The recent news of a 7% pay increase for all police officers up to ACC / Commander rank in the 2023 pay settlement has been welcomed by most. This blog summarises what that means for each rank exactly, how officers can expect their pay to grow with experience, how police officer salary has changed over time, whether the award is ‘fair’, and how this compares to other sectors.
7% Increase in Officer Pay: A Fair Deal?
Earlier this month, the government announced it had accepted in full the recommendation of the independent Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB). That means a pay rise of 7% for all police officers in England and Wales, up to and including the rank of Assistant Chief Constable / Commander. Those above that rank will receive at least 5% increase, though most will also receive 7%. At the same time, the entry point for new officers will be increased by 21% with the removal of Pay Point 0, and London weighting allowance will also increase by 7%.
In 2022, the award was £1,900 across all ranks and 10% enhancement to the officer starting salary. So the 2023 settlement is certainly a big improvement.
Here’s the main points which will impact the pay packet of most police officers from September 2023:
The above GIF demonstrates the change in salary between where it currently stands and what it will be for the year from September 2023. It’s quite a big change, especially for new joiner PCs and those at the higher end of the Federated ranks. And those new joiners will now earn £46k basic within 7 years’ service, aside from the extra allowances and extras; for example, it’s possible to double this salary via overtime.
Prior to this announcement, there had been talk among some Federation reps and officers about transforming officers’ rights in relation to industrial action. Such demands may be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’, noting that with the existing restrictions comes the associated benefit that officers are never exposed to redundancy decisions. Here’s what the PRRB had to say on these matters, suggesting a lower settlement would have been recommended should officers have had the right to strike:
“In reaching a pay recommendation for 2023/24, we gave weight to the fact that police officers are prohibited from taking industrial action.”
A pleasant surprise is the fact that these pay increases are reported to be funded by central government. This means forces shouldn’t have to make cuts elsewhere, such as reducing headcount and making redundancies, to meet the new increase, though it remains to be seen what devil lies in the detail. This concern was articulated by PFEW Chair Steve Hartshorn in their press release:
“It is important that government also provides new money for the pay award so that chief officers do not have to cut essential services to the public to fund it.”
But is 7% across all ranks a fair deal? Depending on where you look, who you listen to, and what you compare it to, the reviews are mixed…
Compared to other public sector workers announced in this round, 7% is favourable. At the same time, it was announced that NHS staff and doctors received a 6% pay award, prison officers 7%, teachers 6.5%, and the armed forces 5%. In effect, the government accepted the recommendations of all the independent pay review bodies, despite concerns that raises could fuel inflation.
The latest July 2023 UK average employment earning statistics from the ONS show that in the last year, growth in regular pay was also 7%. This is made up of 8% increase in the private sector (mainly driven by those in the finance industry) and 6% in the public sector. Note that the PRRB were going on March 2023 private sector weekly earnings, which at that point was 7%, not the 8% growth seen more recently.
While these figures are relatively high, so is current inflation at 9%. So for those already at the top of their pay band and reliant on this being their only pay rise each year, it is a ‘real terms’ pay cut, because the money doesn’t go as far in this cost of living crisis.
On the average UK salary statistics, being a police officer remains favourable in comparison. The national average salary across all workers in the public and private sector is currently £31.6k (£30.2k last year). At the base rank of Constable, the salary will exceed this after 4 years’ service, and within 7 years all Constables will now from September earn £46.0k (over £1,000 per month above the national average), up from the current £43.0k.
The analysis below by the PRRB themselves highlights how the earnings of police officers remains favourable not just against the whole economy, but also when compared against other professional and degree-qualified jobs. This will remain the case after the 7% uplift…
Officers themselves have mostly welcomed the move, albeit without any particular fanfare. The Police Federation appears somewhat begrudgingly contented with the 2023 pay settlement. As a reminder, they requested 17% to make up for the fact the pay scale itself has fallen behind inflation over decades. What their requested 17% would have looked like is shown in the graphic below…
“Today’s announcement that police officer pay for 2023/24 will increase by 7 per cent across all ranks is a step in the right direction, but still falls short of the real-term pay cut officers have suffered since 2000.” – PFEW statement
In terms of targeting to need, the removal of Pay Point 0 will be welcomed and has a big impact. This means new joiners will earn not just the 17% requested by the PFEW, but 21% more, joining on £28.5k instead of the current £23.6k. That’s nearly a £5k boost and will no doubt do wonders for retention, in light of controversies surrounding the police degree entry routes.
Such a move puts new joiners on a parity with officers joining across the border in Police Scotland. This important change at the lower end of the scale appears to have been largely missed in all the general news announcements and press releases, from all parties involved. Yet it will arguably make the biggest difference and resolves many long-standing complaints from officers and the Federation.
