Home secretary Jacqui Smith has attempted to defuse the police pay row by offering changes to the service’s pension scheme.
Officers will now get higher lump sums on retiring, although this will mean lower pension payments over the long term. If an officer dies on duty, their surviving spouse will be eligible for payments for the rest of their lives, whether or not they re-marry.
But Jan Berry, chairman of the Police Federation, said they had been asking for higher lump sums for pension payments for months.
“This is not a coincidence [that Smith has announced this today] – it’s distasteful,” she said. “This is money that we were owed anyhow and it was long overdue. The funding for widows is welcomed but it won’t fool police officers. Young servers have suffered more than others as they are a million miles away from [pension] benefits.”
And Smith was again forced to justify why she refused to honour officers’ annual pay rise last year.
At the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth, the home secretary fielded questions from representatives of more than 140,000 police officers, who yesterday voted overwhelmingly to lobby for the right to take industrial action.
Eight out of 10 officers who took part in a Federation poll said they wanted the group to lobby for a change in the law to give them full rights to take industrial action, which could include a strike, if ministers broke a further arbitration deal.
Officers are angry that Smith failed to backdate last year’s pay rise of 2.5% to September 2007. She awarded the rise from December onwards only, effectively reducing it to 1.9% – going against the recommendations of an independent pay arbitration body.
Smith said: “Four months ago 25,000 of you marched through London [to protest against the decision] and I met some of you on that day. Then, as now, I stand by my decision.”
A judicial ruling on Smith’s decision not to backdate pay will be made on 10 June. She told delegates she would honour the judge’s decision, but refused to rule out an appeal if her decision was found to be unlawful.