“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Elections of police and crime commissioners in England and Wales are scheduled to take place on 5 May 2016. This will be the second time police and crime commissioner elections have been held.
There was little interest or enthusiasm from the electorate the first time round, but now we have had the opportunity to see how these commissioners performed, perhaps we might feel more inclined to use our votes – if only to get rid of the one’s who have proved themselves to be a liability.
One such is Sue Mountstevens, whose area is Avon and Somerset.
Soon after the 2012 elections, Sue Mountstevens and finance officer John Smith, without any understanding of the Regulations which govern police injury pensions, dreamt up a scheme to reduce the financial commitments of Avon and Somerset by seeking to reduce injury awards.
To emphasise their agenda they started with a selection of some of the disabled former officers who were on the highest band of disability and who were retired young in service. Clearly, Mountstevens figured this was where the most savings could be made. As John Wayne might say, ‘She sure figured wrong.’
[click and use the bottom left arrows to navigate to all the 4 pages, including Damian Green's decorous reply]
Other entries in this blog recount the outcome of the sorry saga that this abortive attempt to rob pensioners turned into. Rather than save money Mountstevens has cost the ratepayers a small fortune in payments to Dr Johnson, who decided that for the sake of his own reputation it was safer not to make any decisions rather than be blamed for the debacle.
So that a mistake of this magnitude won’t be repeated, we would welcome all PCC candidates to read the information posted on this site.
And to help all PCC financial officers we can hereby say with absolute certainty that mass reviews, or any process that has lurking behind it any intent to reduce the injury pensions of disabled former officers which is based more upon budgetary considerations than anything else, is unlawful and will be successfully challenged.
Choosing which pensioners to review solely by the band of pension payment they receive is improper, immoral and unlawful. It is no different to the unlawful and now withdrawn Home Office guidance of reviewing and reducing those who had reached compulsory retirement age. That was aimed purely at saving money and subsequently cost those forces which had zealously implemented it hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees and compensation. The unlawful guidance had the secondary affect of introducing a raft of case law from strong judicial decisions which defined how the Regulations should be properly administered.
The injury pension of any individual is unique to that person’s individual circumstances of disablement and any review of a pension has to occur only at a suitable interval relevant to that individual’s circumstances. It may well be suitable never to review. Lumping bands together in order to mass review is as much an abuse of the Regulations as saying those over 65 have no earning capacity.
Let’s take a moment to see how injury awards are calculated. Potential PCC’s please note.
An injury award is calculated by reference to the person’s degree of disablement, his or her average pensionable pay and the period in years of their pensionable service. Schedule 3 Police Injury Benefit Regulations provides for the following minimum income guarantee based on the band awarded and the length of service.
|Degree of disablement
|Gratuity expressed as % of average pensionable pay
|Minimum income guarantee expressed as % of average pensionable pay
|Less than 5 years’ service
|5 or more but less than 15 years’ service
|15 or more but less than 25 years’ service.
|25 or more years’ service.
|25% or less (slight disablement)
|More than 25% but not more than 50% (minor disablement)
|More than 50% but not more than 75% (major disablement)
|More than 75% (very severe disablement)
As can clearly be seen, the percentages within each band increase as the length of service rises. This means that those retired with more ‘reckonable years’ in service will always have a higher ‘minimum income guarantee’ (the injury pension) than those retired young in service.
But how does this work with real examples?
Let us examine 4 hypothetical individuals (wages simplified and not lifted directly from police pay-scales):
#1 Retired with 4 years service with a final salary of £25000 ( less than 5 years)
#2 Retired with 7 years service with a final salary of £30000 ( between 5 and less than 15 years)
#3 Retired with 18 years service with a final salary of £35000 ( between 15 and less than 25 )
#4 Retired with 26 years service with a final salary of £40000 (over 25 years)
This diagram shows the proportion of minimum income guaranteed by each band and grouped by years service. For example, Individual #1, with < 5 years service, has a potential band one figure of £3750 and a band four of £21250. This is inclusive of both the medical pension and the injury award.
As can be seen, a band one with 26 years service receives a higher minimum income guarantee than a band four with less than 5 years service. Moreover, the injury award makes up a higher proportion of the minimum income guarantee than the medical pension for those with less service as obviously they have less accrued pension contributions. This seems logical as the older IOD (those retired with more service) has less years of life expectancy to be compensated for the work injuries received. But this isn’t always the case. A police constable could be in the their mid-forties and still be a probationer.
This is why just grouping by banding takes the whole award out of context. The length of service and the final salary have strong correlations to the given band of the award, just as much as the injury itself.
Looking at the above plot you can see the blunder of targeting just the higher bands in any unlawful program of mass reviews. Any such targeted action is age discrimination against those unfortunate enough to be injured young in service (note – not necessarily age, but service). Likewise, reviewing a band four at 60 years of age for the first time in decades, when they only have the misfortune (apologies for the bluntness) for their health to deteriorate further and little prospects in any labour market when they have been unable to work in any capacity since leaving the police, is just as perverse.
Refusing to review band one pensions (such as has been the recent practice in Merseyside) is more to the detriment of those retired young service than those who were retired a couple of years shy of their full 30 years service.
Every decision to review has to be based on the individual. A police pension authority has to apply their mind to consider whether it is appropriate to review that individual, by both first examining whether a suitable interval has elapsed and then considering whether the degree of the pensioners disablement has altered.
We in IODPA think that Mountstevens, her finance officer, and senior people in Avon and Somerset Constabulary reflected the attitudes which are prevalent in some other forces across the country. They think that because injury pensions are paid out of the force budget, then they are ‘fair game’. Such attitudes are wrong. Police injury pensions are protected by law – by the Regulations. They must be administered according to the Regulations and any impact on the force budget, for good or bad, should not enter into any decisions made concerning that administration. The judicial review of R v. East Sussex County Council ex parte Tandy (page 9 paragraph 3) states
‘To permit a local authority to avoid performing a statutory duty on the grounds that it prefers to spend money in other ways is to downgrade a statutory duty to a discretionary power.’
In other words, in this judicial review the House of Lords found that, for a public body, the availability of financial resources is an irrelevant consideration when statute indicates a standard to be determined. For injury awards the standard is defined in statute by the Police Injury Benefit Regulations 2006.
Mountstevens failed to realise that her duties did not extend into allowing her to interfere with the proper administration of injury pensions. We hope that her failure will serve as a warning and as a lesson to any new PCC who takes over her role.