We are in the midst of a furore over public service pensions. What has not been explained is how government interference has bankrupted the police pension scheme.
Historically the police pension scheme had always been ‘in the black’. This was to some extent due to the short life expectancy of retired police officers mainly as a result of the continuous jet-lag effect of the rotating shift system. Then in the 1980s due to longer life expectancy and the politically driven early retirement of officers, (who were performing invaluable behind the scene roles, but were unfit for street duty due to injury or illness), the pension scheme went into the red. At this point the government increased the pension contributions from officers pay to 11%, which is considerably more than other public servants.
The police pension pot does not run on investments, but it is a system in which the serving officer’s contributions pay the pensions of those retired officers who are still alive. When the pension pot was ‘in the black’ the government happily absconded with any excess contributions. As the number of serving officers has risen, so their contributions have covered the pensions of the increasing numbers of retired officers. That is until now…
These current cuts are supposedly returning the number of serving officers to the same levels that we had a decade ago. But that is not true. What they have forgotten to mention is that the loss of sixteen thousand police officers nationally are in effect being replaced by the fifteen thousand Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who are being retained, and this is how the government can make their deceptive claim that the ‘officer’ numbers are virtually the same. What they also don’t tell you is that as the PCSOs do not pay into the police pension pot, so this deception will result in a shortfall of more than 50 million per year in police pension contributions.
They now plan to make all police officers contribute 15% of their salary into the pension pot. This is effectively a significant pay cut for all ‘warranted’ police officers. Worryingly the only reason we introduced PCSOs in the first place, (considering research showed that in doing so we were copying lower quality policing from other countries), was because the government ‘numbers game’ that has now been accepted as truly stupid, was stopping the street patrols. This was because officers were only being allowed to do ‘results focussed activity’. Let’s face it, if you are being measured on arrests and detections you sure as hell don’t was to do much in the way of crime prevention do you!
So what does the future hold? Well, considering the way the other public services have been changing over the last few years I would anticipate a growing increase in the numbers of officers recruited who are doing the job just to get the wages. The altruism has been driven out of public services for the last twenty five years by successive bullying governments.
I would also anticipate an increase in the demand amongst officers to have the right to strike. If we are to live in a country where public servants are only managed by threat and reward, then the natural response from these people is to respond in kind. Why should there be any altruism amongst public servants who have been treated that way for so long?
Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that government now think that the gaps in services, caused by their bullying, should be filled for free by ‘The Big Society’. My guess is ministers will be laughing behind their self interested hands as retired public servants who left service because of the way they had been treated, provide third sector charity work because of the type of people they are.
Mike Ledwidge BSc MBA. Retired Police Inspector.