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Regionalising pay could result in 'salary arms race'

Devolution of policing in Scotland and Northern Ireland could result in officer losses from border forces if pay is independently set

Allowing police officer pay to be set regionally could pull officers away from certain forces and result in a salary "arms race" as regions compete to attract more applicants, it has been suggested.

In a joint submission to the Police and National Crime Agency Remuneration Review Body, the Police Federation and Police Superintendents' Association warn that having regional pay zones could create "cliffs" whereby officers are pulled away from certain forces.

In Scotland, where policing has been devolved, forces such as Northumbria and Cumbria could be in danger of losing officers to Police Scotland. There are also concerns that Cheshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire could lose officers to Wales, where it is anticipated that policing will be devolved following the Silk Commission.

In their submission, both staff associations said that if regionalisation of policing happens in an "uncontrolled way" - where Scottish and Welsh police forces set their rate independently of forces in England - people could be pulled away from neighbouring regions.

"This is a phenomenon that is well-recognised in regional pay systems," the 233 page document said. "It has already happened in policing, with the Metropolitan Police attracting officers from surrounding forces, resulting in the South East Allowances."

Additionally, uncontrolled regionalisation will also detrimentally affect the overall pay bill, which both associations warn will likely rise.

The document stated: "Local pay determination can increase the possibility of salary 'arms races' where regions look to pay more and more to be attractive to applicants and "creep" as regions pay more to compete with neighbouring areas with higher rates of pay.

"Paying different individuals different amounts for the same role can be particularly challenging when there is cross-jurisdictional working. This leads to difficulties in terms of what rate to pay, and could lead to different team members being paid different rates."

Tim Jackson, National Secretary of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, told PoliceOracle.com that regionalising pay could "muddy the waters" for mutual aid and collaboration.

He said: "We say that regional pay works against mutual aid.

"It does not assist in interoperability and with increasing collaboration and regionalisation it could muddy the water.

"There is evidence of it in the south east. The fact there are different pay scales and levels in London and the south east has seen officers move between forces.

"If we have different pay scales around the country you are going to get some forces being seen as more desirable.

"We don't think the case is made and most of the research signifies a move away from regional pay."

When asked whether some officers should be paid more to police areas of the country that have more policing challenges, he said: "All areas are challenging in their own right.

"What you have in inner city areas, for example, is more police officers. If you have a force that does not present the same challenges there are a smaller number of officers covering a greater area with policing challenges."

Other concerns include the fact that the operational effectiveness of policing could be hindered as officers will be unwilling to take part in mutual aid for forces where the rate of pay is lower.

Police Federation General Secretary Andy Fittes said an evaluation of current regional allowances should be taken and any evidence based provided to support any change.

He added: "We recommend that the Home Office takes measures to identify the impact of any unplanned regionalisation, such as Scotland or Wales setting their own pay."

Rank pay scales

The submission document also highlighted areas for the review panel to consider over the next five years, including a review of the gap between pay scales from constables to sergeants and inspectors to chief inspectors.

Ch Supt Jackson said that prior to the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review, policing operated under a consistent model based on the borough command structure, however this is no longer the case, meaning the current pay reward structure is not fit for purpose.

"We have seen some forces get rid of their BCUs [basic command units] and go with a force wide structure, some others have merged to larger 'super' commands. For example the Leeds BCU has around 1,500 officers and 500 staff, which is bigger than 11 police forces in terms of numbers.

"We have gone from a conventional command structure to something different. What we have is no longer fit for purpose. The length of service in a rank may not be the sole determinant of pay."

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