“[Jeremy Corbyn] failed to mention the automatic pay increases over and above the 1% that many public sector workers get.
“Indeed, a calculation suggests that a new police officer in 2010, thanks to progression pay and annual basic salary increases, and the increase in the personal allowance that is a tax cut for people, have actually seen an increase in their pay of over £9,000 since 2010, a real terms increase of 32%.”
Theresa May, 13 September 2017
The calculation looks about right, but we’ve been told this isn’t likely to be representative of the experience most police officers have had.
Figures we were shown by the Police Federation—the staff association for rank-and-file police officers in England and Wales—suggest only a minority of officers may have seen this kind of pay increase. They also indicate that overall police pay has fallen in real terms since 2010.
This data isn’t publicly available, so we haven’t yet been able to verify it.
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Downing Street’s maths
The calculation leading to the 32% figure appears to come from Downing Street itself, with a source from Number 10 explaining this afternoon how the figures were reached.
A new police officer starting service in September 2010 would have been paid £23,259 on the lowest pay point. When you take off income tax and national insurance contributions from that, you get to just under £18,000 take-home pay.
All police officers move up a salary scale, usually automatically after each year’s service. That same officer, if still in post, would now be earning around £35,478, according to Downing Street (the published figures are slightly different, but similar).
Again, after tax, that looks more like £27,400 to take home today. This tax, Number 10 is keen to stress, is made less than it would otherwise have been by the government’s increases to the income tax personal allowance since 2010.
That change from £18,000 to £27,400 is the £9,000 Theresa May is talking about, and that amounts to a roughly 33% increase when you factor in price inflation.
So we can’t fault the maths, but the context is another matter.
Not the experience of most officers?
We already know that police officer numbers have fallen significantly since 2010, so it’s unclear how representative this example officer’s experience has been.
The Police Federation was scathing in its own remarks shortly after the Prime Minister made her claim.
It told us that Mrs May’s comments weren’t representative of the experience of most officers. Instead it offered an alternative: the total pay of officers has fallen by 16% in real terms (counting inflation) when comparing 2009/10 with the same pay in 2015/16.
According to the Federation, more than half of police officers are already at the top of the pay scale—so don’t benefit from further pay progression.
The figures they quoted to us come from a census of police hours and pay, which isn’t publicly available. So, for now, we can’t verify the claims for certain.