Former Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe has used her Daily Express column to suggest that the police must do more to merit a real pay rise. She writes that the public, once likely to side wholeheartedly with the police, may be more mixed in their views today*:
"When we read of policemen like PC Chris Roberts, who died on duty on Boxing Day, we are angry both on his family’s behalf and the police’s behalf. But for every PC Roberts there are dozens of stories of the abandonment of the law-abiding by the police, of forces paralysed by political correctness and of a complete lack of any proportionality and common sense."
She then gives two examples of police failures to protect the law-abiding. Read her column here.
The think tank Reform, which is thought to have made a significant contribution to the Conservative Party’s plans on police reform, is also suspicious of the police’s case. Just before Christmas Reform republished the following graph from Sir Clive Booth’s review of police pay. It showed police pay rises outstripping both inflation and average pay rises in the public and private sectors:
"Evidence also suggests that police performance has not risen in line with pay increases. Certain types of crime have certainly fallen since 1994, notably property crimes such as burglary and vehicle crime. But much of this fall has been caused by private initiative. For example, 63 per cent of main family cars now have an alarm, compared to 23 per cent in 1992 and 38 per cent in 1998. This goes almost unnoticed in the political debate but will have put downwards pressure on crime. Increased sentence lengths for burglars will also have had a positive effect. But other types of crime, such as robberies and anti-social behaviour, have remained high. This suggests that while a larger prison population and private spending has borne down on crime, the police have made much less of a contribution."
If Ann Widdecombe has her doubts they are not being shared publicly by her successor, David Davis. This is the public line from his office:
"The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has shown disrespect, verging on contempt, for the police. She has cut its pay rise significantly in a cynical deal with the Chancellor – withholding the first three months’ increase. The Police Federation is quite right to ask the Home Secretary to reconsider her behaviour. This is no way to treat our police force. If we were running the Home Office, we would never have got into this position. A Conservative Government would have treated the police fairly, honestly and openly – and with the respect they deserve."
David Ruffley MP is now the shadow minister with the responsibility for progressing Nick Herbert’s work on police reform.
* A recent YouGov survey found that the public appear to still be on the police’s side: 58% said they were "inclined to disapprove" of Jacqui Smith’s decision to phase in the police pay award. 22% were inclined to approve.