BORIS Johnson has defended Priti Patel in her row with the Police Federation over the pay freeze for all but the lowest-paid officers.

The Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents more than 130,000 officers from the rank of constable to chief inspector, passed a motion of no confidence in the Home Secretary Priti Patel last week in a row over pay.

Officers who earn more than £24,000 are subject to a pay freeze this year, compared with NHS staff who will receive 3%, and firefighters and local government workers who will receive 1.5%.

As a result the federation has walked away from the Police Remuneration Review Body, which was set up to advise the Government on pay.

The Prime Minister said: “I have got absolutely every confidence in the Home Secretary.”

He told LBC Radio: “No one would want to pay our fantastic police more than I would. We are just going through a tough time financially for the Government, I think most people do understand that.

“I just ask people to recognise that but also that the Government is doing what it can to expand police numbers as fast as we can, also to give them things that they need – more body-worn cameras, greater ability to use Tasers, more powers for instance over stop and search, and protections against unreasonable behaviour by members of the public, assaults that all too often they face.”

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In an open letter to Boris Johnson, the Police Federation of England and Wales said that for many the pay freeze was the “final straw” after challenges of policing through the Covid-19 pandemic.

It hit out at the “endlessly changing and confusing Covid legislation”, the Government’s “mixed messaging” and a “failure” to take seriously requests that officers should be given early priority for vaccination.

Johnson also said “more could be done to fight knife crime” and urged the Mayor of London to tackle the issue.

He said: “For me it’s about taking responsibility. If you remember in 2008 when I came in as mayor it was a grim scene. There was nobody taking responsibility for it.

“I think I would like to work with the London mayoralty to fight this problem. It can be fixed by being tough on gangs, tough on the kids carrying knife. I believe stop and search is a big part of that.”

Johnson was also asked about his promis to deliver the wider use of public “chain gangs” to tackle anti-social behaviour.

The Prime Minister, launching the Government’s Beating Crime Plan, said people should be able to identify those who have been sentenced to community service for anti-social behaviour carrying out their punishment.

Boris Johnson backed Priti Patel after the Police Federation of England and Wales passed a motion of no confidence in her

The plan also includes a permanent relaxing of conditions on the use of controversial Section 60 Stop and Search powers, effectively undoing reforms brought in by his predecessor, Theresa May.

Johnson used a visit to Surrey Police headquarters in Guildford to highlight the plan, but was criticised by the force’s Police Federation branch in the latest sign of the strained relationship between rank-and-file officers and the Government.

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The Prime Minister said he is keen to tackle problems with low level disorder, which he acknowledged could have a major impact on victims.

The Prime Minister said he would not “weep any hot tears” for people guilty of anti-social behaviour being made to join “chain gangs”.

Offenders taking part in “community payback” schemes are already required to wear a hi-vis vest while carrying out the unpaid work, but Mr Johnson has called for wider use of the punishments.

He said: “What I want to see is those who are guilty of anti-social behaviour actually paying their debt to society.

“If that means that they are visibly part of some yellow fluorescent-jacketed chain gang then I am not going to weep any hot tears about that, I think that’s a good thing.”