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Britain's police forces are cutting back on hundreds of officers to help meet the annual cost of a pension scheme t...
Britain's police forces are cutting back on hundreds of officers to help meet the annual cost of a pension scheme that has spiralled to£1bn, reported The Sunday Times (p15).

Staffordshire, Cleveland and North Yorkshire are among the forces that have been forced to shed officers, some in frontline positions, despite the fact they have experinced an increase in violent crime.

Staffordshire is in the process of shedding 150 officers and at least a further support staff, despite the amount of violent crime in the area rising by 30% last year.

'I am going through a process of reducing staff here, caused in the main by the fact that my pension budget is so high, and the difficulty is that I don't have a lot of control over it,' said John Giffard, chief constable of Staffordshire Police and spokesman on pensions for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

'Chief constables are doing their best to protect frontline policing but I suspect there is not a lot left to cut out, and the predictions are that the pensions budget will go up. The problem has been going on for some time and it has been called a pensions timebomb.'

The crisis has arisen because there is no police pension fund. Although serving officers contribute 11% of salary towards their pension, payments to retired officers come out of the same cash pot as daily policing. The same problem has arisn in the fire service and the military for similar reasons.

In 1989-90 the national police pension bill stood at£285m, or 6.9% of the total policing budget. Today it is just over£1bn, or 14.5% of the total budget. The increase represents the equivalent of an extra 10,000 officers.

The rise has been fuelled by an increase in the rate of retirements - about a third of which are on medical grounds - and by the fact that police pensioners are living longer.

Humberside spends the highest proportion of its budget on pensions, with the cost rising from 18% in 1999 to an estimated 20%, or£23 million, for the current financial year.

The increase accounts, in part, for the loss of 89 officers, although the jobs are mainly office-based. In North Yorkshire, where at least 16% of expenditure goes on pensions, the number of retired officers has surpassed the number on active duty.

A home office spokesman said: 'We are acutely aware of the problem surrounding the current pension arrangements for police and obviously the growing expenditure on them. It is a very complex area and cannot be rushed, but it obviously needs to be resolved.'

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