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Suffolk: Police overtime to be reviewed after £4m bill for Suffolk and Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 09:15 05 May 2014

Burglary at Palmerston Road, Ipswich

Burglary at Palmerston Road, Ipswich

Archant

Police overtime is to come under scrutiny after it emerged the cash-strapped forces of Suffolk and Norfolk paid out more than £4million last year between them.

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner, last night said a tight rein would be kept on additional payments as part of the battle to reduce spending as budget cuts continue to bite.

According to Suffolk and Norfolk police’s figures the constabularies paid £4.35m to officers claiming extra hours in 2013/14, although this continued a downward trend in recent years.

In Suffolk, one constable earned £11,767, while several others earned more than £5,000. At least three officers in Norfolk earned more than £10,000.

Last year the bill was £1.65m in Suffolk, and £2.7m in Norfolk. In 2011/12 it was £2.08m and £3.1m respectively. Police said overtime can be the most effective and efficient way to ensure the right resources are correctly deployed. Both forces must find combined savings of nearly £37m by March 2018. Suffolk’s share is estimated at £16.4m.

Last week, Mr Passmore scuppered a proposal for the county’s police control room to be merged with Norfolk’s when expressing “huge concerns” over its risk and timing.

A combined control room was likely to save £1.84m a year for both forces.

Police guidelines state overtime must be “essential, authorised and fully recorded” and can be claimed as either payment or time off in lieu.

Authorising officers must ensure that all other avenues are considered before authorising overtime, such as establishing if the shift can be performed at another time or by another officer.

Mr Passmore said: “With the unpredictable demands on an emergency service, such as the police, I do understand that overtime is inevitable.

“Suffolk is a small, low-cost force and I am pleased to see that better forward planning has cut the amount spent on overtime in Suffolk over the last year. I will be keeping a keen eye on the overtime spend to ensure that this trend continues.

“In this challenging financial environment we do need to do all we can to reduce our spend across the piece and this will be the focus of my attention as we move forward.”

Matt Gould, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, said: “It is important costs are kept down and overtime is the most cost-effective way of maintaining the service.

“Every time it is issued the rationale is examined by senior officers to ensure it is appropriate and the figures are indicative of continued efforts to cut costs.”

He said any concerns raised over whether an officer had worked more than their contracted hours would be “closely monitored” to protect against theirs and the public’s safety.

A police spokesman said: “Police work is challenging and demanding, often requiring the immediate deployment of resources to deal with a range of emergency situations.

“We need workforce of officers and staff that can be flexible, particularly when involved with long-running, significant incidents.”

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