Hundreds of off-duty officers from West Yorkshire, including 260 from Bradford, will head to London this week for a massive police rally protesting at potential cuts to pay and conditions.
West Yorkshire Police Federation members will join up to 30,000 of their off-duty counterparts from across England and Wales for the rally which starts at noon on May 10 in Millbank before a two-hour march around Central London.
It comes as Andrew Tempest-Mitchell, chairman of the West Yorkshire Federation, said officers were to be balloted on whether they wanted the right to strike. He also revealed that West Yorkshire had lost 550 officers within the last two years through ‘natural wastage’ who had not been replaced.
Mr Tempest-Mitchell said that officers were disappointed with the Government’s 20 per cent cuts in policing which has led to “attack after attack on their pay and conditions” and the recommendations in the Winsor Report 2.
The Winsor Report 2 was a review of police pay and conditions carried out by former rail regulator Tom Winsor on behalf of the Home Secretary and suggests annual fitness tests, a move towards narrowing the gap between police officer and staff pay and conditions and lower starting salaries for constables.
“Officers are quite rightly saying that enough is enough,” Mr Tempest-Mitchell said.
“They feel they have been under a deliberate and sustained attack by the Government and feel the Coalition is seeking to slowly dismantle the police service.
“The recommendations in the Winsor 2, if approved, could lead to changes in our conditions that would seriously undermine the office of constable which is the bedrock of British policing,” he added.
“They would also serve to change us from servants of the Crown to employees. So it is understandable that officers are now saying if they are to be treated as employees they should have access to the same rights and legal protections as other workers.
“Police officers have accepted the restrictions placed on their private and personal lives and Governments in the past have respected their unique position in society. But that respect seems to have faded.” Currently, police officers cannot strike, but the ballot will allow members to decide whether they want the Federation to fight for them to have full industrial rights, including the right to strike.
Officers also fear that proposed force changes, contained in the Winsor Report 2, will lead to reduced pensions and less job security.
Bradford South PC John Vinnicombe said that he had never felt the need to protest in the last 22 years.
“However, due to the Winsor report and its reductions, I feel I must make representation against this,” he added.
“As not only will it be the demise of the British police service, but also the demise of the public service.”
PC Adam Alam said that morale, due to the proposed changes, had probably never been so low.
“Not only is it going to be to the detriment of the public, but also to their extended families of officers who deserve a decent quality of life,” he said.
Their colleague, PC Darren Liddemore, said that the report would “destroy the service”.
“I think the Bradford public need to know that the officers from Bradford South are disgusted with Tom Winsor’s report and 166 officers from this division are taking a day off or annual leave to go to London, and that is because they know what is coming,” he added.
West Yorkshire Police will have £100 million cut from its budget from 2012 to 2015 and has lost £33 million this year alone with internal organisational changes and redundancies of civilian staff as well as staff not being replaced.
Out of the 260 from Bradford, 166 officers from the Trafalgar House station will be heading to the rally with at least 40 from Keighley.
A Home Office spokesman said that the existing police pay system was designed over 30 years ago.
“We want police pay and conditions that are fair and fit for the 21st century,” the spokesman added.
“The Home Secretary has referred the recommendations from the final report of the Winsor Review to the appropriate bodies to consider.”