Police union chief: ‘We’re digging trenches so morale can sink into it’

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Cuts to civilian staff at Thames Valley Police have been branded a ‘false economy’ by union chiefs, who say morale has dropped to crisis point.

Figures obtained by under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that in Bucks, 12 posts have been deleted in a year.

Among these are a crime investigator, a community and diversity officer, and an anti-social behaviour assistant.

Critics say the cuts mean police officers are spending more time doing back office work, but this week Aylesbury’s top policeman said this is not the case.

Superintendent George Wrigley, Aylesbury Vale commander, said he was ‘concerned’ about losing the community and diversity officer, and has appealed for the post to be reinstated.

The cut slashed £326,411 from the police wage bill, with a total of £81,903 paid out in redundancy payments.

Rod Matheson, branch secretary of the Thames Valley Police Unison branch, said: “Because of police regulations, you can’t make a police officer redundant, so all the losses are coming from the civilian staff.

“No matter how low you get it down to, the workload is still there.”

And he continued: “No job within the organisation doesn’t contribute to the front line.

“It’s inevitable that when you lose these posts, the police officers end up coming off the street, instead of the staff who were brought in to do it in the first place.

“It’s a false economy.”

Mr Matheson said: “Do we really need police officers sitting indoors being paid £35,000 to £40,000 a year doing a job that doesn’t need a warrant card?

“Talking to my colleagues, this is beginning to happen now.

“I’ve worked here for 38 years, and 10 years ago morale was at rock bottom, but we’ve gone below that now, we’re digging trenches so morale can sink into it.”

But Supt Wrigley said there had been no impact on front line services, with Aylesbury benefiting from a force-wide shake-up, which meant it gained 15 new police officers.

And a decision to centralise basic command units in April last year meant many posts were no longer needed, he said. The force is in the third year of a four-year plan to cut £50 million from its annual budget.

Supt Wrigley said: “I think the morale in the sense of people losing their jobs hasn’t been affected.

“But there is an issue with the Windsor Review of police pay, I think people are concerned about that. The longer it takes to come to a new pay structure, the greater the concern will be.”

He said he had been concerned about the loss of Aylesbury’s community and diversity officer, and said: “It’s a concern for me, it’s something I’m asking for a review of.”