National Chair Steve Hartshorn raises ongoing concerns including funding issues and the retention crisis.
The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) welcomes elements of the Government’s response to the Home Affairs Committee (HAC) inquiry on policing priorities, but further considerations must be made to benefit the service and, ultimately, the public.
Launched in July last year, the HAC initiated an inquiry, taking evidence from PFEW, academics and policing bodies on a vast array of topics, including culture change, balancing demand, retention, funding, training, community policing and improving national conviction rates.
Much of the written evidence submitted by PFEW, through National Chair Steve Hartshorn who attended Parliament in person and stressed that “officers are reaching breaking point”, was incorporated into the final publication of the findings and recommendations to the Home Office.
MPs have urgently recommended the Home Office sets out a workforce plan for policing over the next decade, including addressing officer numbers.
In response, the Home Office stated: “Following successful delivery of the Police Uplift Programme, the Government has continued to work with forces to support the commitment to maintain officer numbers at uplift levels.”
However, a retention crisis within the service is evident, with more than 9,000 officers resigning in the year ending March 2023—the highest number of leavers in a financial year since comparable records began.
PFEW National Chair Steve Hartshorn said: “The erosion of pay and conditions and feeling unappreciated by the Government, combined with high demand, is a perfect concoction leading to low morale and poor mental health and wellbeing, pushing officers to the edge until they can’t handle it anymore and hand in their resignation.”
The Government has also reassured the HAC it is currently reviewing police funding formula, which it described as “out of date and no longer accurately reflects demand on policing”.
“PFEW has been urging the Government to introduce new funding arrangements for multiple years, so its commitment to deliver these changes as soon as possible is welcome news,” continued Mr Hartshorn.
“However, there must be sustainable and long-term funding from central Government. Taxpayers in many councils across England and Wales are paying more than ever before for their police service, but this isn’t translating to a better service as many forces still face severe funding pressures and cash shortfalls, that even when taxpayers are paying the maximum level imposed by police and crime commissioners, the budget shortfall is still significant.”
Gavin Stephens, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said police were cutting crime but faced severe funding pressures and a £3.2bn cash shortfall, according to the Guardian.
MPs have also called for the Government to set time-limited targets for the reduction of time taken to reach decisions on dismissal for misconduct, as a direct result of PFEW engaging with Parliamentarians on the matter as part of its Time Limits campaign.
In response, the Home Office said, “rushed investigations could have a serious impact on public confidence”.
Mr Hartshorn replied: “We appreciate in some cases the complexity of the investigation could mean it is necessary for it to continue for more than a year. Our experience is, though, there are other factors which have caused delays, including mismanagement and lack of training. We understand steps have been taken to improve training for investigators, which is most welcome, and we will monitor statistics to see if delays are persisting.
“We will continue to converse with Parliamentarians on our Time Limits campaign, as investigations which needlessly run on for longer than required are damaging for not only the police officers and their families, but also for the members of the public involved, ultimately further eroding public confidence.”
The report added policing must continue its investment in leadership, especially at sergeant level.
Responding to this recommendation, the Home Office stated it is continuing to support the College of Policing in its work to deliver new leadership standards, including the forthcoming reforms to promotions and progression.
It added there is “sufficient” tutor and assessor capacity so new officers get the training and support they need to thrive.
PFEW understands in some cases there is a 70 to 80 per cent ratio of student officers under three years on front line teams, and the retention crisis is causing an imbalance.
“Ultimately, the resolution lies with forces being able to retain officers,” added Mr Hartshorn. “PFEW has worked closely with the College of Policing to overhaul the ineffective promotion process, and this should help with the career progression of our colleagues – but it only plays a very small part in resolving the retention crisis.
“Our members have faced a real-terms pay cut of more than 20 per cent since 2010.”
It also warned the Home Office should take care that its determination to keep a non-degree route open into policing does not create more inconsistency with the recruitment, competency requirements and training of other entry routes.
It replied the new non-degree entry route into policing (Police Constable Entry Programme) is due to launch to new recruits in April 2024, adding: “Whilst the PCEP route will not result in a formal level 6 qualification, officers who join via this route will be judged as to whether they are competently operating a year after their time on the programme.”
PFEW continues to strongly oppose such a route as it will lead to a multi-tier system in policing which could present issues in the future for career opportunities, pay and remuneration.
“This inquiry has brought to the fore many issues which need addressing, and, although the Home Office’s commitment to improve on many aspects is most welcome, we have some serious concerns across many strands that need to be discussed.
“We will continue to work with key stakeholders, including the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing, to shine a spotlight on these problems during our meetings so they are not overlooked,” Mr Hartshorn concluded.