I recently visited Sussex Police at Crawley station and talked to officers and staff. Once again I was impressed by the work that the police do in our communities, which gives me great pride.
As the Prime Minister reiterated this week, public spending has to be reduced to deal with the deficit. And as a service spending some £14 billion a year, the police must play their part in making savings.
With the loss of staff and a recruitment freeze on officers, combined with other changes to pay and pensions, I understand that there is concern about the current situation. Indeed, this week police officers are marching in London in protest.
The two year pay freeze and increases in pension contributions are applying across the public sector, and I don't think it would be right to exempt the police. Plus, of course, many in the private sector have already been through such changes.
But that doesn't make it any easier for officers, who are also concerned about the independent Winsor review of pay and conditions. These include proposals to encourage the brightest and best to join the police service and create a new pay structure that rewards officers and staff who do the hardest jobs and use specialist skills.
The Association of Chief Police Officers is broadly supportive of the proposed pay reforms, which reduce the police staff pay bill by less than 2 per cent. I believe the principles of reform are right, but there are now formal negotiations and we will take great care to ensure that police officers are fairly treated.
We will continue to ensure that officers are rewarded for the exceptional job they do. Police officers will continue to earn more than other emergency services, continue to retire earlier than most in the public sector and their pensions will continue to be amongst the best available.
Our reforms will also create a new Police Professional Body that will provide the best training to officers, allowing them to develop their skills and equipping them for the challenges of the future. We are also are doing everything we can to eliminate unnecessary form-filling and red tape.
And this week we announced new measures to deal with anti-social behaviour and set up a National Crime Agency.
We must take some tough decisions and do the right thing for the whole country. But we will continue to value, in the Prime Minister's words, the finest police service in the world.
N.B. Nick's letter to all police officers about reform can be read here: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/media-centre/news/case-for-police-reform