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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 20:05 GMT
Anger brews over police plans
Police recruits
Morale is said to be low among officers
Police are considering a series of responses to controversial government plans to change their pay and working conditions.

Officers are furious at Home Secretary David Blunkett's proposed cuts in overtime pay, sick pay and allowances.

Police Federation (PF) chairman Fred Broughton said the mood of a PF meeting on Monday to discuss the plans "got angrier and angrier".

Police officers
If officers refused overtime, policing could be affected
He said negotiations with the government would continue until 27 December when the Police Federation would then decide on its next course of action from a number of options.

"The government has got to listen to our views - they can't trample over the professionalism of the police service," he said.

It is illegal for officers to strike, but possible action could include work to rule or refusal to carry out voluntary duties, such as carrying firearms.

Attacking speech

Earlier on Monday, the federation released the findings of a survey which found three quarters of the public are opposed to the police reform plans.

A survey of 1,000 people showed 76% wanted to see more police on the streets rather than the government's proposed civilian auxiliaries.

Only 15% of those interviewed by ICM backed Mr Blunkett's plans for CSOs.

Mr Broughton said there was "widespread discontent" among the workforce but dismissed suggestions of a possible work to rule.

Under Mr Blunkett's reform plans, police would be expected to work more flexibly but could receive special bonuses.

Mr Broughton is due to attack the White Paper on Tuesday and urge Mr Blunkett to adopt a more positive attitude to police reform modelled on that in New York by Rudolph Guiliani.

"Officers are disgruntled at the prospect of working longer hours for less money and the proposals to introduce wardens and private security policing," he said.

'Smear campaign'

One of the delegates to Monday's federation meeting, Sgt Sam Johnson, of Cheshire Police, said he would be discussing the situation with his members.

"There is a lot of frustration from the rank and file. The reforms will cause a lot of delays and cause serious problems and our members are very disillusioned about the whole situation," he said.

Another Federation representative described the mood of members as "despondent" but pledged a professional police service would be maintained.

The white paper also proposes community support officers (CSOs) who would have power of arrest under certain circumstances.

Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, accused the government of exaggerating police sickness levels and "vilifying" officers by "branding them lazy".

Deadline

He said that in order to achieve the efficiencies demanded by the government, civilian staff would need to be recruited to take on many tasks currently performed by police officers.

But extending civilian policing is opposed by many officers and Mr Smyth predicted goodwill would evaporate.

A Home Office spokesman said the reforms were aimed at making the police more effective.

"To do this the police service needs modern management and personnel practices," he said.

The proposals were part of the government white paper unveiled earlier this month.

Other plans include the creation of a national centre for policing excellence to train officers and a pilot scheme of a non-emergency contact number called Police Direct, to take the pressure off 999 operators.

Mr Blunkett also wants to set up an independent Police Complaints Commission, in which civilians will play a greater role in investigating complaints against officers.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Norman Baker welcomed Mr Blunkett's review.

But he warned him not to antagonise officers while modernising the police.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"They believe they are being asked to work harder for less money"
Glen Smyth, chairman of the Met. Police Fed.
"The efficiencies are only going to come if we are able to recruit the support staff"
The BBC's Janet Cohen
"David Blunkett cannot be under any illusion of the struggle that lies ahead"
See also:

29 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Police anger over Blunkett reforms
17 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Q&A: Police reform white paper
02 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Plan to reform 'failing' police
26 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett lives up to hard man image
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Top police recruits to be fast-tracked
12 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett reveals police reform plans
01 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Police red tape targeted
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