08/06/2012 02:58 BST

Police Anger Over Choice Of Tom Winsor As Chief Inspector of Constabulary

The government's choice for the next Chief Inspector of Constabulary has provoked an angry reaction from rank-and-file officers.

Lawyer Tom Winsor, whose review of police pay and conditions sparked a mass protest, was named as home secretary Theresa May's preferred candidate for the £200,000-a-year role.

Criticism of the choice has focused on Mr Winsor's lack of policing experience, with a think-tank describing it as "risky if not reckless".

Mr Winsor's two reports were part of the most wide-ranging review of policing in more than 30 years.

The 54 year old would be the first civilian to take up the role since the inspectorate was first established in 1856.

But first he is likely to face tough questions from members of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee next week before his appointment can be sent to prime minister David Cameron and the Queen for approval.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said he was "looking forward" to hearing from Mr Winsor, with whom he has clashed during previous hearings.

Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said she was "stunned" by the decision, saying she could not even believe reports that Mr Winsor had applied.

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said that "if ever there was a need for sagacious advice from someone with a profound understanding of policing it is now".

Paul McKeever, the federation's chairman, said: "We warned the home secretary there would be riots, crime would rise and that 20% cuts would have a detrimental effect on the policing front line, putting public safety at risk, and we were called scaremongers.

"We look forward to hearing from the home secretary how the appointment of Tom Winsor provides the profound understanding of policing that is so important for public safety."

The Police Federation's inspecting ranks central committee said the decision "simply beggars belief".

John Apter, chairman of the federation's Hampshire branch, added: "Tom Winsor has very little experience of policing and has attracted criticism from the rank and file over the way he has conducted his reviews into police reform.

"The home secretary will have her own reasons for choosing Mr Winsor over other credible candidates, at this time I am struggling to understand what they might be."

Matt Cavanagh, of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think-tank, saying he was a "risky if not reckless choice" which could damage the reputation of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC),

"As well as putting the relationship between government and the police under further strain, this provocative choice could put at risk the growing reputation and contribution of HMIC at a crucial time."

Mrs May was heckled, booed and jeered at the federation's annual conference in Bournemouth last month, just a week after some 30,000 officers marched through central London in protest over Mr Winsor's proposed reforms, most of which have been accepted.

He called for the current police pay system, based on a 1920s model of rewarding years of service, to be overhauled and replaced with one that recognised hard work and merit instead.

Among the more controversial proposals in his two reports, Mr Winsor recommended that police constables' starting salaries should be cut by up to £4,500 and that the retirement age should be raised to 60.

He also proposed scrapping a series of allowances and special payments intended to save £60 million a year overtime.

Officers on frontline duties would see their pay rise but 40% of officers who do not work unsocial hours face cuts of up to £4,000 a year.

Mr Winsor also signalled the end of a job for life as he called for the ban on Chief Constables making officers redundant to be lifted in the face of budget cuts.

He has been put forward by the Home Office to replace Sir Denis O'Connor, who retires at the end of next month, overseeing the functioning and performance of police forces.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Tom Winsor has been named as the preferred candidate for the role of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary."

Oliver Brettle, executive partner of Mr Winsor's law firm White & Case in London, said: "This is an excellent achievement for Tom and a testament to the work he has undertaken over the last 18 months in conducting the independent review of police pay and conditions.

"We know Tom is passionate about taking on this important role and, in the event of his appointment, would fully understand him wanting to pursue this opportunity outside the firm."

Mr Winsor was the rail regulator from 1999 to 2004 when he joined White & Case's energy, infrastructure, project and asset finance practice in its London office.

In that role he carried out two major reviews of the structure and level of charges for the use of the national railway infrastructure.

Sir Denis is retiring after more than three years in the HMIC role.

When his retirement was announced in March, Mrs May said he had been "invaluable in enabling the inspectorate to continue to deliver an efficient and independent inspection programme during many challenges and changes in the policing landscape".