Staffordshire police officers facing fight to keep jobs
POLICE in Staffordshire are opposing new plans which will allow officers to be made redundant.
Chief constables will be given the powers to remove frontline officers to help balance the books under controversial Government reforms.
Officers are currently protected by law from redundancy but can be forced to retire after 30 years under the A19 rule.
Staffordshire Police Federation today warned the measures threaten to 'change the status of officers in society'.
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The Federation, which represents constables, sergeants and inspectors, said measures tabled in the second part of the Winsor report will add to increasing soaring stress levels and affect morale.
It comes as new Home Office figures show officer numbers in Staffordshire have fallen to 1,948, down from 2,219 at the end of 2009, as a result of forced retirements and a recruitment freeze.
The force has the tenth fewest number of officers in the country per population with 182 for each 100,000 people in the county and the number of officers aged under 25 has fallen to a record low of 17.
Staffordshire Police Federation secretary Dean Colley, a police constable with 28 years' experience, said: "We have major concerns. It will permanently change the role and status of police officers in society.
"As a federation our main concern is the effect of the changes and the demands being placed on our individual officers.
"By 2015, because of the impact of the comprehensive spending review, we will be down to 1,750 officers.
"You cannot tell me that we can deliver the same service to the public with 1,750 as we did with 2,200 officers, but the demand from the public is no less."
Other proposals in the second part of Tom Winsor's national review of police pay and conditions include compulsory fitness tests and recruitment of non-officers directly into higher ranks without the traditional stint as a beat officer.
In November, a police and crime commissioner will be elected to oversee the force's budget and policies in place of the scrapped police authority.
The commissioner will be able to lobby Chief Constable Mike Cunningham to avoid enforcing the new powers – even if they are approved at national level.
Labour's candidate, city councillor Joy Garner, said: "I have a lot of sympathy with how the police are feeling. There are such big cuts and big changes and they don't feel like they are being listened to.
"The reason they can't be made redundant at the moment is because they take an oath to the Queen and in fact agree to work half an hour for free each every day as part of the service.
"Being able to make them redundant would make them more vulnerable and change the whole contract of how they work for the people."
County councillor Matthew Ellis, who will represent the Conservatives in the election, was unavailable for comment.
The police federation is now in a standoff with the Government over the proposals.
A special tribunal will assess the dispute and make a decision in the autumn -although Home Secretary Teresa May retains the power disregard its findings.