The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the trade union which represents over half of all police staff in the Met, is conducting a survey of members regarding levels of morale and financial hardship.
So far over 90% of police staff in our PCS survey have told us they believe the Met doesn’t value them.
3 in 4 say they have little or no “trust and confidence” in the Commissioner and other senior managers, and 7 in 10 don’t see themselves working for the Met in 5 years’ time. The latter figure largely reflects pessimism about job security in the face of ongoing staff cuts and the looming threat of widespread privatisation.
Staff are also struggling financially as a result of the real-terms pay cuts since 2010, with the cost-of-living far outstripping the pay freezes and pay caps inflicted on the Met and other public sector staff.
More than 8 in 10 police staff in our survey say they’ve had to cut back on basic necessities, such as housing, food and travel.
One in 5 say their level of personal debt is ‘bad’ or ‘extremely bad’. Around the same number has had to supplement their income with a part-time job or some other additional source of money in the past year, and 1 in 10 have had to take out a payday loan during the same period.
Despite forming just over a quarter of all Met employees, police staff are bearing the brunt of the massive budget cuts decimating the force. In December, the Commissioner warned that by 2020 the Met will have made over £1.4 billion savings since 2010.
The Met refuses to review costs associated with the majority of its workforce (police officers), most obviously failing to challenge the Mayor’s politically-driven demand for 32,000 police officers.
But what happens when you cut police staff? You often need more expensive officers to cover their work. This costs Londoners more, not less, and is a false economy.
A very obvious example of the organisational and income disparity between officers and staff, and the way in which staff incomes are under attack, is in the area of allowances.
Take ‘location allowance’ which is supposed to cover the ever-rising cost of living and working in one of the most expensive cities in the world. The costs that location allowance is supposed to compensate for – such as housing, council tax and food – are the same irrespective of whether you’re an officer or a member of staff.
This should mean location allowances are identical for all Met employees; after all, they do work for the same employer. But the differences are dramatic:
• For police staff, location allowance is £3,501 for inner London and £1,902 for outer London. Officers, on the other hand, receive £4,338 irrespective of their workplace. So police officers receive between £837 and £2,436 more for living and working in the same city as a member of police staff.
There is also real inequality when it comes to another of the costs associated with living and working in such an expensive city as London: travel:
• The cost of an annual season ticket (Zone 1 to Zone 6) for Transport for London (TfL) services will cost a member of police staff, like all members of the public, £2,288. For an officer it is free.
• The cost of an annual national rail season ticket (using Govia Thameslink from Bedford as an example covered by the ATOC scheme) for a member of police staff is £4,300. For a police officer it is only £480 (rising next year to £600).
The Commissioner recognised this when he admitted on the Met’s internal employee forum last July that “Police staff who don’t have the support of subsidised travel in many ways face greater challenges with cost of living pressures [than do officers]”. The Met currently subsidises police officer travel to the tune of over £10 million per year. Staff get nothing.
PCS members are constantly told that these free or subsidised travel arrangements are given to officers as they have the power to intervene if an incident occurs on a train. However, this argument doesn’t necessarily add up when you consider that arrangements extend to pregnant officers.
In total, police officers receive thousands of pounds more than a member of police staff who might live on the same street, pay the same mortgage or rent, and travel on the same buses and transport networks.
However, the Met believes the officer – usually on a basic income considerably more than a member of police staff – deserves a subsidy whilst the member of staff (who keeps being told that she or he is also a “valued member of the police family”) must get by without this assistance.
The Met’s response when PCS makes these arguments – most recently during last year’s annual pay talks – is that the Met can’t afford to pay more, despite having over £400 million currently sitting in its reserves (or savings).
PCS opposes this increasing “us and them” culture that’s developing in the Met. We believe it’s bad for the Met and bad for Londoners. It’s partly based on a false distinction which sees police staff referred to as “back office”, whilst police officers are on the “frontline”.
In reality this is a distortion of the real way in which London is policed.
For example, thousands of PCS members directly engage with the public – police and community support officer (PCSO)s who patrol the streets, designated detention officer (DDO)s who staff custody suites, and the hundreds of staff at MetCC answering 999 and 101 calls and despatching officers to scene of crimes.
Other police staff deliver specialist, technical and administrative expertise across London.
But “back office”, a dismissive term used by rightwing politicians and pundits to imply a public sector job is of little value, trivialises the importance of their work. When “back office” jobs get cut, warranted police officers are often taken off the streets to cover this work.
This in turn takes these officers away from operational policing.