In what is known in political circles as being the “take out the trash” day, the last day of Parliament before summer recess is typically filled with ministers making announcements before they go on holiday so by the time they return, the news will have lost its shock factor.
This year is no different, as Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood published a written ministerial statement announcing that the MoD will close the home of the Red Arrows, RAF Scampton, and sell it along with RAF Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire.
Both these sales are part of the MoD strategy to sell assets in order to achieve £3bn in savings by 2040. There has been public outcry particularly over the sale of RAF Scampton which is 102 years old and has been part of the RAF since the Air Force's inception towards the end of the First World War.
Other noteworthy announcements include Prime Minister Theresa May announcing a “machinery of government change” which will see her leading Brexit negotiations with the EU going forward, and new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab deputising on her behalf. This is the first time the Government has openly admitted that the Department for Exiting the European Union has little authority and influence in the negotiations.
• Public sector gets pay rise
• Firearms instructor calls for review into promoting firearms roles
• Unions rally against BTP-Police Scotland merger
• Violent crimes fail to result in charges
• Metropolitan Police embroiled in corruption investigation
Public sector gets pay rise
The Government has announced that public sector workers will get their first pay rise after seven years of experiencing a 1 per cent cap on salary increases. The increases differ from one sector to the next and are between 1 per cent and 4 per cent. Police officers are in line to get a 2 per cent increase, with a further 2 per cent increase to the dog handlers' allowance, following the recommendations by the Police Remuneration Review Board. The Armed Forces will receive a 2.9 per cent increase which, it is estimated, will cost the MoD £200 million a year. The Police Federation of England and Wales say officers’ pay has fallen by about 18% since 2009-10 and the rise would come to just £2.50 a week extra for a constable at the start of their career.
Unions are condemning the increases for remaining below inflation, which currently stands at 2.3 per cent, and Government departments need to pay for the increases from their existing budgets, so are likely to make underspends or cut projects. The Public and Commercial Services Union is unable to strike under new laws, however, because although 85 per cent of its members voted in favour of striking, only 41 per cent of its total membership voted which is below the 50 per cent needed to take forward a strike.
As MDP officers' pay is aligned to Home Office police officers' pay this should mean that MDP salaries rise too. The DPF is engaging with the MoD to ensure this happens promptly while continuing to campaign for officers' non-consolidated pay.
Firearms instructor calls for review into promoting firearms roles
Sergeant Tony Henley, Manager at the Blackrock Training Centre in Portishead, Bristol, has called for the recruitment crisis in firearms policing to be addressed, highlighting the changing nature of armed policing in light of the heightened terror threat. He said that the specialism is losing its attractiveness as armed police now have to enter spaces with uncertainty and without the dominant position. He clarified that he is “not saying we're outgunned or outclassed, but the odds have changed.”
Sgt Henley highlighted the shortage in “firearms and firearms instructors” and the contingent “probably” does not “feel supported by the Government.” This supports Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, the NPCC Lead for Firearms, saying in May that officers are deterred from pursuing a career in the specialism for worry they would be treated like suspects rather than officers doing their jobs. Sgt Henley described himself as a proponent for a national firearms service.
Unions rally against BTP-Police Scotland merger
The Scotsmanhas reported on further opposition to the planned merger of the British Transport Police (BTP) north of the border and Police Scotland, this time from the UK's three largest railway unions: the RMT, TSSA and Aslef. The proposal was passed by the Scottish Government in Holyrood when policing was devolved, but plans have since been postponed indefinitely amid concerns over the terms and conditions of officers transferring and the potential impact on passenger safety during the transition. Although a new deadline for the merger has not been set, the Scottish Government has insisted that the plans will go ahead despite strong opposition from the BTP and opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament.
The TSSA’s Manuel Cortes said that there is wide agreement in industry that the merger is “unnecessary, unwise and downright dangerous” while accusing the SNP of putting “nationalist dogma” ahead of passenger safety. Scottish Labour's Collin Smyth called the plan “uncosted” referring to estimates that the merger could cost up to £500,000 per officer. The Scottish Government reaffirmed its triple lock guarantee protecting the jobs, pay and pensions of BTP officers and said the merger would provide continuity of service and a single command structure.
Violent crimes fail to result in charges
The Times has reported on Home Office figures showing that 90 per cent of crimes do not result in a suspect being charged, which equated to a two per cent decline on the last year and a six per cent decline within the last three years. In the year to March, only 443,000 crimes out of the 4.6 million recorded resulted in a charge or a summons, the lowest level it has been in 22 years.
This has happened in the context of rising crime in the UK. Knife crime has soared 16 per cent to 40,147 incidents; murder rates have risen 12 per cent to 701; and there is a 30 per cent increase in recorded robberies. Overall in the UK crime has risen by 11 per cent to 5.5 million offences, the highest it has been for a decade and while crime in neighbouring countries including Germany and France has been declining.
National Policing Lead for Crime Statistics, Chief Constable Bill Skelly, justified the figures saying that recording of crime had improved to the extent that police recorded crimes that had “no suspect and little prospect of a criminal justice outcome.” Police Minister Nick Hurd said that “the likelihood of being a victim remains low, however, every violent crime is a significant concern and the government is taking decisive action to tackle it.”
Although it is likely that improvements are being made in recording crime, this cannot be the only explanation for the fourth consecutive year for increased murder rates. Metropolitan Police and Crime Commissioner Cressida Dick has previously said it would be “naive” not to link the increase to fewer police being on the streets as well as other socioeconomic factors. These statistics underline the need for increased police funding.
Metropolitan Police embroiled in corruption investigation
The Metropolitan Police's Directorate for Professional Standards (DPS) is under investigation for corruption, Sky News has reported. It has been claimed that in the DPS, which itself is responsible for investigating corruption and misconduct within the Force, there are “potentially conflicted” senior officers who had interfered with and curtailed investigations, or failed to look at alleged wrongdoing altogether. The investigation is being conducted by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, the watchdog that also oversees the MDP.
The allegations have so far resulted in three officers receiving gross misconduct notices, one of whom is under criminal investigation, and other officers under investigation. It is believed that the investigation was prompted by three whistle blowers who alleged that the DPS were shielding officers from a range of allegations. A source said that this was the largest police corruption inquiry since the late 1970s.