July is an important month in the Police Federation calendar. It is when we host the Police Bravery Awards where we honour the heroic actions of some of the most dedicated police officers of England and Wales. This year the brave officers will attend a reception at Downing Street where they will meet the Prime Minister, David Cameron and afterwards will attend an award's ceremony. The Prime Minister and Home Secretary, Theresa May will hear first-hand about the lengths that police officers go to protect and serve the public.
There remains a very fine line between astonishing acts of bravery and the risks that officers take. It is a difficult job but it is one we take great pride in doing. Police officers of England and Wales find themselves facing fresh challenges this year as the Government tightens its grip and its belt on UK policing. We face a myriad of attacks on our pay; a two-year pay freeze across the board and then a proposed two-year freeze on constables' incremental pay; all to go hand-in-hand with an increase to our pension contributions. It is no secret that officer morale has hit rock bottom, a recent survey of 42,000 police officers found 98% felt morale was low.
Crime figures are already on the rise. It has been reported recently that burglary has risen by 18.5 per cent and robberies by 15 per cent in London alone. We have warned from the start that there would be unintended consequences of the cuts. Police officers of all ranks know that criminal activity is on the rise and a chief constable recently told the national press that "we are just about holding the line." This admission should cause us all great concern. We have no doubt that the proposed 20 per cent cuts to police budgets will lead to an increase in crime. The government continues to believe you get more for less. It simply won't be possible to provide the same level of service to the public that we do now if we are losing officers, support staff, vehicles and stations. To say that the cuts will not have an impact on the public is naive and irresponsible. We beseech the government to listen to what police officers are saying, we are the voices of experience, we are the men and women who do the job every day and we know what it takes to protect innocent members of society.
The Police Federation open meeting to be held on 13 July in Westminster, London will demonstrate the strength of feeling of officers. Over 2,000 off-duty officers will travel from all over England and Wales to voice their concern at the way the Government is reneging on promises made prior to, and during, election campaigns last year. Officers are disappointed and angry at the way the Home Secretary is doing business, the recommendations of Winsor and the lack of overall understanding of our unique status. We do not have industrial rights and we are not the same as other public sector workers. The Home Secretary said only last year "it was time we gave you the respect you deserve"; it is that time and I hope she keeps her word.
Follow Paul McKeever on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PoliceFedChair