THE Home Secretary has been confronted by a Welsh police officer over concerns about pay.

Detective Constable Vicky Knight a single mother who has worked in policing for more than two decades, asked Priti Patel if she would be able to “survive” on £1,200 or £1,400 a month.

The North Wales Police officer, told the Police Federation annual conference how she had to borrow money from her mother and described herself and some colleagues as “desperately struggling to do the job that we love and to make ends meet”.

Speaking after questioning the Home Secretary over pay rates DC Knight, a Police Federation rep, said: “I have never known it to be this bad in 23 years’ service. I have never felt this poor.”

The separated mother-of-one added: “I was scared on Saturday. I had no money left, and I mean like at the end of my overdraft, not a penny. And I had to go cap in hand to my mum.

“I’m 47 years old, I’ve been a professional for 20 years, it’s a professional job, and I had to go to my mum and say, 'It’s been a five weekend month mum, and I have got no money left and I need to buy school dinners'”.

Earlier,  she had asked the Conservative minister if she could live on the take-home pay of a probationary officer, £1,200 a month to “go out and get kicked and spat at”.

The officer said: “I could see the shock in her face when I asked her, ‘Could you live off twelve hundred pound a month?’.

“She’s a mum herself. She’s a woman doing a very difficult job in a very male-orientated environment.

“What would you do if you found yourself in this situation?”

Knight said after paying her bills, she is left with around £100 a month for food.

She said an accountant friend went through her finances and came to the conclusion she would be better off giving up her police officer role and working 22 hours a week in a shop which would make her eligible for benefits and housing allowance.

Knight, who said she had used food banks in the past but not regularly due to the support of family and friends, added: “As a detective of 23 years, I couldn’t believe it. How is that even possible?

“Some of the politicians are so far removed from the reality of it and they live in their big houses in their nice area with their kids in public school.

“I joined the Navy when I was 17 and I’ve done nothing but serve the public all my working life. I’m at the point where I’m going backwards.

“I’m potentially going to lose my house. I’m potentially going to have to move back in with my parents.

“And I’m not on my own.”

At the conference Knight was met with applause when she asked: “I work … with the most vulnerable members of our community and I love my job.

“However, if the rate of interest goes up and I can’t pay my mortgage and I can’t pay the fuel, I’m not going to be able to continue to come to work.

“I went to see an accountant and the advice was leave the police, work for 22 hours a week and claim benefits and you will be better off. How can that be right?”

She added: “I tell this story not because I’m here for sympathy, I just want to be heard. I stand here to represent myself and many people in the force that are like me.

“We are desperately struggling to do the job that we love and to make ends meet at home. So I need you to be on our team and to help us, to represent us … to get us fair pay.”

Patel said that pay and conditions was something she was “committed” to working with the Federation on and thanked Knight for sharing her story, adding: “I think it just it really illustrates so strongly and powerfully why we need to actually find solutions to pay issues and actually give you the support that you rightly deserve.

“We have to move this forward. You have that commitment from me, you absolutely do.”

The federation’s national chairman, Steve Hartshorn, who took on the role in March, said the “lack” of pay “sticks in the throat” of officers and causes them the “greatest hardship”, asking Ms Patel: “What has gone wrong?”

He added: “Why are my colleagues one of the only groups of frontline public sector workers being penalised in their pockets?”

Last year the federation withdrew from the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB), an independent system that sets salaries, after widespread outrage over the Government’s decision to freeze pay for officers who earn more than £24,000.

By contrast, NHS staff were given a 3% increase and firefighters and local government workers a 1.5% rise.

The bitter row saw the federation pass a vote of no confidence in Patel over pay, while chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Martin Hewitt, wrote to her to say that officers “deserve better”.

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She had also replied to complaints over pay: “I completely hear what you say. This is the issue where we have to start working together.

“The federation’s voice has not been at the table and that has been the problem. So we absolutely need to restart that.”

Mr Hartshorn added: “It’s really important to get us at the table, we need something to hold us at the table to make sure we’re going to be listened to properly and it holds the Government to account.”

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