Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 17:17 UK

Smith 'betrayed' police over pay

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith
The home secretary was stony-faced during most of Jan Berry's speech

The home secretary has "betrayed the police service" by refusing to backdate a 2.5% pay rise, the chairman of the Police Federation has said.

Jan Berry told its annual conference that Jacqui Smith's decision, affecting Wales, England and Northern Ireland, had been "a monumental mistake".

But Ms Smith stood by her decision, adding it had been taken "only after a lot of thought".

On Tuesday, federation members voted to lobby for the right to strike.

Ms Berry praised Ms Smith for facing the Bournemouth conference, but also mocked her, picking on her admission that she smoked cannabis in her youth.

"I am sure you felt like reaching for a stab-proof vest and perhaps slipping into an old habit - lighting up, calming your nerves," she said.

What is it that Mr Balls has that you do not?
Jan Berry
Police Federation chairman

"But as you've reassured us, you've moved on from those past indiscretions. Your recent crimes have been more for the serious fraud office than the drug squad."

Ms Berry also compared Ms Smith to Education Secretary Ed Balls who has recently defended a pay deal for teachers.

"Home Secretary, what is it that Mr Balls has but you do not?" she asked.

"Your decision not to honour the pay award was a breach of faith.

"It was a monumental mistake, and I don't say this lightly when I say you betrayed the police service."

Officer numbers

Ms Smith later addressed the 1,000 delegates herself.

"I know you strongly disagree with the decision," she said, "but it was one that I took only after a lot of thought, after considering the full facts of the case, the need to keep mortgages and the cost of living under control - and that includes your mortgages and your families' cost of living as well.

"And there was another crucial factor at play: affordability. And for that, read police officer numbers.".

Jan Berry, the chairman of the Police Federation, criticises the home secretary

Ms Smith said she "did not set out to alienate police officers", but added: "Setting out on the road to the right to strike will only lead to a dead end."

A Downing Street spokesman said Gordon Brown believed the home secretary's decision was "difficult" but "absolutely right".

Last year, she decided not to backdate to September a 2.5% pay rise for police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The police say this means their rise, only paid from December 2007, in reality amounts to 1.9%. Officers in Scotland, however, were awarded the backdated rise by the Scottish Government.

At present, officers are banned from striking and any such action is a criminal offence, but they are now planning to lobby to change that.

'Scandal'

Ms Berry, who will step down from her role as Police Federation chairman on Thursday after six years, called for an independent review of policing and vowed that the federation's members would abide by its recommendations.

She said such a review was vital to come up with "a clear vision for 21st Century policing".

Police officers on a protest march
Police officers have marched in protest over pay

"The inept management of modernisation is nothing short of a scandal," Ms Berry said.

She also said all 16,000 police community support officers in England and Wales should be given the training to convert them into full-fledged officers.

This, she said, would give the public what they want - "the bobby on the beat".

Ms Berry said the need to achieve targets and gather data had left the police "lost between statistics and reality".

But she said the other extreme - where officers were only called to deal with conflict and serious incident - would lead to the police becoming "a paramilitary force".

Pension reforms

The chairman was not entirely critical of the government. She told the conference she believed the police force was "more professional now than ever before".

"There are more of us now, we are better equipped and we have been catching more criminals," Ms Berry said.

"In fairness, you've listened to our concerns, but we have yet to feel those effects on the ground."

The home secretary used her speech at the conference to announce a number of changes to police remuneration, including increasing the lump sums paid to many officers.

She also said that in future, partners of officers killed in service should no longer lose their full police pension if they remarry.

The government would also look to cut officers' paperwork by reducing the amount of data it required them to collect by a third, she added.

The outcome of a judicial review of Ms Smith's decision is due within days and she told the conference she would honour the ruling whatever it was.

But Clive Chamberlain, from the Dorset Police Federation, told the BBC he was sceptical.

"The trouble is we don't trust her and we don't trust the government," he said.




SEE ALSO
Q&A: Police pay dispute
21 May 08 |  UK
Cross-border split on police pay
06 Dec 07 |  Scotland

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