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What is the issue with staffing levels?

08 Nov

As this post will seek to explain  the real issues around staffing levels need to be understood and addressed as a matter of utmost importance.

At this year’s Federation Open Meeting the Chief Constable agreed to look again at the despised 9 band shift pattern.

The JBB have had a working group looking at the issues from the perspective of the public, the force and our members for some time. They have produced an evidenced based report which Nigel Day the JBB Secretary is finalising this week calling for change and putting forward  options which the JBB feel will address the problems which we have because of the despised shift system.

Dr Bill Lewinski and his team in America have highlighted the importance of good rest. Something the despised shift pattern does not deliver. Rest is important, because stress and fatigue negatively impact memory. Our members tell us they don’t feel they get sufficient quality rest on the current shift system.

Police Negotiating Board Circular 10/1 makes it clear that any shift pattern for police officers should seek to balance the demands of the public, the police service and the officers and that it is essential that the interests of all three stakeholders are taken into account and that any shift pattern that marginalises the interests of any of these stakeholders is likely to lead to conflict. Our report and options for change will seek to prevent the conflict which currently exists becoming exacerbated a time of falling officer
numbers.

In 1994 in his annual report the then Chief Constable said

“VACANCIES PUT IMMENSE PRESSURE ON OFFICERS AS THEY SEEK TO MEET THE  DEMANDS PLACED UPON THEM.  IT INCREASES STRAIN ON BOTH OFFICERS AND THEIR FAMILIES AND THIS IS OF CONTINUING CONCERN TO ME”. AND “THIS POSITION IS NOT SUSTAINABLE IN THE LONG TERM. ONE OF THE EFFECTS OF INCREASING WORK LOAD AND BURDENS UPON OFFICERS CAN BE AN INCREASE IN SICKNESS: THAT IN TURN CAN LEAD TO PREMATURE RETIREMENT”, AND “THAT, OF COURSE, PUTS ADDITIONAL STRAIN ON THE REMAINING OFFICERS AND EXERTS ADDITIONAL PRESSURE UPON THE BUDGETS. “

At that time in North Yorkshire the actual number of police officers was 1326.(  Hansard April 1994 vol 241 cc513-4W http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/1994/apr/20/police-north-yorkshire)
But lets look at some other facts.

FACT – in 2007 there were 1654 police officers in North Yorkshire. Today that number stands at just 1429. That is already a reduction of 225 officers – almost 15% of our force.  

FACT – In November 2010 the force produced a forecast of 1294 officers by 2015 – a reduction in total officer numbers since 2007 of 360.

WE MANAGED WITH 1294 OFFICERS ONCE BEFORE – IT WAS 1977

FACT – according to a July 2011 HMIC report by 2015 we will have  1336 officers. That is 318 officers less than in 2007 and 1 officer less than we had in 1979.

FACT – according to a July 2011 force document by 2015 we will have 1300 police officers – that is 354 officers less than in 2007 and 9 officers less than we had in 1976.

FACT – in North Yorkshire, nowithstanding these differing figures,  we will have less police officers by 2015 than we had in the 1970s. A fact which was not challenged or disputed by the Chief Constable or the Police Authority chair at our 2011 Open Meeting or since.

FACT – from the day it was formed North Yorkshire Police has provided a policing service to the largest single county in England and Wales with over 6000 miles of road

FACT – North Yorkshire County Council figures show that between 2001 and 2010 the population of North Yorkshire increased by 5.2% (some 29,600 people)

FACT – North Yorkshire County Council have recently released some important forecasts – in North Yorkshire  by 2026, the number of households is set to increase by 44,000 and also in North Yorkshire by 2026 car ownership will increase by more than 20% and increased cars will lead to 265,000 new trips in the county every day by 2026.

FACT – in North Yorkshire we are seeing a reduction in police funding this is shown by the House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 5th September 2011

========================

North Yorkshire Police Authority: Finance

Hugh Bayley: To ask  the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much her Department allocated to North Yorkshire Police Authority in (a) 2005-06 and (b) each year since then; and how much it plans to allocate in (i) cash and (ii) real terms in (A) 2012-13 and (B) 2013-14 . [65929]

James Brokenshire: The
following table shows the amount of core Government funding allocated to
North Yorkshire Police Authority in 2005-06 and the subsequent years. Financial
year
Allocated amount (£ million)
2005-06 46.8
2006-07 49.0
2007-08 50.6
2008-09 52.0
2009-10 53.4
2010-11 53.8
2011-12 50.6
2012-13 (1)47.3 (2)46.1
2013-14 (1)46.6 (2)44.3
(1) Cash (2) Real

FACT – City of York Council are so concerned over the cuts to policing budget in North Yorkshire that they have written to the Home Secretary. http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/9321921.Council_concerned_over_Whitehall_cuts/

FACT – earlier this year in a survey, commissioned by the Police Federation of England and Wales and undertaken by Ipsos MORI, 86%of the general public said they would be worried if the police stopped providing the range of services outlined by  interviewers; 44% say they would be very worried. http://www.nypolfed.org.uk/police-and-federation-news/police-news/public-worried-about-reduced-police-service/

