- Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen
Theresa May has been accused of a "downright lie" after she claimed some police officers have benefited from a 32% real terms increase in pay since 2010.
The Police Federation said the prime minister was "losing touch with reality", claiming pay had in fact fallen 16% in real terms since 2010, when inflation is taken into account.
Mrs May made the claim at prime minister's questions, a day after the government announced that the seven-year public sector pay cap is to be scrapped from next year, with ministers given "flexibility" to breach the long-standing limit of 1% on rises for police and prison officers.
As the row over public sector pay rumbled on:
- The Conservatives suffered a climbdown over health service pay rises after the DUP backed Labour at Westminster
- Firefighters rejected a 2% pay offer, saying it included a "whole host of strings"
The Prime Minister was responding to Labour claims that the 2% increase in police pay announced on Tuesday amounted to a real-terms cut at a time when inflation was running at 2.9%. The rise for 2017/18 is made up of a one-off 1% "non-consolidated" bonus on top of a 1% hike in basic pay.
Speaking in the Commons, Mrs May said: "A calculation suggests that a new police officer in 2010, thanks to progression pay and annual basic salary increases and the increase in the personal allowance, which is a tax cut for people, would have actually seen an increase in their pay of over £9,000 since 2010 - a real terms increase of 32%."
In a statement, the Vice Chair of the Police Federation, Calum Macleod, told ITV News: “The Government stating that police officers have had a 32% pay rise since 2010 is a joke – and is in fact a downright lie."
He added: "It shows they have lost touch with reality, if they ever had it, and are clueless as to the demands and dangers officers have to face on a daily basis to keep communities safe.
“When comparing total pay in 2015/2016 to what it was in 2009/2010 it has increased in nominal terms by +2%, but decreased by -16% in real terms. This cannot be right."
In the Commons, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Government of making "dedicated" public servants "worse off every year for the past seven years".
Responding, Mrs May said public sector review bodies were independent, and that Mr Corbyn had failed to take account of automatic pay increases for many in the public sector.
She added that public sector pay had to be fair for taxpayers as well as the workers.
"We need to ensure that we balance out protecting jobs in the public sector, being fair to public sector workers and being fair to tax payers who pay for it - many of whom are public sector workers.
"There is a need for greater flexibility as we look at these issues of public sector pay in the future. We will be looking at this in the lead up to the budget and the remits for the pay review bodies for 2018/19 will be published in due course."
A Downing Street source said that a typical police officer joining the force on a £23,259 salary in 2010 would have taken home £17,972 after deductions for tax and national insurance. After seven years' service, the same officer would have a salary of at least £35,478. This would give a take-home pay of £27,405 after tax and NI contributions - an increase of £9,433, equivalent to 32% more than required to keep up with inflation.
The Police Federation said Mrs May's figure was "disingenuous", as the majority of police officers do not benefit from progression payments.
Just 4% of officers - new recruits starting at the bottom of the pay scale in 2010 - would have seen their pay rise in the way described by the PM, said a spokesman.