Our Overpaid, Bloated Police?

I was a cop when the 40% pay offer came about in the 1970s.  We had balloted nationally on strike action (56% and 70% in favour in the sticks and Met as I remember).  The police had traditionally been underpaid in the UK, much as our squaddies get about half the pay of their Aussie counterparts now.  The lads a few girls out in Afghanistan get a whole lot less in pay and conditions such as pensions, than that rude, pretty ignorant response officer straight from the training centre who is about as much use on your problems as a chocolate fire-guard in a forest fire.  The force I joined paid me 10% more than I’d have got as a Civil Service executive officer plus a rent allowance.  Pay had been so dire in the 1960s that police ranks generally only swelled when unemployment did.

There’s a lot of dishonesty around about public sector pay and the burden this and conditions of service place on the rest of us. My guess is that we could do with far more low-level public sector jobs because the current capitalist-private sector model of growth has been screwed for at least two decades, and that we need to strip the public sector of a whole wad of hidden costs in the form of pension entitlements and high wages paid to wasters in supposedly important management jobs.  The current headline figure on pensions is that they cost us £4,000 a year each to support.  I’d encourage everyone to look at the percentage costs Crime Analyst comes up with on the bloated rank excesses in the police.  He won’t be far wrong and would not be a penny out if given full access.

As a jaded management theorist and consultant (I don’t do any now on personal moral grounds), I can’t help but notice the similarities in our public sector now and stuff like the shipbuilding and steel industries in the past.  In the United States in particular I remember steel group workers ensuring their own destruction by insisting their companies take proper care of pensioners, ensure H & S at work and decent pay competitive with that of white collar jobs around them. This sensible self-interest and even morally inspired action was lunacy in the world conditions being brought to bear by our “capitalist masters”.  The reasons the jobs upped and fucked off were more complex than cheap wages elsewhere, but the key problem was that we were ‘stupid enough’ to want to build the capital of lives worth living.  One underlying idea was that we could let these ‘dumb jobs’ go abroad and do something smarter, thus increasing our standard of living whilst others abroad did the scut-work.  Take a look at any of the BBC programmes in which they let some of our kids fish for tuna or work in Indonesian factories or the Mumbai slums and you’ll get the drift.  Given the choice between a ‘copper’s lot’ and that we wouldn’t find many trying to sign up for the skip jack tuna boat.  The moral assertion to most of my age not eating their greens as a kid was being told ‘millions of starving Indians’would relish them.

Old big industry across the West and whatever worker power there once was has been broken on the rod of Thatcherism, though old Madiron herself had little to do with it.  Our industries had been in recession for more than a hundred years in many cases and the imposition of hard-hat, often ex-pat, severely overpaid management dates from the 1960s.  It’s a long story and not well known.

Manchester United players get obscene pay. I can’t justify any excesses like this.  That’s another story.  What we don’t find in sport is all levels of teams being paid like the ones at the top.  This has happened across our political and management cadre.  At United I guess they have to pay up up or their ‘dedicated to the club’ players will just up sticks.  The claim that we’d suffer a similar ‘brain’ drain if we don’t pay an under-performing cop (etc. across the public sector) who has ferreted his way into an SMT by image management is farcical.  So, probably, is the the idea that the best will only work for top money, and this idea is never discussed in terms of potential demotivation of the rest of us.  Pay systems drawing support from the trade in top international sportspeople look doomed as a model for the rest of us.

I suspect the majority of cops and middle class people generally have little idea of how well paid they have become compared with industrial workers around the world or how artificial many of their jobs are.  I suspect that hitting our police with delayering and job re-evaluation aimed at the kind of efficiencies achieved in manufacturing would lead them to strike action.  What a bunch of miners!

Believing we were treated with disdain in the 1970’s pay negotiations, we did stuff like slipping copies of the Canadian strike to the media.  Militant sabre-rattling brought about the new offer.  Since then,cops have been politicised beyond belief and treated as favoured sons.  They should be asked to produce an increase of 50% in ‘street time’ whilst increasing personnel numbers by 20% and decreasing staffing costs by 20% including on-costs of such matters as pensions.  This may seem impossible to the (genuinely) managerially untrained.  Better than this has been achieved in industry.

Something like this needs doing across the public sector and it would include stopping people acting like the ‘filthy rich’.  My GP practice is just about as good as it could be, and I doubt this has much to do with bloated earnings potentials that have doubled doctor’s pay compared with academics.  For all the support of our heroic troops in cop blogs, no one offers to take a squaddy’s pay and give the rest to a forces’ charity.

