Commenting after Thursday’s meeting of the Policing Board, the South Antrim MLA said:
‘‘Police officers in Northern Ireland put themselves in harm’s way every day to serve our communities and keep people safe. The very least they deserve is a fair pay award.
The current inequality with forces in England and Wales is unjustified. It is compounded by the fact that tens of thousands additional officers have been recruited there in recent times. In contrast, in Northern Ireland, resources are stretched, officers numbers are plummeting and those who turn up for duty are expected to do more without either the same level of support or the prospect of comparable remuneration to their counterparts other jurisdictions.
Therefore I fully support the Chief Constable as he seeks to deliver the 7% pay rise approved in England and Wales for officers in Northern Ireland. To date we have not seen a breakthrough in discussions and it crucial for morale and for the relationship between the new SET and the rank-and-file that this impasse is resolved – and resolved positively - as soon as possible.
It should not surprise us that requests for extra financial support have fallen on deaf ears within the Northern Ireland Office. The budget imposed by the Secretary of State was callous, irresponsible and the catalyst for many of the pressures now facing operational policing. The claim that ending pay disputes are not in the gift of Cabinet ministers has been wheeled out in recent days but it simply doesn’t wash with the public. We have seen the NIO intervene regularly on other issues. There is no obstacle to it doing so again.
Chris Heaton-Harris cannot sit back and allow our police officers to become collateral damage as the PSNI and DOJ struggle to make vital decisions within a financial envelope that simply isn’t big enough to begin with. Only the Government has the firepower to unlock a positive outcome on pay. If the PSNI is to attract, recruit and retain police officers going forward, it is vital that they are given the tools to reward their workforce.’’