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Police overtime cost hits pounds 3.6m; CASH-STRAPPED FORCE SEES ITS EXTRA HOURS PAYMENTS SOAR 33%.

Byline: KELLY WILLIAMS

OVERTIME spending by North Wales Police rocketed to pounds 3.6m in 2011.

The news comes as the force struggles to keep as many front-line positions as possible intact while facing the need to make major budget cuts under the national public spending squeeze.

But the force has defended its actions, saying that official auditors had found it was making the best use of its resources.

In North Wales, spending on overtime was up by a third as figures reveal the largest single payment in one month soared from pounds 3,591 in 2010 to pounds 5,314 in 2011.

In the last four years, 7,198 officers received overtime in the region.

In 2011, overtime was paid to 1,726 officers compared to 1,732 in 2010.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that the force had increased its spending from pounds 2.7m in 2010 to pounds 3.6m in 2011 - a 33% rise.

Jonathan Isaby from the Tax Payers' Alliance said: "Taxpayers will be alarmed that overtime payments to North Wales Police increased by Police Authority member Ian Gunning: Overtime gives essential cover during major incidents nearly 40% in one year and that some police officers in Wales are getting in more overtime alone than the wage that many people earn in a year."

But in a statement, the force said: "North Wales Police is one of only 12 forces in England and Wales to attain the top level grading '4' for its use of resources in the national Police Use of Resources assessment (PURE).

"The Audit Commission PURE Assessment is carried out by the Welsh Audit Office and is a challenging process which measures how economically, effectively and efficiently forces have maximised the use of their resources.

"Having achieved this grade for two years in a row demonstrates that we continue to use our resources in the best possible manner."

It adds: "Overtime is not paid to police officers of higher rank than sergeant.

"However, acting inspectors are entitled to overtime as they have not yet received promotion and are therefore officially still of sergeant rank. Officers do have the option to take time off in lieu instead of payment."

Cllr Ian Gunning, member of the Police Authority, said: "There has been a significant amount of major incidents in 2011 including North Wales police officers being seconded as mutual aid to neighbouring forces and to London during the riots.

"Although these costs will be recovered, there are other officers who were pulled away from their normal duties and/or had rest days cancelled to provide cover: we will bear these costs.

"As an authority we will be keeping an eye on overtime figures.

"But it is also important to recognise that overtime does and should continue to play an important role in ensuring that there is a strong police presence in our communities when major incidents would otherwise take officers away," Cllr Gunning added.

OPINION - PAGE 8 Police Authority member Ian Gunning: Overtime gives essential cover during major incidents
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 5, 2012
Words:506
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