Policy and Press – late December 2014
May we firstly take the opportunity to wish members a very Happy New Year.
During the past month, the DPF has continued to press the MoD on the unresolved pensions issue.
This has included a series of meetings with parliamentarians to alert them to the situation and to ask for their assistance in communicating the urgent need for a solution to ministers.
The DPF has also continued to engage with the media as part of a process of alerting the MoD and the public to the dangers of any further cuts to the MDP within a Strategic Defence and Security Review that is due to take place this year. The contents of this review will be announced in the coming months, but a series of news stories prior to Christmas showed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had missed deficit targets. This in turns means an extension to the period of austerity and with the Ministry of Defence not included amongst the government departments whose budget is ring-fenced, there is a high probability that the MoD will be expected to make further financial savings during the coming fiscal years.
The Prime Minister has indicated as much and, speaking on the Andrew Marr programme on 4 January, intimated that the government might reduce defence spending below the two percent of GDP target set by NATO. Concerns over potential funding cuts to security and policing services have echoed across both defence and domestic security. The Liberal Democrats warned last month that the British Army could be little more than ceremonial if subjected to future cuts, while Sir Hugh Orde (outgoing president of the Association of Chief Police Officers has also expressed concerns over the future of policing.
The DPF efforts to highlight the importance of the MDP and the dangers of further cuts has resulted in an article in the Sunday Times that was published just before Christmas. We have also relayed our concerns to numerous parliamentarians, including the Labour Party’s shadow defence team.
The political approach
During December the DPF met with the Labour Party’s shadow defence team of Vernon Coaker MP (Shadow Defence Secretary), Gemma Doyle MP and Alison Seabeck MP (Shadow Defence Ministers). The purpose of the meeting was to alert Labour to the ongoing issue regarding members’ pensions and to underline the importance of the MDP ahead of an SDSR that may take place under a Labour government in 2015.
This positive and constructive meeting followed a meeting with Conservative Caroline Dinenage MP, who committed to writing to the Minister (Anna Soubry MP). We have additionally confirmed that a number of other parliamentarians are happy to raise the issue of pensions, both by writing to the Minister and by tabling questions in the House of Commons.
During January we will be continuing to work to ensure parliamentary attention is on the pensions issue and that MPs are clear about the importance of the MDP and the risks that would be posed by further cuts to officer numbers. This includes meeting with members of the influential Defence Select Committee.
We would also like to thank those members who have used the toolkit circulated in December to write to their local MP expressing concern about the lack of a resolution to the pensions issue. Our continued dialogue with the MoD indicates that there is an understanding amongst officials that it is inappropriate and unacceptable for MDP officers to be expected to work to the age of 67 or potentially older in the future. However, work is ongoing to reach a solution that meets given that areas of the public sector workforce face similar difficulties.
Following our meeting with the defence correspondent of the Sunday Times in November, the newspaper published a story last month highlighting the DPF’s concerns that further cuts could severely impact the security of key assets and infrastructure.
This article can be accessed by subscribers to the online versions of The Times and Sunday Times via the link below:
A comment article from National Chairman Eamon Keating on the subject of MDP pensions was published on the Police Oracle website, and can be accessed via the following link:
We are continuing to meet with and brief journalists ahead of the SDSR later this year.
Local activities and local lobbying
We would like to thank all those members who used the toolkit circulated last month to write to their MP regarding the pensions issue. We would encourage any members yet to do so to write to their local MP using the toolkit, but would remind you that any correspondence is subject to regulations. For this reason we advise all members to, as much as possible, use the content of the template letter/email provided.
Separately, with the SDSR approaching and the potential for the MDP to be considered for further cuts, it has never been more important to demonstrate the value and importance of officers in their local communities.
The Federation continues to engage with the media. But we would be grateful if you could let us know of any community engagement programmes, initiatives, or out of hours community work you might be undertaking now or in the near future, which we can potentially highlight to the media in your local area.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any examples.