Shropshire Star

Police Federation warns efforts to recruit officers in West Mercia area are being undone

The county's police federation says the hard work of recruiting thousands of new officers is being undone by a retention crisis.

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West Mercia's Police Federation has warned recruitment efforts risk being undone

West Mercia Police Federation chair Steve Butler has urged the Government to improve police pay and conditions, as new research reveals more than one in five officers plan to quit the service.

The Police Federation of England and Wales’s (PFEW) annual pay and morale survey found that 22 per cent of police officers are planning to leave.

Of those, 85 per cent said morale was a contributing factor in wanting to leave.

Poor treatment from the Government – 78 per cent, their mental health and wellbeing – 73 per cent, and pay –70 per cent, were also key factors.

The PFEW also reported that 9,000 officers resigned in the year ending March 2023, the highest number of leavers in a financial year since comparable records began.

Mr Butler said situation means the work to increase officer numbers is being undone.

West Mercia Police announced last year that it had 2494 officers – the highest number in its history, and an increase of 508 since 2016.

Mr Butler said: “With the uplift in police officers, I was hoping to see a big shift in the numbers of officers and the impact of that.

"However, while we’ve recruited people to policing, we’re losing new and experienced officers because of poor pay and morale. All of the time and investment in the uplift programme is going to waste.

“It’s really disappointing to hear people want to leave policing, but it’s not surprising.

“A decade of cuts, the erosion of pay and conditions, being used as political football, it all serves to undermine officers and hit morale.

“The Government could help improve morale tomorrow with a fair pay settlement.

“But more than that, we need a new mechanism that decides on police pay for the long term.

“The current system is unjust and unfair and prevents us from effectively negotiating on behalf of members.

“We need to seek other options to have the Government listen to us, which is why PFEW is looking into balloting members on whether they want to seek greater industrial rights in the form of collective bargaining and binding arbitration in relation to pay and conditions.”

The PFEW pay and morale survey found that 85 per cent of respondents feel they are not fairly paid given the hazards they face within their job, up from 78 per cent in 2018.

It comes with 15 per cent reporting they had suffered one or more injuries that required medical attention because of work-related violence in the last year.

More than three quarters – 78 per cent of police officers disclosed they are ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with their overall remuneration – including basic pay and allowances, while 18 per cent reported ‘never’ or ‘almost never’ having enough money to cover all their essentials.

More than half – 58 per cent of respondents said they feel their morale is ‘low’ or ‘very low’, while 87 per cent feel morale within their force is currently ‘low’ or ‘very low’.

More than two-thirds – 82 per cent indicated they had experienced feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety or other problems with their mental health and wellbeing over the last 12 months.

The PFEW's national chair Steve Hartshorn said: “At a critical time where the police service is looking to rebuild eroded public confidence, a sustained recruitment and retention programme is needed to meet demand and deliver. The numbers we currently have are not enough and we are haemorrhaging officers.

“We do not need to scratch our heads wondering why they are quitting, because the evidence is right here, with unfair pay at the centre of it all.

“A fair pay mechanism is urgently needed, namely the ‘P-Factor’, a payment for remunerating officers for the harm they may encounter while carrying out their duties among other restrictions. It is there to address a series of unique issues experienced by police officers, and independent research agrees with this positioning.

“To help the Government understand these unique challenges to policing, PFEW is undertaking its own review of the P-Factor design and formula to support our campaigning on this matter.

“The survey findings ultimately demonstrate the need for committed action, and a vote for the members to make a decision around whether they want to seek greater industrial rights, specifically collective bargaining and binding arbitration in relation to pay and conditions, will be held as soon as is practicable this year.”