FACT – A representative sample number of our members responded to a national survey published Monday 16th May 2011 which showed that police officers in North Yorkshire believe the government cut of 20% of the police budget over the next four years and a reduction in police officer numbers will have a detrimental effect on crime levels and result in the public getting a poorer service. 99% said that morale has fallen owing to planned police budget cuts, the possibility of a reduction in police officer numbers, possible changes to their terms and conditions, and how this will all impact upon the service they are able to give to the  public.  87% of police officers believe cutting police officer numbers in North Yorkshire will have a detrimental effect on crime levels. As a result of the reduction in police officer numbers 84% believe their workload has already increased or will increase in the future and an astonishing 94% believe there will be a decline in service delivery in North Yorkshire due to planned budget cuts. 89% of police officers in North Yorkshire believe changes to their terms and conditions will have such a detrimental effect that some police officers will be compelled to leave the service owing to financial difficulties.

http://www.nypolfed.org.uk/police-and-federation-news/police-news/survey-reveals-police-in-north-yorkshire-fear-cuts-will-result-in-poor-public-service-and-increased-crime/

We know that a large number of our members are so concerned about the staffing levels and officer safety that they have submitted Near Miss reports.

Between July and September this year they accounted for approximately 50% of all near miss reports submitted within the force.

We would advise all our members to keep submitting near miss reports if they have concerns about safe staffing levels.

We do so because we appear to be seeing history repeating itself. The last time our number started to fall was at the turn of the decade. The consequence was that by  2001 / 2002 North Yorkshire Police were approaching 50% of operational officers assaulted in any one year.

In 2006 ERS Market Research were commissioned by the Police Federation of England & Wales to assist in conducting a survey amongst its membership. This exercise followed on from a similar piece of research conducted by ERS in 2003 which, amongst other things, assessed opinions on the levels of threat faced by police officers.

432 questionnaires were returned from officers serving in the North Yorkshire Police when calculated against a total of 1,591 officers in this force, this gives a response rate of 27.2% for this force.

This survey identified an issue with the number of officers in NYP being assaulted whilst effecting an arrest on at least one occasion being over the national average. The question read: ‘including whilst effecting an arrest, how many times in the last two years have you personally sustained an injury, as a result of an assault by a member of the public, whilst on duty?’ the answers are shown in table form below:

Force Overall
(N=430) (N=47,186)
None 58.8% 58.6%
One 20.2% 16.6%
Two 12.1% 13.1%
Three  5.6%  5.7%
Four  1.4%  2.8%
Five  1.4%  1.4%
Six  0.2%  0.7%
Seven to ten  0.2%  0.9%
Eleven or more  0.0%  0.4%

And now in 2011 with officer numbers falling we take no solace from the fact that our concern about history repating itself appears to be reflected in the published “NYP Health and Safety Performance Data – Health and Safety Department – Quarter 2 (October 2011)”

The JBB don’t wish to see any increase in the 87.5% rise in assaults recorded on page 10 of that document. With Bank Holidays approaching we need to ensure we have safe staffing levels in place.

Safe for the public, safe for the force and safe for our members.

Although it is clear that there is no specific legal concept of safe staffing, there is a clear duty both at common law and at  statute, to provide a safe place of work:

  1. At common law, a duty to  maintain a safe system of work;
  2. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 e.g. section 3 creates criminal liability for breach;
  3. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 e.g. failure to carry out a suitable
    and sufficient risk assessment;
  4. Specific Regulations that involve training to reduce risks e.g. manual handling and personal protective equipment
    regulations

We know there may be some resistance in the force to this and they prefer demand led staffing levels. We contend that that term
does not exist either and, unlike the concept of safe staffing, it has no legal foundation.

It also ignores wider issues.

We know police officer numbers are reducing in the force to 1970s levels and police staff numbers returning to the level last seen around 2004. But we are concerned that ignoring the issue of safe staffing levels for police officers and police staff may mean that managerial decisions over resource reductions may lead paradoxically to greater costs through ill-health, absenteeism, personal injury and stress related claims and HSE investigations; the health and safety costs on the balance sheet need to be identified and quantified thoroughly for proper assessment to be made.

We welcome the forces recent initiative to attract transferees to the East Coast and see this as a start in the way of addressing safe staffing levels.

Safe for the public, safe for the force and safe for our members.

But we wish to make clear that for the safety and welfare of police officers and police staff in North Yorkshire, the general public and the force  – the issues raised in this blog need to be addressed.

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1 Comment

Posted by on November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

One response to “What is the issue with staffing levels?

  1. Dave Hasney

    July 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    The Chief, NYPA (and soon the PCC) along with the Government, have to realise they have a duty of care to officers and a duty to keep the public of North Yorkshire safe. Continually offering contrived platitudes, manipulated statistics and rhetorical hot air PR is no longer acceptable… Res ipsa loquitur – Any continued failure to reverse these reductions in officer numbers is tantermount to negligence!

     

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