Some of the maths of my thought experiment here are very simple.  Get rid of 42 sets of post superintendent ranks and you save a lot.  How many extra cops would that be?  Drop PC pay to job centre average and how much do you save.  We might have to help cops with their mortgages for a while, but we do this all over with tax credit anyway.  Are cops supposed to be so different from the public the “serve”?

No doubt this won’t be popular amongst cop-blog groupies, but we are already seeing compulsory redundancies in Town Halls.  My academic interest in such thought experiment is really to question whether our systems of reward generally are now ‘for the Fairies’.  Cops who don’t know anything about the post WW1 police strikes, or police roles in suppressing miners’ strikes may need to do a little history.

Control of expenditure in our legal system in out of it.  Look what it cost to lie about Bloody Sunday fro 38 years and then blame it all on a bunch of panicking Paras.  Some scrote drug-dealer pleads not guilty and another £40K goes down the drain on average.  Cops end up carrying the undercover cameras they so despise when Panorama embarrasses then as racists with one, in order to encourage more guilty pleas.  How long before chummy (no doubt via scuzzy lawyers wanting business back) starts coming up with ‘orange juice WMD’ excuses like the whack and slap Sgt.Smellie in the face of CCTV.

It’s probably fatuous in the end, but we can make a case that overpaying our police rather than spreading earnings more equitably amongst those who will work, with a Bill of Rights ensuring work to all, causes most crime.

We need to be thinking the unthinkable because our system has gone dud.  One in nine Scots were working for the banks before the crash and our public sector economy is 70% in some places.  75% of all jobs round here created over the last 10 years are public sector (NW).  The scrote who lived, harassed, drugged and violenced next door cost £15K a year in benefits and another £30K in  agency visits, prison and other administrative costs, much going to barristers and into public sector workers’pockets.  They have been re[placed by excellent Bulgarians, but continue elsewhere.  We should be asking whether the more than seven years of failure to sort them out and admit all the agencies are without a clue is itself criminal.  Maybe the bloated public sector and rich barrister types are the real thieves, claiming money by deception as surely as MPs creaming expenses?  The scrote, for all their nuisance and violence, still remain poor.  This is not true of the army that feeds off them.

I say all this under the strenuous working conditions of watch Switzerland beat Spain, unless there’s a last minute development.  Life is hard and then you die!

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8 thoughts on “Our Overpaid, Bloated Police?

  1. There is much truth here.
    When I was with Bass Brewers, our drivers – who ferry beer from the breweries to the depots – were extremely highly paid. Indeed, they earned far more than most Managers. And they got bone idle and very militant indeed. For example; they would halt their lorry at the brewery gates – to which they were returning – and Bass had to employ a contract driver, to drive the vehicles from the gates, to their place within the brewery. They were idle and insolent – but….could bring the brewery to a standstill at any time. You can guess what happened! After enduring this for years, Bass got rid of the lot of them and employed contract hauliers!!!

  2. You just couldn’t get a dray job Dickie. Paid about 4 times my first year in industry after my degree. But then I earned nearly as much as my grant in the summer cleaning tunnels at Thames Board Mills over summer back then. I left university with some money – now the standard is debt. There were sills kin the old dray work too, but now most fit guys and quite a few fit women could toss a full keg about.
    Talking through a case with some young lawyers last month I noticed they were typical of the middle of an undergraduate class today – fuckwit with regurgitative training. They wanted £120 an hour and I wouldn’t have given them minimum wage on the grounds of all the extra work they would have caused me supervising them.
    I’m not arguing a case here, but there is little need for rank above sergeant and none at all for the fuckwit personnel-HRM-PR sods who stick in Gadget’s craw. Something like a works’ council could replace all that bull, giving people genuine appeal to fair play. These buffoons are usually attached to boss’s arses by elastic judging how they preen about behind them. Law centres would be cheaper than private lawyers and force them to compete – I’d let the universities qualify people.
    People our age could run away to sea, join the services and so on. I’m not convinced there is anything for kids to do these days, now that universities are pretending to replace the university of life.

  3. You surprise me ACO, with your suggestion of dropping the pay scale of PC’s. They are front line and take the most flack from the public, often placing themselves in great danger. I could understand a suggestion of a pay freeze for PC’s during this time of high national debt, but not a drop in wages for the lower rank in the force.

    All the ranks above could probably take a pay cut without too much pain to themselves and their families, especially those at the top, but then right at the top, like a chief constable, the pay reflects the huge responsibility they have to shoulder, and the flack they have to take from police authorities, the public and the government if things go pear shaped. Or have I got this wrong somehow in my understanding of how things work?

