This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Are we at war?

Since the announcement of the Winsor Review of police pay and conditions, there had been a steady release of stories undermining public support for the police (at least, what is left of it).

This week we see the Taxpayers' Alliance in Wales criticising the police for one in ten officers being on some form of restricted duties.  You can also read today about police officers "pocketing" £3.8billion in overtime over the last ten years.  The terminology tells you just how unbiassed the media are in reporting police-related stories.  Then again, it wouldn't be much of a headline if it it read "Police officers have been paid for necessary hours worked in the last ten years".

The timing of this latest study should trigger reflection.  The figures have come from The Policy Exchange, a supposedly independent, charity-funded think tank.  Its previous directors have gone onto become Conservative MPs, Tory advisors, Parliamentary aides, etc.  Is it any surprise that they choose to release this particular piece of analysis right now, when Home Secretary Theresa May is garnering support for her reform of police pay and conditions?

As for the data itself, why are people surprised that the overtime bill has been so high?  Police bloggers have been talking about the ever-thinner blue line for the last decade.  When front-line resources are short, your only option to cover all outstanding emergencies is to pay overtime.  Indeed Blandshire Constabulary has gone through periods when over 50% of my team was on a daily basis being made up of officers working rest days or extended shifts, because we just didn't have enough staff to police my town.  If that doesn't scare the bejesus out of any member of the public, it should.

The simple answer is that there's one way to cut down on overtime and that's to employ more police officers.  Cameron can bleat about back-office cuts as much as he wants, and he was absolutely right eighteen months ago.  

But the back office is being stripped bare.  Yes, many totally unnecessary roles are finally being binned.  But also going is much of the support system that has been propping up the front-line for the last decade.  In a couple of years, when the cuts take effect, overtime will once again be the only way we can actually survive.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Anonymous bill said...

"The simple answer is that there's one way to cut down on overtime and that's to employ more police officers."

We could de-criminalise stuff, and maybe get firms like M&S to get their staff to wise up and improve in-house security to cut down on shop lifting.

"Yes, many totally unnecessary roles are finally being binned."

The key word is many there are still a few danglers.

From my POV I've seen hundreds of pounds wasted and until there's more accountability and a culture change it will, unfortunately, continue. We can change the structure as much as we like but changing people’s mindset?

07 March, 2011 13:54

Anonymous Officer Friendly said...

I spent two & a half hours today in a meeting that was dealing with a 15 year old boy beats up his mother. Cut backs have meant that the daily visits we could arrange to his house preventing further assaults have stopped, but I'm sure that when he finally beats her to death, or beats her senseless, it will be the frontline officers "failing" to do their duty again, according to the popular press & national perception.

07 March, 2011 19:58

Anonymous A Polis Man said...

A certain former chief constable now with the olympics had a tag line that ran

"I'd rather pay 40 hrs a week in overtime for teh next 3 years than pay 40hrs a week for the next 30!"

I wonder why the OT bill is high, similar question how much OT was paid on OP Safeguard you know whilst doing the prison services job (no offence meant to any prison officers)

07 March, 2011 20:37

Blogger English Pensioner said...

No sensible employer relies upon regular overtime, it costs far more than normal time, and this should be the same in the police service. Of course all jobs have the need to meet unexpected circumstances, but if they are frequent, they become the norm and should be included in staffing levels.
Overtime also tend to depress pay rates; employers love to talk of "average take-home pay" (which they don't say includes overtime), giving the impression that pay is better than it really is.
As a member of the public,(and an ex-TU local official), I feel that all routine duties, including reasonable emergencies, should be possible without overtime; obviously big demonstrations and the like, would be exceptions.

07 March, 2011 20:39

Anonymous Mac said...

Don't worry, they'll do the usual and cut overtime without addressing any of the reasons why overtime is required.

English Pensioner above has it right. We are paying too much overtime where the bureaucratic systems in place make 'normal working' only possible with overtime.

Over my 21 years in I've seen approx. 4 different periods when overtime was severely restricted and each time, over the course of a year or so, attendance times (in particular) fell so low that eventually the overtime tap gets turned back on. It won't change until they either significantly increase frontine numbers (not the office dwellers whose work is never so important it can't wait until tomorrow) or change the way we are required to work.

