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PFNI: Officers being treated like 'political football’ over pay

Officers' frustrations have been laid bare in a letter sent by the PFNI to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which has held a parliamentary session into the rising cost of living.

PSNI officers are being acutely affected by the rising cost of living because of an "overly bureaucratic approach" caused by political gridlock, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) has claimed.

Frustrations over pay were one of a number laid out in a letter sent by PFNI Chair, Liam Kelly, to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC).

The letter - addressed to NIAC Chair Simon Hoare - intended to offer an officers' perspective on the cost of living ahead of a committee session being held on the subject this week.

Trainee officers and constable probationers earn £21,441 and £24,780 respectively under the current PSNI pay scales, while constables have to be in the service for five years before they earn more than £30,000 (£30,411).

This, according to Mr Kelly, creates a situation whereby PSNI officers are "presented with the double whammy of soaring energy and foodstuff costs and no meaningful pay award to deal with the inflationary crisis".

Referencing the example of a Year Three constable earning £27,030 per annum, he said: "Monthly deductions for taxation, National Insurance and pension mean that without overtime, officers at the lower end of the pay ‘ladder’ receive approximately £1,500 net take home pay month."

Further costs such as rent, fuel, food and vehicle tax/insurance means there is little left over.

"Taken together, this fixed monthly expenditure comes in at £1,392 which leaves the Year Three officer with disposable income of £108," wrote Mr Kelly.

This economic backdrop means "a complete review of police pay" is required, he argued, while the "unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles" surrounding the implementation of any new pay award are also frustrating.

Mr Kelly wrote: "There is a chronic inability by devolved government departments to act in a timely manner when it comes to police pay.

"For the past five-six years, pay awards that should have been effective from 1st September have been delayed for months. In fact, discussions have often commenced on a new pay award without the current settlement being implemented."

Previous PFNI Chair Mark Lindsay, who was succeeded by Mr Kelly in May, has long since been vocal on this issue.

Speaking in November 2021, Mr Lindsay said the delays at that point were the worst he could remember in his 34 years as a police officer.

In March this year, he called out the failure to approve a pay award that should have been made the previous September.

Central to the issue is confusion over which department is responsible for the pay deal, with the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Finance both involved.

This remains a huge source of frustration for the PFNI, wrote Mr Kelly: "An overly bureaucratic approach that stems from the system of enforced coalition in Northern Ireland mean senior civil servants have little incentive to make decisions on police pay in a timely manner."

The issues with pay, coupled with the heightened terrorist threat faced by PSNI officers, have led to a "plummeting" morale that's driving officers out.

Mr Kelly wrote: "Under a recent Freedom of Information [request], the PSNI reported how 102 officers had left within two years of completing their probationary period. The total who served less than a three-year period stood at 124."

The above factors are contriving to "make a job in policing in Northern Ireland more of a rather poorly paid vocation than a profession", he said.

The NIAC declined Police Oracle's request for comment.

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