The Daily Telegraph
Patel ‘running scared’ after pulling out of police speech
PRITI PATEL has been accused of “running scared” after cancelling an appearance at a major police conference amid a row over a pay freeze for officers.
The Home Secretary had been booked to deliver the keynote address at the annual Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) event in Stratford -upon-avon, just weeks after rank and file officers passed a motion of no confidence in her.
But less than an hour after receiving a copy of the president’s “highly critical” speech last Friday Ms Patel’s office said she would not be able to attend due to “urgent parliamentary business”.
Organisers offered to change the schedule to allow the Home Secretary to attend at any stage during the threeday conference, which starts tomorrow, but were told it would not be possible.
Ms Patel’s office also declined to take part in a live zoom question and answer session with attendees.
Instead, she delivered a pre-recorded speech in which she told senior police leaders the financial impact of the pandemic meant the Chancellor could not justify an across-the-board pay increase for public sector workers. The speech was greeted with silence from the more than 100 delegates at the conference who warmly applauded an appearance by her Labour opposite number, Nick Thomas-symonds.
He described the decision to impose a pay freeze as “shameful” and poured scorn on the idea that Ms Patel was needed in Westminster to take part in a crucial Commons vote.
He said: “I can see no reason why we could not see the Home Secretary in person. Given that I am here, our votes would have cancelled each other out.”
John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation said Ms Patel’s decision to send a video address was an insult that had done “more damage”.
Mr Apter said Ms Patel had also cancelled a meeting with him scheduled for Thursday.
One senior figure at the conference said: “This was the first opportunity since the announcement of the pay freeze that we would have had to put the Home Secretary on the spot. It feels like she is running scared and it has caused a lot of anger.”
Paul Griffiths, president of the PSA, said he was “deeply disappointed” the Home Secretary had decided not to attend in person and that the pay freeze had damaged trust in the Government.