Pay anger

ANGRY police officers from Exmouth marched on Westminster this week over a long-running pay dispute with the government.

ANGRY police officers from Exmouth marched on Westminster this week over a long-running pay dispute with the government.

More than 300 off-duty officers from Devon and Cornwall Constabulary joined colleagues from across the country in a display of 'lack of trust' in Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

Officers are incensed after Ms Smith did not support a police arbitration tribunal to back-date police pay after a dispute over an annual wage rise.

The decision to back-date police pay increases to December 1, rather than the tribunal's September date, effectively lowered an expected 2.5 per cent rise to 1.9 per cent, according to police officers.

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The rise now comes in at less than half the retail price index of 4.2 per cent - the guideline for annual inflation.

In a further blow to officers' morale, Scottish police have seen the 2.5 per cent rise backdated to September 1 with no dispute.

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Devon and Cornwall Police Federation chairman Steve Tovagliari said the march was about recognition for officers' commitment: "The formula for pay has been in place for 28 years and has always worked well. We have always stood by the award - whichever way it went. However, Ms Smith has taken away that goodwill.

"This is no longer about money, it is about principle. Officers work long and unsociable hours, carrying out arduous and sometimes thankless duties.

"They have restrictions on their private lives, and that of their families, and are available 24 hours a day. How are they thanked for this? A pay cut."

The government has continued to back their stance despite the row rumbling on since the end of 2007, arguing inflation must be controlled.

The Prime Minister said police had received 36 per cent pay rises since 1997, and by staging pay rises £30 million could be saved by the Treasury.

Officers currently start on £21,000, with a police constable's earning potential going beyond £32,000.

The protest rally marks officers' strongest available form of protest. The Police Act of 1996 prohibits any strike action, though talk of a ballot on future power to strike has been aired.

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