THE UK government has been accused of trying to destroy British policing as more than 96 per cent of officers in South Wales voted in favour of having industrial rights.
At present policemen and women are Crown servants, and it is illegal for them to take industrial action.
But, following a long-running dispute with the coalition government in London, the Police Federation of England and Wales organised a ballot of its 130,000 members to see if they wanted the same kind of employment rights as other workers.
Eighty-one per cent of those who voted, said "yes", but that amounted to less than half the membership and under Fed rules that is not enough for them to lobby for a change in their employment status.
In the South Wales Police Federation the vote in favour of campaigning to acquire industrial rights was overwhelming — some 95.8 per cent of those who voted were in favour.
Steve Trigg, chairman of the South Wales Fed, said: "Our officers are tremendously disillusioned with the current government and express their anger to us on a daily basis.
"They can see the British police service being destroyed by a government that has a clear ideological antipathy towards the British policing model and are angry and frustrated that the best police service in the world is being so badly let down in this way.
"Although the Police Federation of England and Wales policy is that no formal legal action will now be taken as fewer than 50 per cent of the entire membership voted in favour of taking such action, it is vital that we voice the concerns of our members and that government ministers listen to the voices behind this result and appreciate the impact of their ill-considered changes on police officers around the country and the reduced service that they will be able to provide to their communities."
The police and the government have been at loggerheads in recent years over a 20 per cent cut in funding to forces, major changes to pensions, salary structures, and responsibility payments, the cutting of starting salaries for new PCs from £23,500 to £19,000, and the introduction of annual fitness tests, minimum qualifications, and direct entry of candidates from outside the service into senior ranks.
The UK Government has said the reform package will make the service more modern and effective — and save money.
Police Minister Damian Green said he was "pleased" the majority of officers did not want the right to strike.
He said: "Our police have done a fantastic job to cut crime by 10 per cent over the first two years of this government, despite having to play their role in cutting the country's record deficit."