The fact that police forces in Yorkshire spent nearly £4m recruiting temporary and agency staff to plug gaps in their ranks last year is part of a worrying trend.
According to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Yorkshire Post, West Yorkshire Police forked out £2.5m on outsourcing staff in 2017, while South Yorkshire Police had spent £847,000 by December.
In the case of the West Yorkshire force, the number of agency and temporary staff it has drafted in has more than tripled over the last five years. And they are not simply filling minor administrative jobs, in some instances they are taking on important roles such as firearm training.
There is no doubt that police forces are under pressure to make budget savings and at the same time find ways of improving efficiency. The question is does the long-term use of outside agency staff achieve this?
West Yorkshire Police Federation vice-chairman Craig Grandison doesn’t think so and believes these rising costs are symptomatic of cuts being imposed on policing.
This chimes with concerns over the declining number of police officers across the country. According to the Home Office’s latest figures, the number of police officers in English and Welsh forces fell by 19,921 between September 2010 and September 2017. And herein lies the crux of the matter – namely, what kind of police force do we want to see, and how should it be paid for?
In these financially straitened times it is essential the police provide good value for money and that waste is kept to a minimum. However, just as a business cannot cut its way to growth, the constant streamlining of public services can only go so far.
Police forces do a sterling job on our behalf often in trying circumstances and if we want this to continue then they must be adequately funded and resourced.