UK Markets open in 3 hrs 56 mins

Theresa May accused of 'losing touch with reality' after police pay claim

1 / 2

Prime Minister's Questions

Prime Minister Theresa May has been criticised over police pay

Theresa May has been accused by a police union of "losing touch with reality" after she told MPs that some officers had enjoyed total increases in take-home pay of 32% above inflation.

Her claim was branded a "downright lie" by the Police Federation of England and Wales, which said that pay had in fact fallen 16% in real terms since 2010, when inflation is taken into account.

The Prime Minister was responding to Labour claims that the 2% increase in police pay announced on Tuesday amounted to a real-terms cut at a time when inflation was running at 2.9%. The rise for 2017/18 is made up of a one-off 1% "non-consolidated" bonus on top of a 1% hike in basic pay.

Mrs May told the House of Commons that a typical officer joining the force in 2010 on a salary of around £23,200 would now be getting £9,000 more in his pocket a year, thanks in part to annual increments known as "progression pay" enjoyed by some public servants as a reflection of time served.

"A calculation suggests that a new police officer in 2010, thanks to progression pay and annual basic salary increases and the increase in the personal allowance that is a tax cut for people, has actually seen an increase in their pay of over £9,000 since 2010 - a real-terms increase of 32%," she said.

But Federation vice-chairman Calum Macleod responded: "The Government stating that police officers have had a 32% pay rise since 2010 is a joke – and is in fact a downright lie.

"It shows they have lost touch with reality, if they ever had it, and are clueless as to the demands and dangers officers have to face on a daily basis to keep communities safe. Officers are struggling to keep their heads above water and all we are asking for is fair recognition."

Total pay has increased in cash terms by 2% between 2009/10 and 2015/16 but the effect of inflation means that this amounted to a 16% reduction in real terms, he said.

"This cannot be right," said Mr Macleod. "We expect police officers to run into the face of danger every day to protect the public, however the Government refuses to give them the money they deserve.

"This has to be addressed and the Government has to be held to account. How can they abide by their independent pay bodies which recommended an 11% pay rise for MPs but fail to abide by ours, which recommended a 2% consolidated? This smacks of double standards."

A Downing Street source said that a typical police officer joining the force on a £23,259 salary in 2010 would have taken home £17,972 after deductions for tax and national insurance.

After seven years' service, the same officer would have a salary of at least £35,478. This would give a take-home pay of £27,405 after tax and NI contributions - an increase of £9,433, equivalent to 32% more than required to keep up with inflation.

The overall increase arose from three sources, said Downing Street:

:: Annual 1% rises in basic pay which followed the two-year freeze at the start of the decade;

:: Seven years' worth of annual progression pay increments;

:: Government decisions to raise the threshold for paying income tax gradually from £6,475 in 2010/11 to £11,500 in 2017/18.

The Police Federation said Mrs May's figure was "disingenuous", as the majority of police officers do not benefit from progression payments.

Just 4% of officers - new recruits starting at the bottom of the pay scale in 2010 - would have seen their pay rise in the way described by the PM, said a spokesman.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that police officers have seen their wages fall by £5,932 in real terms since 2010.

He said: "For Theresa May to claim police officers have enjoyed bumper pay rises under the Tories shows just how divorced the Prime Minister and her Government are from reality and from the lives of our hard-working public service workers.

"In the last few days the Government's position on the public sector pay cap has changed so many times it is hard to keep up and impossible to trust a word the Conservatives say on the issue.

"Labour totally rejects the Tories' attempt to divide and rule public sector workers and a Labour government would end the pay cap for all workers and give them all the pay rises they desperately need and deserve."