Department of Economics

Reviewing police pay

Professor Disney has directly influenced several public sector pay reviews, helping staff in the NHS and police obtain a fair wage.

In mid 2015, the UK government announced that the system used to decide how much money police forces receive would be replaced. The aim is to change the current method, the police allocation formula – which is nearly 10 years old, with a simplified version that will take into account factors such as the size of an area’s population. 

consultation process was launched involving Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables among others, followed by a peer review to which the Home Office appointed Professor Richard Disney as Reviewer. Professor Disney was one of two academics appointed as reviewers. The reviewers were tasked with assessing the performance of the existing method of allocating police funding and the methodology used in the revision of the formula. 

In November 2015, the review process was paused for a year after it was suggested that Home Office officials had made errors in computing the funding allocations for police force areas based on the new formula. Nevertheless, it is likely that the new formula will be implemented in due course.

In the UK, pay negotiations in the public sector are largely undertaken by pay review bodies.  These bodies, which are staffed by individuals from outside government recruited through a competitive process, cover over 2.5 million public servants, including the armed services, NHS staff, doctors and dentists and, since 2014, the police. After considering evidence from the relevant parties, the Review Body makes independent recommendations on pay. It is generally expected that the Government will implement the recommendations and thereby avoid industrial action by the public servants. Professor Disney sat on the NHS Pay Review Body 2005-10 and on the Senior Salaries Pay Review Body 2011-14.

Professor Disney was also previously one of two external advisors to Sir Thomas Winsor's Review of Pay and Conditions for the Police Service in England and Wales, which reported in 2011 and 2012. In fact, the establishment of the police pay review body was a direct consequence of the recommendations of this Review.

The second report made a large number of recommendations directly to the Home Secretary, almost all of which were initially accepted by the Home Secretary and ultimately achieved by the arbitration process.  This was the first major reform of police service pay and conditions for over thirty years or more.

Further reading

Rowena Crawford and Richard Disney (2014) The Reform of police pensions in England and Wales, Journal of Public Economics Vol 116.

Rowena Crawford and Richard Disney (2015) Wage regulation and the quality of police officer recruits, Institute for Fiscal Studies Working Paper W15/19, London.

Rowena Crawford, Richard Disney and David Innes (2015) Funding the English and Welsh police service: from boom to bust? Institute for Fiscal Studies Briefing Note BN179, London.