passing through Parliament aimed at shutting schemes will now come under pressure from peers who have already raised serious concerns.  

A critical factor is the extra costs to the government for its pension reforms: court documents revealed the changes as they stand will cost £4bn a year.

The action further strains the relationship between ministers and officers. Staff associations have already walked out of both the pay and pensions boards.

The case centred on an attempt by the Treasury and the Home Office to move thousands of officers into schemes before talks with staff associations had concluded.

As part of the government’s proposed pensions changes, thousands of police officers were due to be moved from the pensions they were promised when they signed up into the 2015 ‘CARE Scheme’ on April 2022.

But both the PSA and the Police Federation had warned some officers would be discriminated against and would have to either work longer or accept lower settlements.

Part of the PSA court claim included testimonials from officers showing they would suffer discrimination as a result - including women who had taken time out to have children.

The government had started the legislation in July to close schemes and claimed those affected had been given 20 months to agree terms. The government had also claimed it had consulted with the working group trying to agree a settlement.

But emails revealed in court showed the Home Office understood there would be push back from the staff side. And the Treasury was effectively leading the decision-making.

The PSA had claimed the decision to move all police officers into the new scheme was made before any consideration was given to the 3,000+ consultation responses submitted to government.

The Court of Appeal backed the PSA's claim in a 217-point judgement.

The verdict said: “There was a clear breach of the requirement to give conscientious consideration to the consultation responses…..This amounted to clear unfairness.”

It added: “The consultation was so unfair as to be unlawful because the material decision was made in advance of [….] considering the consultation responses.”

But it ruled the courts could not stop the legislation.

Following the verdict, the PSA condemned how the two Whitehall departments had handled the settlement.

PSA National Secretary Dan Murphy comments: “Right from the start of the process to remedy the discrimination caused by pensions changes, we have submitted factual, evidence-based data to the government to explain the unfair and discriminatory impact that these changes will have, not only on our members but on officers of every rank across the Service.

“We have repeatedly hit a ‘brick wall’, with very little explanation or meaningful engagement from the government, leaving a judicial review of the government’s behaviour as our only option. 

He added: “The way the process has been carried out has been underhand and unfair from the outset, with the government even denying making promises to police officers, which only after legal challenge, they then clearly confirm were made."

He added the battle will impact on the Uplift recruits and called for the government to reset its approach.

“We have a real fear that the worsening remuneration packages offered to police will impact on the government’s ability to recruit and retain the 20,000 new officers it seeks,” Mr Murphy said.

The Home Office has also withdrawn guidance to forces on how to agree terms with officers retiring now - including those injured out the job.

it means the next stage will be a fresh legal claim by officers hit by the legislation.

The judgement contained a warning to the government that the original McCloud judgement been dealing with a case of discrimination. The advice was not to repeat the initial mistake.

It said: “Continuing to differentiate for any of the groups of workers involved, by allowing some to remain in the, usually, more generous legacy schemes where the majority had to be in the reformed schemes was also likely to be viewed as unjustifiable age discrimination.

“The court should be very slow to recognise as enforceable a representation that post McCloud appears to involve unjustifiable discrimination.”

The PSA urged the Treasury to abandon its current strategy.

Mr Murphy said: “The right and decent action for government after their Machiavellian actions and lack of respect shown to our workforce, is to properly consult, and where necessary amend the Bill that is being forced through parliament and will legalise the changes officers are having forced upon them, and to make proactive efforts to reset the relationship which is now so strained.”

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