Union attacks force redundancy changes in £40m costs drive

PLANS to change the appeals procedure for staff who are made redundant at a Yorkshire police force have been greeted with anger by union members.

South Yorkshire Police is facing budget cuts of 40m over the next four years, and savings of up to 15m are expected to be made in next year's budget.

Trade union officials fear that up to 600 posts could be lost – and, as police officers cannot be made redundant, those job losses would fall disproportionately on civilian staff.

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Police staff who include Police Community Support Officers carry out duties such as call handling, dispatching officers to incidents and forensic work, as well as traditional "back office" functions.

In a report presented to the South Yorkshire Police Authority, which is made up of councillors, magistrates and independent members, South Yorkshire Police say that the potentially large number of appeals that could arise from mass redundancies "logistically would prove almost impossible to be heard within a realistic time frame".

They have therefore proposed that, instead of having the option to appeal to members of the authority, those made redundant should only be able to appeal internally – to South Yorkshire Police.

The report said: "The force are considering a two-stage appeal process – one stage at early selection when an employee has been identified in a 'pool' and one when they have actually been selected for compulsory redundancy.

"A proposal was put to the unions that a panel of three, including a trade union representative, would hear appeals against redundancy selection.

"The unions are not in favour and would wish appeals to continue to be heard by the authority."

The branch secretary of the public sector union Unison, Glyn Boyington, said: "Our view is that the authority is our employer and they should keep the appeals procedure.

"Our concern is that, if they delegate that position for redundancy appeals – which we hope there won't be many of – it's only a short step to them giving up appeals for other forms of dismissal.

"Nobody has given us an actual figure of how many job losses there are likely to be, but if we're to save 20 per cent over the next four years there could be as many as 600 police staff posts lost.

"If we're not doing those jobs then police officers will have to do them and this would take them away from the sort of front-line duties the public expect them to be doing."

The report from South Yorkshire Police also says that upholding appeals against redundancy could be expensive, at a time when the force is trying to save millions of pounds.

It says: "Having tasked the chief constable with reducing budgets and agreeing that this may need to take into account compulsory redundancies, the overturning of dismissal decisions on grounds of compulsory redundancy may significantly impact on the financial situation.

"There will be potential human resources, diversity and legal implications.

"However, the force should seek to minimise the risk by having an internal appeals process prior to the notice period expiring."

The proposals would not change the appeals procedure for staff who are dismissed for reasons other than redundancy.

The report also says that procedures at other police authorities are "not consistent" with appeals being heard by anyone from a panel of officers to just one head of personnel.

Mr Boyington added: "To delegate the position would take away a degree of independence.

"The authority are seen as being independent and able to give a look from a second pair of eyes.

"Among staff there is considerable disquiet. People enter public service for the general good and they are delivering the kind of service that perhaps the general public don't realise is being done by non-police officers.

"They're worried that the service will deteriorate and are also worried about their own job prospects."