Six police forces see overtime pay increase

Police passing out parade
Image caption A review into police pay is examining whether overtime should be replaced by a fixed allowance

Six police forces increased their spending on overtime for officers over the past two years amid government efforts to cut the bill.

The forces were Durham, Northern Ireland, Gloucestershire, Northumbria. The other two, West Yorkshire and Staffordshire, dispute the figures.

The data was obtained by the BBC from 48 forces in the UK responding to a Freedom of Information request.

The Home Office set out to cut police overtime two years ago to reduce costs.

A review into police pay is examining whether overtime should be replaced by a fixed allowance, but the police argue that overtime helps with flexibility and with response to emergencies.

The latest figures for 2010-11 show overtime payments in all forces have fallen by one-fifth to £382m over the past two years but have increased in the six forces.

In some forces officers took home about £800 overtime a year each but in others some earned three times that.

Durham Police said its overtime rise of 5.9% over two years was partly because of a spate of murder inquiries.

Assistant Chief Officer Gary Ridley said: "There's no one single reason to which this increase can be attributed. Overtime fluctuates from month to month and year to year, depending on operational requirements.

"However, we did have 12 homicide investigations in 2010-11, compared to six in 2008-09, so that could partly explain the increase."

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) attributed a 13% increase in overtime to the threat from terrorists.

A spokesman said: "The PSNI constantly reviews its use of resources in order to provide the best service possible to the public as well as providing value for money. The primary reason for the increase in overtime is to deal with the terrorist threat in Northern Ireland."

'Unprecedented incidents'

Overtime in Northumbria went up by more than 9% over two years.

Assistant Chief Officer Steve Culkin said: "Last year there were some high profile and unprecedented incidents. We always endeavour to ensure that, even in challenging circumstances, we are mindful of the cost involved and ensure cost effectiveness."

In Gloucestershire, overtime increased by 0.73 % over the two years.

Assistant Chief Constable Kevin Lambert said: "Our overtime spend did reduce last year compared to the previous year. We are committed to making reductions in spending in a way which does not impact on front-line policing."

West Yorkshire Police disputed the Freedom of Information figures showing a 3.7% increase, saying actual final overtime payments had reduced from £13.7m in 2008-9 to £11.9m in 2010-11.

The FOI figures showed overtime costs increased by 6.9%, however the force claims the costs saw a "small reduction", from £5.74m in 2009/10 to £5.73m in 2010/11.

The force said its plans for the next financial year include a "further reduction".

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