Gloucestershire police stressed by budget cuts

November 01, 2012 8:30 AM

Are we getting value for taxpayers’ money from our police force? Such a query has been raised by an investigation into days lost to stress and illness in Gloucestershire Police. Thanks to a Freedom of Information request by the BBC, it was revealed that stress-related absence has risen by two thirds over the past year. The numbers of days lost has gone up dramatically from 2,586 to 4,254. This is matched by a substantial increase in the average numbers of sick days taken off by from officers from 45 to 55 days a year.

It appears that this stress caused absence has not been provoked by a rise in lawlessness on our streets, but by the government’s necessary task of cutting back on public expenditure.

‘Certainly spending cuts are having an impact on our staff,’ explains Gloucestershire’s Assistant Chief Constable. ‘We know that the top causes of public sector stress throughout the country are considerable organisational change and workload. We’ve had to deal with the Government spending review and the cuts to our budget, and as the number of officers are reducing then the workload has gone up.’

Although denying a direct link between pay cuts and the absence of police officers, the Assistant Chief Constable argued that ‘national figures would tell us that organisational change does have a major impact on stress and anxiety on public sector workers, so it would make sense that it does have an impact on our staff.’ On the plus side, she said, the ‘fact more people are willing to come forward saying they've got psychological issues is promising and something we need to look into.’

The Secretary of Gloucestershire Police Federation takes a less sensitive line. ‘We are aware there is a problem,’ he says bluntly. ‘We are working with the force to make things better.’ Let’s hope so. If the police spending cuts announced for 2011 were 4% and resulted in a 20% rise in police absenteeism in Gloucestershire due to stress-related sickness, any continued cost-cutting could result in large chunks of our anxious local police forces being stuck at home in bed rather than patrolling the streets. The poor dears!

In the meantime, following last week’s report on council ‘employment issues’ in the Isles of Scilly, their chief executive Philip Hygate has been suspended to allow an investigation into his conduct. The decision has been welcome by local activists.    ‘Our group name stands for Honesty, Ethics, Accountability, Respect and Transparency in local governance,’ says Frances Grottick of HEART of Scilly action group. ‘As such, we support our elected members on their decision to look at the serious allegations which have been raised.’ Says an anonymous islander: ‘I can’t see him coming back from this.’Are we getting value for taxpayers’ money from our police force? Such a query has been raised by an investigation into days lost to stress and illness in Gloucestershire Police. Thanks to a Freedom of Information request by the BBC, it was revealed that stress-related absence has risen by two thirds over the past year. The numbers of days lost has gone up dramatically from 2,586 to 4,254. This is matched by a substantial increase in the average numbers of sick days taken off by from officers from 45 to 55 days a year.

It appears that this stress caused absence has not been provoked by a rise in lawlessness on our streets, but by the government’s necessary task of cutting back on public expenditure.

‘Certainly spending cuts are having an impact on our staff,’ explains Gloucestershire’s Assistant Chief Constable. ‘We know that the top causes of public sector stress throughout the country are considerable organisational change and workload. We’ve had to deal with the Government spending review and the cuts to our budget, and as the number of officers are reducing then the workload has gone up.’

Although denying a direct link between pay cuts and the absence of police officers, the Assistant Chief Constable argued that ‘national figures would tell us that organisational change does have a major impact on stress and anxiety on public sector workers, so it would make sense that it does have an impact on our staff.’ On the plus side, she said, the ‘fact more people are willing to come forward saying they've got psychological issues is promising and something we need to look into.’

The Secretary of Gloucestershire Police Federation takes a less sensitive line. ‘We are aware there is a problem,’ he says bluntly. ‘We are working with the force to make things better.’ Let’s hope so. If the police spending cuts announced for 2011 were 4% and resulted in a 20% rise in police absenteeism in Gloucestershire due to stress-related sickness, any continued cost-cutting could result in large chunks of our anxious local police forces being stuck at home in bed rather than patrolling the streets. The poor dears!

In the meantime, following last week’s report on council ‘employment issues’ in the Isles of Scilly, their chief executive Philip Hygate has been suspended to allow an investigation into his conduct. The decision has been welcome by local activists.    ‘Our group name stands for Honesty, Ethics, Accountability, Respect and Transparency in local governance,’ says Frances Grottick of HEART of Scilly action group. ‘As such, we support our elected members on their decision to look at the serious allegations which have been raised.’ Says an anonymous islander: ‘I can’t see him coming back from this.’

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