However, the targeting to need could have been far better apportioned from the same financial envelope budgeted. A percentage pay increase across the board is a fairly regressive approach, benefitting the senior ranks disproportionately more in financial terms. Thereby, the financial gap between the senior and more junior ranks gets increased.
By way of example, 7% for a PC with 2 years’ service on £27.8k equates to a £1,900 increase in pay (same as the 2022 increase). The difference for a newly promoted Sergeant is £3,200. For new Inspectors (which the PRRB notes are in the top 20% of earners across the whole economy), that’s £3,800. By the time you reach experienced Chief Superintendents it’s over £6,000 and for ACCs on a median of £118k according to the PRRB, it’s £8,000.
1/5 of all offers are at least Sergeant rank and the financial cost of a 7% pay award is disproportionately skewed there, accounting for not 1/5 but over 1/3 of the overall cost of this award (approx. £0.5bn). A more progressive graduation of percentage increases through the pay bands would have allowed greater increases for those PCs near the beginning of their career and reportedly using food banks.
For context, the below chart from the detailed PRRB report compares the average actual earnings for England and Wales officers last year for each rank, in both provincial forces and the Met…
A slightly more progressive approach has been taken by the Met Police, going over and above the 7% with additional payments targeting the more junior ranks and benefitting those on the lowest pay band most. The Met announced they will add an extra £1,000 to the salaries of all but the most senior ranks. In addition, an extra £100 per month will be available for officers on completion of their initial training.
There is clearly an officer retention strategy at play here, given for example the increased numbers of new officers resigning following introduction of the degree entry routes. And that’s on top of last year’s recruitment incentive of £5,000 offered to new joiners to bolster their Uplift numbers. This bold move proved controversial, derided by neighbouring forces as ‘poaching officers’.
So in summary, if this 7% pay deal for officers was a review on Amazon or TripAdvisor, it would probably be just over 3 out of 5 stars. Below is a recap of the good, the bad, and the mediocre aspects…
For officers in Northern Ireland, the PSNI officer salary scale and awards have historically tended to follow closely that for England and Wales. So expect to see similar coming your way. In Scotland, things are done quite seperately and the Scottish Police Federation have requested 8.5% increase. Though no decisions have yet been made, it is reasonable at this point to expect it to also land around the 7% mark.
Below Inflation Pay Increases for Officers?
While they cautiously welcome the recent pay award as a step in the right direction, the PFEW are consistently looking to the longer-term inflation picture. For example, while welcoming the Met’s local approach, General Secretary of the Met Federation, Paul Deller,said:
“This demonstrates how far policing has fallen behind in terms of pay… Hopefully, this will be the first of a series of annual pay rises that restores police pay to the correct levels, having fallen as much as 17% behind in the last 10 years.”
But where does this 17% derive from? This has been calculated by the PFEW as the difference between pay award increases to the police officer pay scale and inflation rates for those years.
For example, back in 2000, a PC joined on £17,133 and after 12 years achieved the top of the pay scale at £27,114. A Sergeant with 3 years’ experience was on £28,059. Using the Bank of England’s (BoE) simple inflation calculator, had these amounts kept up with inflation they would be as follows:
- PC pay scale: £17,133 – £27,114 in 2000 is equivalent to a £30,990 – £49,044 scale in 2023. The agreed new scale as per the PRRB recommendation will be £28,548 – £46,042.
- Sergeant 3 years: £28,059 in 2000 is equivalent to £50,753 in 2023. From September 2023, a Sergeant with 3 years’ service will now earn £50,079.
This is nothing exceptional however. Given the Peelian Principle ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’, the general population have also suffered a similar inflationary loss to their salaries. In 2000, the UK average annual salary was £18,848. Had it kept up with inflation, that would now be £34,092. However, and as noted earlier, it is currently only £31,625. So most people’s wages have deteriorated when compared against inflation.
But bear in mind, this only compares the police pay scale. It ignores the fact that, within the same rank, officers get additional annual pay increases as they progress through the pay scale. So comparing static points on a pay scale isn’t really like-with-like when comparing against the real earnings people in the UK generally make or even inflation.
The below chart from the detailed PRRB 2023 report demonstrates that just over half of all police officers are at the top step of their rank…
While the pay scale is fixed, all officers move through its rungs each year to increase their salary. That’s one reason why policing continues to be an attractive career choice for new joiners. Police officer pay grows beyond inflation with each year of experience.
It’s only those officers already at the top of the pay scale (currently £43k for Police Constables) who don’t get the annual service length increments. Therefore, it is those officers who have seen their income deteriorate relative to inflation, as they have no longer benefited from moving up the bands within the scale.
A simplified comparison is shown in the following table for England and Wales forces (excludes Met, for which salaries are slightly enhanced). This table demonstrates how two example officers’ pay and the pay scale itself has changed through recent years, comparing the effects upon each. Officer A (highlighted yellow began their career as a new PC in 2016, on Pay Point 0, which was just £20k per year. Officer B (blue) was already at the top of the pay scale, with over 7 years’ service, and so already at Pay Point 7 having climbed to that point from prior experience.
