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Pension proposals could have ‘dire consequences’ for police force in Suffolk

Gareth Wilson, Chief Constable of Suffolk Police  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Gareth Wilson, Chief Constable of Suffolk Police Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Pension changes could have a ‘catastrophic’ effect on policing Suffolk, risking almost 100 jobs and curbing recruitment, according to the chief constable.

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSuffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk police could be hit with a £4.1million bill equivalent to 80 officers if the government goes through with plans to increase the amount forces contribute to pensions, claimed Gareth Wilson.

Police and crime commissioner (PCC) Tim Passmore said plans to reduce the discount rate on future public sector pension payments, requiring forces to increase contributions from 2019, could have ‘dire consequences’.

“Should it fall to the constabulary to finance, it would cost £4.1m,” Mr Wilson told the PCC’s accountability panel.

“That equates to about 80 officers. If left to pick up the bill, it would be catastrophic in terms of service delivery.”

The burden could be worsened by a requirement for new police recruits to be educated to degree level from 2020.

“About 37% of our intake are graduates,” said Mr Wilson. “Those who are not will be expected to undertake a police degree over three years.

“If the pension liability falls on the constabulary, we won’t be able to recruit it’s a double whammy.”

The constabulary is already required to make recurring savings to meet inflationary, statutory and service pressures.

The PCC raised its share of council tax to 6.8% this year – adding £12 to the average annual bill and £2.9m to the budget after the government relaxed a cap requiring a local referendum on increases above 2%.

The loosening of the cap came as the government announced £450m for all forces – based on £270m coming from local tax rises.

In July, the force announced plans to cut police community support officers from 81 to 48 and move 100 officers into safer neighbourhood teams (SNTs).

Mr Passmore said: “To suddenly have a £4.1m bill lumped on us would have dire consequences.

“It would be very difficult for me to tell people another precept rise was needed just to stand still.

“Persisting with this plan and making us scrape £4m from an already empty barrel would have disastrous consequences like the deployment of 100 officers into SNTs never happened.”

The Home Office has said it will work with forces to understand the impact of changes and was committed to ensuring police had sufficient resources.

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