Defence Police Federation: Circular 18.15
Guidance to members: Engagement with MPs
The purpose of this circular is to brief DPF members on the issues facing the Ministry of Defence Police in the immediate aftermath of the May 2015 General Election, and to highlight the importance of members engaging, as a matter of urgency, with their Member of Parliament. The priorities identified by the DPF as subjects for engagement with MPs are:
- The potential impact of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review
- MDP pensions and retirement ages
- Changes to TACOS
- Encouraging MPs to attend a DPF reception in the House of Commons on 14 July 2015
This circular includes a template letter/email that members can use to contact their MP. We recommend that members use the content of this template as much as possible to ensure their correspondence falls within MDP regulations. We must also remind members that any correspondence they send to their MP is subject to regulations.
Why contact your local MP?
This year will see a Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) in which the MDP could be a target for further cuts. In addition, the DPF continues to be engaged in negotiations with the MoD concerning the future of both officers’ pension provisions and retirement ages, and the Terms and Conditions of Service (TACOS) under which they are employed.
The DPF will continue to make the upmost effort to impress upon the Government the importance of the role the MDP has and the effect cuts will have on security, as well as continuing with our negotiations to reach acceptable settlements regarding pensions and TACOS. However, there has been a sizeable turnover of MPs and a fundamental change with the election of a majority Conservative government that will affect the direction of policy between now and 2020. Both these factors necessitate immediate engagement with parliamentarians that can be best fostered by demonstrating to them a link between the MDP and their constituency.
Background: the potential impact of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review
As a consequence of SDSR 2010, the MDP lost more than a third of its officers, falling from a complement of 3,500 to approximately 2,600 today. The Force is still short of officers to fulfil its duties, which means a reliance on officers working overtime and working above and beyond their responsibilities. The reduced number of officers also means the MDP has fewer personnel available to train new recruits. Fundamentally, security is weaker at key sites now than it was five years’ ago as a consequence of the cuts the MDP has absorbed.
The new government has announced that it is expecting the MoD to find a further £500 million in savings. Given that ministers have ring-fenced the Department’s equipment budget – and as there will considerable pressure on the MoD to minimise any effect of cuts on the Armed Forces – workforces such as the MDP will be extremely vulnerable to demands for savings. This requires the DPF to urgently highlight the role played by the MDP in ensuring national security.
The DPF’s position
As an organisation operating at and beyond capacity, the MDP has no ability to absorb further personnel cuts. Upcoming decisions on the shape of the Force must be determined according to risk: anything else (i.e. decisions based on cost) might yield short-term savings, but these will not be sustainable and would come with the consequence of making assets, personnel and the public less safe.
The DPF does not believe that the MDP should be exempt from delivering value for money. But that is different to saying the MDP budget has excesses that can be taken away. Indeed, quite the opposite is the case: the DPF believes the last five years have seen cuts go too far, and that, as a result, the MDP needs more support in order to maximise its value to the MoD.
In addition to the potentially existential threat to the MDP the SDSR represents, there are of course two major ongoing personnel issues:
Background: MDP pensions and retirement ages
The MDP was excluded from the category of uniformed services in the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 that granted a Normal Pension Age of 60 to the Armed Forces, Home Office constabularies and Home Office firefighters. This exclusion was an error that has been publicly accepted by the architect of the Act, Lord Hutton.
The MoD was committed under the terms of the Act to undertake a review of MDP pension. This was published in December 2013 and was an unsatisfactory summary of MDP pension entitlement, without offering recommendations. Subsequently, the DPF – recognising the financial pressure the Department is under – proposed a compromise, under which MDP officers would have an Enhanced Effective Pension Age of 65, including the right to make additional contributions (to offset the actuarial reductions applied) to reduce their pension age to 60 years at no additional cost to the MoD. The Department’s formal offer, which was made in March 2015, accepted the concept of an Effective Pension Age of 65 for DPF officers, but rejected the option of allowing officers to make additional pension contributions in a way that would allow them to retire at 60. This is also not a guaranteed and permanent retirement age of 65 in the long term, but rather a retirement age of three years below the State Pension Age.
The DPF’s position
The DPF’s position is that it is unacceptable to expect officers to work to the age of 65 or potentially older. While this might be possible for some individuals, for the majority there will be a cumulative impact on health and wellbeing caused by the physical demands of our work and the weight of equipment officers carry on a daily basis.
Whilst we acknowledge that the MoD has moved from its original position, its refusal to accept the DPF’s offer of a cost-neutral option to enable officers to retire at 60 is both unfair and difficult to understand given the lack of cost to the taxpayer or Department. We will be continuing to engage with the MoD on the issue of pensions, to highlight the importance of, and need for, further movement on behalf of the Department.
Background: changes to TACOS
The DPF has been engaged with the MoD on the issue of changes to TACOS for more than five years. Currently, TACOS under which officers serve are outdated, and require updates to reflect the Winsor reforms that have been introduced to Home Office constabularies and the new pension position. The DPF expects that the new TACOS offer from the MoD will – amongst other provisions – include revisions to the length of the working week; introduce a new fitness test for officers; modify the current pay and progression system; and affect the Net Pay Deduction on officers’ salaries.
The DPF’s position
Whilst negotiations regarding TACOS are currently ongoing, the DPF has serious concerns that any offer from the MoD will fail to accurately reflect the uniquely challenging circumstances in which MDP officers work, and might allow the conditions of officers’ employment to fall further below those of their Home Office counterparts. The DPF also believes that there is a risk that the Department’s offer will attempt break the MDP’s pay relativity with Home Office constabularies by expecting MDP officers to commit to a longer working week without remuneration. Were these concerns realised, both of these issues would be compounded by the current expectation that officers will work until the age of 65.
How to contact your local MP
You can find out who your local MP is typing your postcode into the website www.theyworkforyou.com. We suggest sending contacting your MP via email rather than by post. Their email addresses can be found from their profile page on the Parliament website: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/. When emailing/writing to your MP, please ensure you include your name and address, along with the name of the establishment at which you are based. If you have any queries, or require any assistance, please contact Rowan.Allport@whitehouseconsulting.co.uk.