Frosty reception: May takes on the coppers

Theresa May faced outright hostility when she spoke at the Police Federation today, in what became a bruising encounter for the home secretary.

Her appearance was even more humiliating than last year, when she was met by total silence when she gave her speech to officers.

"These are reforms every police officer should welcome," she told the hall, which started laughing at the home secretary.

""These reforms are in the long term interests of the police.

"The right to strike is simply not on the table."

Later cheers broke out in the hall when federation member Dave Bennett told Ms May: "Home secretary, I believe you are a disgrace".

Writing for, chairman of the constables committee of the Police Federation Julie Nesbit said officers felt Ms May treated them with "under-estimation and contempt".

She added: "We now feel a line has been crossed, and worst of all, there are no significant signs that the government are prepared to listen to the very real concerns our members have about our ability to deliver the service we, as members of the public, expect and deserve."

Federation members are angry at a planned 20% budget cut, a radical overhaul of pay and conditions and the privatisation of key jobs in the force.

The review into police pay and conditions recommended cutting work benefits, lifting the ban on compulsory redundancies, disciplining officers who failed fitness tests, ending the system whereby officers retire after 30 years, allowing high achievers to enter at inspector level and base-line academic requirements.

Paul McKeever, Police Federation chairman, told Ms May: "This is a bad deal for the police service.

"We have less resilience, fewer warranted officers, a weakened front line and a radically altered model of British policing.

"You are on the precipice of destroying a police service that is admired and replicated throughout the world."

Current police numbers are already at an all time low, with just 136,000 officers remaining, according to official government figures.

A Home Office spokesman said: "As a service spending some £14bn a year it is right for the police to make their contribution to reducing the record budget deficit.

"Existing police pay and conditions were designed more than 30 years ago which is why we asked Tom Winsor to carry out his independent review.

"We will continue to ensure that police officers are rewarded for doing an exceptional job."