Regulation A19 is redundancy through the back door
As I write this piece we have just had the coalition government’s comprehensive spending review (CSR). We waited months for that and now it has been announced we must digest it all and wait to see what it will mean to us in North Wales.
However, before we have digested the CSR or have a detailed answer to how it will affect North Wales Police (NWP), a decision has almost been made – NWP is one of the first forces in the country to take steps toward invoking regulation A19 and compulsorily retire officers who have completed 30 years service.
What the CSR indicates is that police forces will have to find savings of about 20% over the next four years. Compared to the scare-mongering predictions of between 25 and 30% leading up the CSR there is very little to breathe any sigh of relief over.
We can (and should) prise the luxury cars from the NWP employees who have that perk. There are bound to be other examples of waste and inefficiency (as we are a relatively large organisation), but as more than 80% of NWP’s costs are wages, then deep cuts in the workforce are inevitable.
The government has emphasised the importance of maintaining ‘front-line services’ but has not defined what they are. Let us be clear that there will have to be cuts to services. How big and where I do not dare predict. NWP is not 20% inefficient. If we were, then the senior officers who have been in post for several years should fall on their swords now.
I am a simple soul and consider that answering 999 calls and attending emergencies is pretty core to front-line services. So I find it odd that those areas are among the first areas to be scrutinised and facing the prospect of a chop in NWP.
As it stands, it is not possible to make sworn police officers redundant in the traditional sense. Volunteers are being sought among our civilian colleagues and everyone is expecting that there will also be some forced redundancies among our non-warranted colleagues.
The ogre of redundancy is bound to be a huge worry for anyone facing it. For the victims of redundancy, the workers and their dependants, it is a massive blow financially with huge ramifications that in the worst case scenario can break up relationships and ruin people’s lives.
The process of how A19 for officers will happen, when and even if in NWP is yet to be decided. The draft procedure has been circulated for consultation.
I think, Regulation A19 is another name for redundancy for police officers. The financial blow to those officers forced to retire by the regulation being invoked will be softened by their pension. However, those officers have chosen to carry on working and want to choose when they retire. Their reasons for wishing to carry on working may be financial or just love of their work. Being forced to retire is bound to be a blow to those officers – they are no longer wanted by NWP, they are redundant. The repercussions for them and their dependants are softened by their pensions but potentially, the outcome is similar.
So the application of A19 needs to be done sensitively, transparently and fairly. There is no one who should be able to claim they are essential and avoid A19.
My understanding is that Assistant Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard objected to this article on several points, the main one being that the article talks of cuts to 'front line services' and the ACC did not want to raise concerns amongst the public that the cuts would or may result in a deterioration in front-line services.
Now there is a fundamental issue here of the North Wales Police being straight with the public and telling them the truth about the impact of the cuts or not!
A similar situation arose last night in a meeting between Wrecsam Councillors and Senior Police Officers who included, Ian Shannon, Deputy Chief Constable, Tal Michael, Chief Executive of the Police Authority and the Chair of the Police Authority, Alan Lewis. My colleague, Cllr Hugh Jones challenged the Police about their consultation document on the Future of Policing in North Wales and raised the question of whether the Police were being 'honest' with the public which elicited quite an angry response from Mr Shannon and Mr Lewis. The general consensus amongst Councillors was that both Mr Lewis and Mr Shannon were 'thin skinned' and not keen on being challenged on the REAL impact of these cuts. Seems the impasse between Inspector Mark Davies and Gareth Pritchard are following the same lines.