Officer A’s salary (highlighted yellow) climbed the rungs of the PC pay scale each year, as they progressed through their initial training and beyond. With their 7th year falling in 2023, they will (from 1 September) be on £46k, having moved to the top of the PC pay bracket shown now in green with the 7% applied. So in effect, they will have received two pay increases during the course of each year; the step up another rung, plus the increase to the pay ladder itself.
Conversely, Officer B was already at the top Pay Point 7, which in 2016 for England and Wales officers was £38k. Their annual salary increases were therefore subject only to how the pay scale itself increased (if at all), as indicated in the average annual change (grey) figures under each year. For context, revisiting the BoE inflation calculator, goods and services costing £38,001 in 2016 cost £45,944 in 2022 (vs. salary of £43,030) and £49,633 this year (vs. salary increase to £46,042).
Here’s another way of looking at things, with Officer A and B’s salaries mapped over the years on a graph. Officer C is another scenario shown here, having had 3 years’ experience already under their belt in 2016. The percentages show the change in that person’s salary observed during that time.
So the below-inflation pay rises only practically relates to those officers who have stayed at the top rung of their rank, over a long term period and prior to this pay award. This may be one reason for the gap between the perennial gap between the pay scale increases requested by the Police Federation, and what actually gets applied to the pay scale following PRRB recommendations.
Finally, here’s an interesting coincidence just emerging: The inflation effect observed since 2016 has been 21%. The pay award with effect from 1 September 2023 means that the salary of police constables at the top of their pay band will also be 21% higher when compared to inflation.
So How Much do England & Wales Officers Now Earn?
I’ve blogged before on UK officer salary changes in 2022, comparing England and Wales with Scotland and PSNI, including the benefits promotion offers. I maintain all latest UK officer salary rates on my website should you wish to check at any point.
But this blog focuses in on the England and Wales picture, incorporating the Met Police of course, following this latest 7% pay award announcement. So let’s review the terrain as it now lies through the ranks.
The chart below shows the new pay bands following the 7% increase to the basic salary for police officers across England and Wales. Note that Met Police officers (among some others) received enhanced pay, while other additional allowances are not shown here.
The removal of PP0 means officers will join at a far higher level than before. Albeit with the caveats from the PRRB that essentially says Chief Officers can choose to pay less than this for police officers who join on the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) route.
On the whole, the pay band itself remains wide for Police Constables, affording nearly £18k of incremental pay increases to the new top level of £46k within 7 years’ service. It can go far beyond this in ‘real’ salaries entering an individual’s bank account, for example with market supplements in some forces (e.g. Met, PSNI), specialist role enhancements, allowances, overtime, and of course, promotion.
Becoming a Sergeant will result in a 35% increase for the average PC, an attractive prospect for promotion. Hence why I believe the best investment you can make is in yourself and your own development (you can thank yourself later!). A great start is learning about emotional leadership. The band for Sergeants remains narrow, following the removal of PP1 in 2020. Those within this first level of leadership supervision will from September see their pay increase to around £50k.
Inspectors have moved from the £55k-£59k bracket to £58k-£63k. Moving to this more strategic rank is an increase of nearly 20% for an experienced Sergeant.
Promotion to Chief Inspector isn’t for the faint-hearted and comes with modest salary rewards compared to top-rate Inspectors. However, it is widely seen as the gateway to Superintendent, which will now reside in the £77k to £91k salary bracket for 2023-24.
The London weighting will also be increased by 7%, to £2,886 per year for Met Police and City of London officers. Note also that the Met have announced additional local enhancements of £1,000 to all Fed ranks plus an extra £100 pcm for officers once they have completed their initial training.
At the top of the police officer salary scales, Chief Constables will mostly also see their salaries increase by 7%. The Chief Constables of West Mids and GMP will be on £217k, while the CCs of other forces will range between £159k-£206k depending on size.
The Met Police Commissioner will breach £300k for the first time, rising from its current £295k to £310k. Back in 2000, this was set at £137k, which is equivalent to £248k in today’s inflation-matched terms using the BoE calculator.
Police officer salaries are a contentious subject for officers, the Police Federation, and Finance departments alike. But I hope you’ve found this objective look at the information and salary details helpful to your career decisions, while useful to understanding the new lay of the land for 2023/24. Let me know in the comments what you think of the changes and whether it seems fair.
See my dedicated webpage to stay abreast of the latest UK police salary information across all forces in an easy read format. I will resume in due course with more on leadership and promotion to support your career progression and earning potential. In the meantime, you can hit the ground running with structured support for PC to SGT and SGT to INS / INS to C.INS promotion at my website.
Kind Regards, Steve
Want to go further right now? Hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, and/or my Police Promotion Masterclass. You can also contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast.