Unpaid Overtime 2011/2012

Colleagues, friends, fellow conspirators,

I have had many an argument with Forces across the land about what constitutes Casual Overtime as it relates to my Freedom of Information Act request.

Basically, for the benefit of our non-police friends, overtime falls into one of two categories Casual and Pre-Planned. Some forces prefer to call Casual Overtime Unplanned. I don’t really care. One large force close top London thought that Casual Overtime was overtime paid to Casual Staff, I kid you not.

The important difference is that when claiming Casual Overtime, for the 1st 4 occasions in any given week the 1st 30 minutes are deducted and not paid for. This 30 minutes is only paid on the 5th and subsequent claim in each week. As you can imagine there are not many occasions on which it gets paid. This period of 30 minutes has attracted the unofficial title of The Queen’s Half Hour.

After Tom Winsor made his famous statement likening the Police to factory workers with a clock in/clock out mentality I was sufficiently incensed to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act to every Police Force (sorry, Service) in England and Wales in an attempt to quantify how much work was being done by our thin blue line that was not getting paid for. The results have absolutely staggered me in more ways than one.

I found 45 Forces to write to, including City of London and British Transport Police.

Out of 45 Forces 14 have refused to answer my question on the grounds that it is too expensive to answer.. The Freedom of Information Act allows the Authority to refuse to process the request and provide the information if it is going to take more than 18 hours, or cost more than £450 to answer it. Well14 of our Forces have decided that their systems are so rigid that they can’t extract the data I am seeking without resorting to a manual check of every single overtime claim in the year. I can quite see how that might take more than 18 hours.

A further 4 Forces have informed me that they can’t answer the question because the information is Unavailable. Their systems do not differentiate between Pre-Planned and Casual Overtime and so they can’t give me any data at all.

5 Forces still have not replied, are about a week past the legal deadline and are now in breach of the terms of the Freedom of Information Act which requires them, by law, to respond within 20 Working days.

This leaves me with the 22 Forces that have given me some data, as near as damnit half of them. 15 out of the 22 gave me a complete set of data to answer my questions. The remaining 7 gave me sufficient data for me to make a realistic estimate of the value of their unpaid overtime.

Based on these 22 Forces ALONE the figures are astounding (in my opinion)

For the Financial Year 2011/2012 approx 242,000 hours of Overtime went unpaid
The Financial Value of this unpaid overtime is approx £4,685,019, and this figure represents just HALF of our Police Forces, although it has to be said that the Met contributes about of this figure by itself. That still leaves a potential for about £6,000,000 worth of overtime to go UNPAID every year across England and Wales.

So I think, Mr Winsor, that you should retract that analogy, because this, to me, indicates a vocation that is very far removed from a Clock In/Clock Out mentality. No other occupation would stand for figures like that but the Police do it day in day out across the country.

If I ever get a response from the last 5 Police Forces I will, of course, update my figures, and if you wish to tell me what your home Force is and I can give you a copy of their individual response if you’d like it. One or two Forces shine as being particularly helpful to my request, one in particular, is either being very obstructive or their accounting systems are shite. (that’s an official auditing term)

The Forces that have either Refused or state that the data is not available bother me somewhat. Not so much because they didn’t answer the question but it raises questions about their Financial systems and how good and robust they may be. I have no idea how the auditors cope with those Forces.

Number-crunching over for today,

I’m happy to answer questions if there’s anything else you’d like to know about this project.

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My First Blog

Hello world,

One or two of you have suggested that I should enter the world of blogging, which is something I had not previously considered.  A few words of introduction would be appropriate at the moment I guess.

I’m Alan, 50 something (well 60 soon to be honest) and retired from the Metropolitan Police in 2002 after 30 glorious years.  Because I’m retired I can ay what the hell I want to in my blog and don’t have to worry about being censored or disciplined for my ramblings.  Before I joined the Met I spent 2 yrs as a Trainee Radio-Isotopes technician for the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital in London.  This was a very rewarding job in some ways but it soon became apparent that I was going to get bored with it very rapidly, as my weeks were all very predictable.

I spent 30 years in the Met, 30 years which, on the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed. There were a few years in the middle of my career which got a bit rocky, but a change of direction soon sorted that out and I soon went back to loving my job.

After that I was employed by the Metropolitan Police Authority as a Forensic Auditor, sounds grand and has absolutely nothing to do with Forensics.  Simply put it involved investigating alleged fraudulent activities by contractors supplying the Met with their services, and occasionally by the Met’s own employees.  The results of any investigation were then handed over to the Police to progress if it was felt that there was a case to answer.  The most complex case I was involved in there was investigating alleged overclaiming by SOME translators and interpreters, which resulted in High Court actions and criminal convictions against some, and the return of approx £250,000 from one such linguist.

After that the attraction of the sunshine and red wine pulled me and my my wife to South West France where we ‘Lived The Dream’ for 5 and a half years before returning to the UK in 2011 and settling in North Shropshire, although it seems more like Wales, and Wales is indeed at the end of the road (literally).

That’s how I became retired, why am I angry.  Well, my would tell you that I’m always angry, but in the context of this blog I am angry because of the unholy damage this government seems intent on wreaking on the Police Services of England and Wales, and other wonderful institutions like the NHS, Armed Forces and Coastguard. I’ve signed all the petitions going and felt like I wanted to do something, so I now use my position as a retired officer and concerned member of the public to make life as uncomfortable as I can for those in power by use of the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the truth behind the smokescreen and then Tweet, and now blog, the responses with the sole intention of getting the message out there so that those who can make a difference and change the course HMG seems determined to take.  I am not opposed to change, I used to be a dinosaur but I’m better now. What I am is opposed to ‘Change for Change’s Sake’. I’ll be perfectly honest and admit that I’m not always comfortable with change, and maybe that’s something that is common to a lot of Police Officers, but I don’t reject it out of hand, but I have yet to see a single proposal from Mssrs Herbert, Winsor & Cameron or Mrs May which convinces me that it’s for the public good. I’m not thinking of myself, I’ve retired. I’m thinking of the 137,000 (March 2011) and the Great British Public, and they ARE great in the main.

Well, I think that’s about enough about for me now.  I shall return soon and bring you some updates regarding the various Freedom of Information requests that are currently in progress. I hope that you will find them as informative as I do.

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