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Essex chief laments 'silent erosion of talent' as pay woes continue

Speaking to new recruits at a passing out parade, Ben-Julian Harrington said a number of people are 'simply leaving quietly' because they can make more money elsewhere.

The Chief Constable of Essex Police has urged government decision-makers not to "ignore the 17% pay gap", as he revealed officers are routinely leaving for better paid work in areas such as scaffolding, sales and hospitality.

Speaking at a passing out parade today, CC Ben-Julian Harrington said the current financial landscape is causing a "silent eroson of talent" within the ranks.

He said: “People are simply leaving quietly, they’re not complaining because they’re not the kind of people to make a fuss.

“They are moving on, silently, proud of their service, but we simply have to stop this silent erosion of talent and that means I simply have to speak up while there’s still time to make that stop."

CC Harrington cited a number of examples of this, including an officer who resigned to earn £250 a day as a scaffolder as he could not afford to support himself and his pregnant wife.

He also referenced a detective with two years experience who went back to her old job of selling double glazing, alongside another officer who went to work at a restaurant close to home because the daily commute was too expensive. 

He said that, in the last year, more than 300 staff asked to do second jobs or unpaid work to improve their prospects on top of their day job, while £248,000 has been paid out by the Benevolent Fund in the last two years.

Added to that, colleagues have set up foodbanks at police stations to help those struggling, a practice which sits uncomfortably with the chief.

He said: “It breaks my heart that people who have put themselves in harm’s way to catch the worst criminals are having to rely on their mates so they can go home to a hot meal at the end of their shift."

His speech comes after it was revealed that police pay has fallen by 17% in real terms since 2000, a finding which last week prompted the Police Federation to call for a pay rise to compensate for that stark drop.

Bodies such as the Met Police and Police Superintendents' Association have asked for a pay award of around 10% in line with the rate of inflation, while the Home Office's current position is that the existing settlement allows for an increase of up to 3.5%.

The Police Remuneration Review Body is currently accepting evidence on the 2023/24 award after which it will make a recommendation to the government.

CC Harrington says this real terms reduction means it is "becoming increasingly difficult to keep the best new talent" and is a distraction.

He said: “I need the officers and staff across Essex to focus on helping people, keeping people safe and catching criminals.

“Not on whether they can afford to stay in policing.

“We have invested in our numbers, our force, our kit and capabilities and that is amazing.

“But you can’t Taser the gas bill. You can’t handcuff the family food shop and you can’t arrest the rise in your rent or mortgage.

“You need to be able to afford to do your job.”

Emphasising that there is "still time to fix this", he urged the government to prioritise investment in policing.

He said: “I say to our decision-makers, do not ignore the 17% pay gap.

"Please, end the silence on this issue in Westminster – and set out the plan to maintain the strength that forces have built up in recent years, or risk losing it."

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