The DM and Mrs May like to spin about how officers are 'pocketing' overtime, but as someone who has to authorise it each and every day I can assure you the vast majority of officers don't actually want to work it and would rather go home on time (generational thing. 20 years ago we would volunteer for all the overtime going but now the 'youngsters' would much rather have a work/life balance).

07 March, 2011 22:37

Anonymous Anonymous said...

O/T is important! If an officer is just about to finished a 10 hour shift and a call comes in that likely means and hour or two at the site arrestin people/someone booking them in, waiting few hours for solicitor to turn up , then do an interview that takes a while then do all the paperwork.... prob tking a good 4 or more hours of their time... time they they were meant to be spending at home! They SHOULD be paid overtime. What would you say if your boss said oh we need you to work an extra 5-6 hours today but we cant pay you for it!!!! And you got tobe back at work not long after you finish the OT! They should be paid for it. Its ludicruious. .. Isn't there some Human Rights law that covers this lol ;)) ... and are the government even allowed to stop OT without asking Europe first? LOL

08 March, 2011 08:24

Anonymous NottsSarge said...

Organisationally we seem unable to move away from a job remaining with the initial OIC. Yes, handovers dilute things a bit, but why do we need to incur lots of overtime at the end of a shift instead of just handing a job on to the next team? For me, there should be compelling reasons not to hand a job over and the decison should be made by a Sgt or preferably Insp.

Of course, that doesn't sit at all well with the idea of teams and individuals having unofficial targets - so one or the other will have to give.

Those at the top can't have their cake and eat it

08 March, 2011 09:08

Blogger Kaela said...

Don't worry. Look, It's not about Officers on the thin blue line needing to work extra hours to make up the shortfall in manning levels, I am sorry, but you are on the wrong end of the stick there.

The main principle is two fold. One, being the money to pay your wages, and the other costs incurred in keeping you at work, are met from Taxes, its not new money, it is money we no longer have, we are in deep doo doo financially and simply, we cannot afford to pay your wages at the rate we are doing.

But more than that, two, the senior HR managers, the Directors and the IT Senior specialists, the consultants and the like all need to secure their high wage, and copper bottomed pension plans first, what is left is for your wages. Please don't worry, the HR staff will ensure they and the authority have their pensioned secured. They will be OK. Just relax, they have it sorted.

written by Ex-Support Staff, Culled from Cheshire Constab.

08 March, 2011 09:26

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just the Old Bill, but ALL public service workers who are coming in for undeserved flak. My neighbour works for the local council and says she feels like some sort of pariah these days.

It's all part of Dave's Bog Society plan, in which all public services will be reduced to the level of ... a bog. Of course, the saleable bits will all be privatised and sold off to Osborne's mates in The City, to keep them in champers and country houses when the banks leave the nation behind for cheaper shores.

In fact, the more I think of it, the more I see that these 'cuts' are driven by dogma than need, just like back in Thatcher's days. And it makes perfect sense to the capitalists.

I mean, what money do capitalists make out of the public sector? None at all, so it's ripe for development. All the Tories need to do is cut the workers' wages and make them work harder, and then you'll have a public service worth privatising and giving a nice fat profit.

08 March, 2011 20:30

Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I can see, Winsor leaves me and my team mostly better off or the same financially. I'm struggling to think of a job worth anything really where an officer isn't either on shifts, a detective or dogs/firearms etc Why should such an officer get the same pay and pension as me? We all know some of them (Diversity teams, crime management etc) haven't seen a real criminal for YEARS and face no stress or danger at all. Well done Tom Winsor.

09 March, 2011 06:07

Anonymous R/T said...

IG - fair enough up to a point but what about all the old crusties, like me, who were on the print and poll tax stuff but are too old (read portly and unfit!) to be level 2 any more. That's costing me £1500! Other than that, I don't think he's gone far enough and the £1200 "shift allowance" isn't enough. Make it £2400 and I'd be happy.

09 March, 2011 15:00

Anonymous Doxon of Dick Green said...

Excellent post. I am sure my support of you will please the Trolls, who should note that; stupid, spineless and irrelevant criticism or comment will not engender a response from me. Indeed I rise above it.

13 March, 2011 07:56


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