The Chancellor's concession to emergency services – freedom from inheritance tax should you die on duty – is I suppose some sort of recognition, but frankly it's laughable. This will cost the Inland Revenue almost nothing because, in absolute numbers, so few of us are killed on duty. It's pure politicising, and badly done.
The Independent : 2014 key budget announcements
I can only speak for myself, and certainly not for firemen or soldiers, but for what it's worth here are my thoughts.
I doubt people realise that Metropolitan Police officers are more often killed whilst travelling home after a long shift while on duty. Let me explain.
Few of us can afford to live in London and live fifty or more miles away, so inevitably we have a hundred-mile round trip or longer each day. Constables are sometimes given a mandatory requirement to start work at a time when no trains are available - 4am during the Notting Hill Carnival for example - and the officers' only choice is therefore to drive to work. When we go off duty after perhaps a twenty hour shift we must then drive/ride home.
Needless to say, officers fall asleep behind the wheel and are killed. I've had two colleagues die in this way, and have myself struggled to stay awake on numerous occasions. I once suffered a minor collision, following several days of sleep-deprivation.
My point is that driving home would not be 'on duty'. If the government recognises that policing involves a chance of dying, perhaps they should bother to look more closely at the causes of death?
Having said all this, let's remember that those working in the police, armed forces, fire and ambulance services are all more likely to be killed at work than those earning their living through normal jobs.
The government has accepted every proposal to cut officers' pay and pensions, without any consideration of our welfare. Our pension contributions are by far the highest in the public sector and the pay has dropped considerably in real terms. We're expected to roll around on the pavement fighting people until we are 65. Yes, the police must do their bit, but we've taken more of the burden than any other sector.
And the reason for this?
We can't strike.
The government can treat us any way they want and there's literally nothing we can do. Even Employment Law doesn't apply to police officers. We aren't 'employees' but 'officers of the court' – a clever little trick that means we can be used and abused with impunity.
Constables' work load has increased significantly over the last few years because the managers – who do not 'manage' but simply panic about performance indicators – are terrified of criticism, so introduce yet another redundant layer of accountability almost every week. Are more criminals being caught? No. Are police officers jumping through hoops and ticking boxes more than ever? Yes.
Let's be clear – this inheritance tax change is no more than a sop to give cops and soldiers a little pat on the head. It benefits us after we're dead, and only if our estates exceed the nil rate band - how many cops have an estate exceeding 325k?
It will be interesting to observe whether, after this change is implemented, the Inland Revenue will argue and incur a proliferation of test cases examining what is meant by 'on duty'.
Sorry for the morbidity, and please be clear I have no political axe to grind – I dislike each party equally. But Mr Osborne...please don't insult us.