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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 11:15 GMT
Historic police ballot over pay
Tony Blair inspects police recruits
Officers have a hold over the government
Police officers in England and Wales are taking part in a historic ballot over a new package of pay and conditions.

Officers in Scotland and Northern Ireland are voting by post on the government's proposals, which would mean cuts in overtime but increases in basic rates of pay.


At meetings up and down the country officers are angrily calling for industrial action and the right to strike

Glen Smyth
Met Police Federation
The ballot is the first to have been arranged on such a scale on an issue of national policy.

Polling booths have been set up at police stations and training centres.

All of the 126,000 police federation members are eligible to vote.

Police officers are prevented by law from taking any form of strike action but a "no" vote would still be a massive blow to the government.

Massive blow

Despite, or perhaps because of, its lack of union status and inability to strike, the federation is among the most powerful trade associations in the UK.

Governments have struggled in the past to overcome its opposition to some areas of reform.

Police pay offer
400 rise for all officers
'Competence related' bonus
Higher starting pay for older recruits
Special payments for tough jobs

Ballot slips contain one question, asking officers if they believe the federation should support or oppose the pay package.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has said a "no" vote would be a disaster for the police and the public.

Earlier this week he said the Metropolitan Police Federation was determined to oppose any change and "make a monkey" out of the service they provide.

Glen Smyth, chairman of the Met federation, called his comments "juvenile" and said Mr Blunkett was "not listening".

'Room for change'

"The fact that at meetings up and down the country officers are angrily calling for industrial action and the right to strike is an indication of the depth of anger and disillusionment they all feel," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The plans would see basic police salaries increase by 400.

But overtime rates and allowances will be reduced and officers will be required to work more flexibly.

Labour peer and former president of the Association of Police Superintendents, Lord McKenzie said there was "room for change" in police practices.

"The over-all package does provide some benefits and any savings that are made will be ploughed back into the operational end of policing," he told Today.

The results of the poll will be announced on 25 February.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Glen Smyth, chairman of the Met Federation
"The response from Mr Blunkett is rather juvenile"
See also:

28 Dec 01 | UK
Police wooed with pay deal
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
12 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett reveals police reform plans
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