Record number of police officers taking second jobs to boost 'insulting' wages, survey finds
Officers in 'dire straits' having to resort to food vouchers and welfare, Police Federation says
A record number of police officers are being forced to take on second jobs because they cannot afford essentials on their wages, a survey has found amid warnings the service is “in crisis”.
Almost 8 per cent of the 27,000 members who responded to the association’s annual pay and morale survey said they had taken up a second job, compared with 6 per cent the previous year. The roles included becoming driving instructors, personal trainers or leasing properties.
A further 45 per cent of officers said they worry about finances on a daily basis, 12 per cent said they do not have enough money to cover essentials and 88 per cent do not feel fairly paid.
John Apter, the new chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, warned that some officers were in “dire straits”.
“Our members are under immense pressure to deliver, with dwindling resources and rising crime, particularly violent crime, leading to a demand for our services that has never been higher,” he said. “All they want is to be adequately paid for the job that they do.
“We know officers are struggling and some have had to resort to food vouchers and other welfare schemes. This clearly cannot be right or acceptable that those employed to keep the public safe cannot make ends meet or put food on tables for their families.
“We have continually warned that policing is on the critical list; government cuts mean fewer officers – 22,000 since 2010 – and the resulting pressure this puts on our members is immense.”
Three quarters of survey respondents said they were financially worse off than five years ago and only a quarter felt they would be able to get a mortgage on their current salary.
Diane Abbott MP, the shadow home secretary, said the government’s 2 per cent pay increase was “clearly insufficient when officers’ families are already struggling with basic living costs”.
“Our police deserve better than this but the Tories remain in total denial about the misery that their cuts to public services have caused,” she added.
“Police officers are already being asked to do more with less, resulting in overwork and stress.”
Further pressure was added by Donald Trump’s visit to the UK, causing thousands of officers to be redeployed around the country as annual leave and rest days were cancelled in operations set to cost millions.
The government hailed its latest pay award as the highest since the coalition government came into power and said statistics showing the number of people joining police forces at a 10-day high demonstrated it was still a “desirable” career.
The starting salary for police constables varies between around £19,900 and £23,000 a year, and more than half of officers in the post are earning more than £39,000.
Government statistics put the average pay for a constable at £38,600 a year after a 2 per cent pay rise in the 2018/19 financial year, but the Police Federation dismissed the increase as an “insult”.
Mr Apter told The Independent that the increase amounts to 0.85 per cent in real terms, while officers have effectively suffered an 18 per cent pay cut since 2009/10.
He said officers must request permission from chief constables to carry out other work, which can be refused under strict guidelines guarding again conflicts of interest.
“It’s not a case of ‘I fancy doing that, I’ll give it a go’, you have to apply and many applications are rejected,” Mr Apter added.
“It’s because of need and I think that’s really sad. We shouldn’t have our police officers forced into that situation.”
Almost 12 per cent of officers responding to the survey said they planned to leave policing and 59 per cent reported low personal morale, amid an increase in violent crime, the terror threat and 999 calls.
In the year to March, the number of homicides recorded by police rose by 12 per cent, knife crime offences were up by 16 per cent and robbery rocketed by 30 per cent.
In the same time period, the number of police officers in England and Wales fell to 122,404 – the lowest number since comparable records began in 1996 – and the proportion of criminal investigations ending with a charge dropped to just 9 per cent.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has warned that forces are failing to respond to low priority crimes because of “significant stress” caused by budget cuts and rising demand, with callers waiting in long 999 queues put at risk.
Separate research published exclusively by The Independent showed that victims are losing confidence in the criminal justice system as police “routinely” short of codes of practice that should keep them properly informed and reassured during investigations.
Mr Apter said there was “absolutely” a link between rising violent crime and falling numbers of police officers, calling funding cuts “unsustainable”.
“The reality is that policing in some places is broken,” he added. “We are in crisis and that is a direct result of the pressure the government has put on by a reduction in funding.”
Sajid Javid promised to fight for more money for policing in an upcoming spending review but Mr Apter said the home secretary is currently “on probation”.
“He has said all the right things but what he’s got to do now is deliver,” he added, saying that Theresa May and Amber Rudd showed “nothing but contempt for policing” in the past.
Last year the government called on Police and Crime Commissioners to increase the money taken through council tax to contribute to an £460m increase in overall police funding, which was largely handed to specific areas like terrorism and technology.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “We are grateful to all police officers for the incredible job they do – and will continue to ensure they have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.
“The police pay award for 2018/19 represents the highest consolidated pay award since 2010. And the number of people joining police forces is at a 10 year high which demonstrates policing is still a desirable and sought after career.”