Police forces urged to cut costs by sharing HR functions

Police forces could save up to hundreds of millions of pounds by: sharing back office functions such as HR; better use of civilian staff; and changing shift patterns, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary has said.

Sir Denis O’Connor warned that there needed to be “a total redesign” of the police service to deal with looming budget cuts and to increase officer visibility to the public.

The Sustaining value for money in the police report notes spending on the police was £13.7 billion in 2008-09, 80% of this on staff. Some forces have shown how millions could be saved across the service with greater use of civilian staff.

The chief inspector said costs could be cut by changing the way forces and individual officers work. These include:

  • back office costs could be cut by £140m by merging departments such as HR;
  • better use of civilian staff and changing the workforce could save £240 million;
  • fewer managers – cutting the number of chief superintendents could save £20 million; and
  • changing shift patterns so they are more in sync with the public’s desire for police availability.

The report cites the example of Surrey Police, which saved £1.5 million last year by centralising HR departments, with further savings of £2.2 million from 2010-11.

O’Connor said: “The challenge for the police service is to reduce spending without reducing public confidence. Our reports show that whilst some forces are getting ready for the budget cuts we know are inevitable, many forces have yet to make adequate preparations.”

Chairman of the Audit Commission Michael O’Higgins told the BBC: “200 trained police officers, not support staff, not civilians, work in HR departments, at desks where they never see the public. Why? You could use civilians to do that.

“A community support officer costs less than a fully trained police officer. Can we use them more effectively? How do you get the mix right? For example, taking a witness statement doesn’t necessarily need a trained police officer to do it.”

Met Police HR chief Martin Tiplady has previously defended the use of uniformed officers in his HR department, saying they are vital to the training of other officers.

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