    If government wish to save money and serve the public well, then the pay and gold plated pensions of the fat cats in local government should be seriously considered for appropriate cuts. People are probably paying for this in their council taxes, which are too high, especially for pensioners who do not qualify for council tax benefit. Personally I feel that is a great injustice and one that must be put right as soon as possible by the coalition government.

    I also feel that the soldiers pay should be increased in line with a PC’s current pay because they too are putting their lives on the line to protect the rest of us. They deserve it because of the danger they are placed in to keep us safe. When people go the extra mile for Queen and country, the very least that the country can do for them is to treat them with the respect and appropriate level of pay due to them, and look after them properly if they get injured. It is not a lot to ask for, is it?

    But exactly how the judiciary could be reined in on the fees that they charge, just makes me think of a vey high reinforced stone wall which would stop a tank! They really are “a law unto themselves”, like the banks have been…..but I hear talk of changes soon there too.
    Life isn’t fair, and we cannot all live on a fixed level of pay, because that would be communism, and that didn’t work either.

    Yes, life is hard, and then we die…..and after a few years of having a rest, the soul reincarnates into a new life, to deal with a new set of challenges. Some souls reincarnate specifically to trail-blaze and force through changes which help the rest of humanity have better lives.

    My old dad used to say in his later years that “life is hard and then you die”, and that refected his life experiences of being a child in the 1920’s, leaving school at 14 to start as an apprentice in a physically hard job, not of his choice and having passed the exam for grammar school, but the family couldn’t afford to send him there, nor afford the uniform. His was the only wage coming in to feed a large family in the great depression of the 1930’s. Dad was the youngest of 7 children and his father had been laid off during the depression, because the bosses were cutting costs by taking on youngsters, whom they paid less than adult men.
    His dad, my grandfather, had been “blacklisted” by the Industry he worked in because he had been a shop steward who fought for better wages for the workers.
    Yes life was hard, and then my grandfather died.

    My dad survived WW2 and worked hard all his life in the physically demanding job he had learnt to do before the war. It was good pay after WW2 and he didn’t get the opportunity to switch trades and become a joiner, which he had always wanted to do. When we moaned as kids, he used to say to us….” You don’t know how lucky you are” and told us about what it was like when he was growing up in 1920 – 1930, and then the hardships of the war years.

    My mum had experienced a similar tough childhood and survived the Blitz bombings and her time in the WRAF in charge of barage balloons protecting RAF airfields and fuel depots. When we wouldn’t finish our dinners, she used the line….there are starving children in Africa who would be glad of that food, so get it down you now!
    Sooooo bossy! My response to her command to “eat it up”, used to be…..”well put it in a parcel and send it to them then!” I was immediately told to not be cheeky nor to answer back. She told tales of bread and dripping for dinner, when people had no money in the 1920’s and 1930’s,
    and of coats being used on the beds in the winter, because there were no extra blankets.

    Society has come a very long way since then and people have a much higher standard of living. A bit of “belt tightening” and doing without luxury items for a while really is no great hardship. People will not starve just because the country needs to pay off the national debt.

    Those people who are already the lowest paid, and those who have been on welfare benefits for a number of years, for whatever reasons, will be well used to having to manage on meagre finances and “poor rations”. It is those who have become soft and pampered by material excesses and living a luxurious lifestyle, who may suffer the greatest shock of having to do without and manage on less.

    Perhaps during a time of “austerity” people will re-discover some old values, that make life more meaningful.
    That can only be a good thing after the greed and the excesses of the past few decades, whereby many have “worshipped” money and materialism above all else.

  4. I think we need the thought experiment here Minxy and the basic one here is to work out what would happen if such organisations as police were treated like factories.
    The front line should be paid a grwater proportion of what we can afford, but the effectively civilian doing 9 – 5 should only get the basic rate – response should become an option where people want to stay. What I’m suggesting here,really, is for a fresh look at the public sector in high unemployment. Nothing in principle stops us from importing cops or outsourcing some of the work. I wouldn’t want to do this, but we need to get our eyes open as to what could be done. I do think we have some failing forces and lost touch with what can be afforded. Much police work is not highly skilled and there has been no shortage of applicants for many years. This would have slashed wages in industry.

  5. I don’t think you are wrong Minxy. I don’t want to see police wages cut, but every group I can think of makes themselves a special case. We can apply economic and managerial models across the board. In the US, pilots are paid pretty poorly because loads of people want to do the job and access to training is easy. We forget that all professions protect their trade through barriers to entry and their own form of ‘trade unionism’.
    We need something fairer, but also to grasp jsut how unfair one group against another is.

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