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PCCs at loggerheads over Fed membership for Specials

Talks to enable Special Constables to join the Police Federation have hit a stumbling block over who will pay for it.

Top-level talks have failed to resolve who will cover the costs of Specials getting full membership of the Police Federation.

The Home Office, which currently funds protection for Special Constables through the Legal Fees Insurance Scheme, has said it will not pay for the costs of their Federation membership.

The Federation has already made clear it cannot afford to subsidise the costs of the 11,690 Specials who volunteer with all 43 police forces despite the Home Secretary confirming earlier this year that the law will be changed to allow them to join the Fed.

The changes in law will be brought forward in the next Queen’s Speech at which point the Federation will also begin changing its bylaws to enable them to sign up.

Involved in the talks are the Association of Special Constabulary Officers (ASCO), the Police Federation, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the Home Office.

One of the potential options is for forces and central government to share the costs by creating a central pot to cover all 43 forces.

The two other options are for PCCs to fund them or police forces to fund the cost - which would then have to come out of their central government grant.

The current position is that Federation membership is optional and individual forces will have to fund the costs through PCC budget allocations.

Police Oracle understands that all sides have agreed in principle that the Fed shouldn’t have to carry the costs but several Police and Crime Commissioners have baulked at the idea that their budgets should be used.

There is also an acceptance this as an internal issue for the APCC to resolve and a decison needs to be made whether it seeks a grant from the Home Office or opts to add the cost into the Police Precept.

The ending of Home Office current funding without agreement would leave Specials vulnerable or force PCCs to organise their own cover.

This is despite the fact that forces are recruiting more of them and increasingly asking them to carry out high-risk work.

Kent Police are already looking at training Specials to use Tasers and other forces are also looking at the same option.

The Fed has advised that those officers would need significant legal support and Chief Constables would face potential compensation claims from the officers if something goes wrong that would lead to an IOPC investigation.

ASCO has also told the Home Office at a recent meeting that there are financial issues involved, not just for volunteers on low incomes.

It said: “Discussions included some of the key issues for Special Constables including who will pick up the cost so that any volunteer officer wishing to access Federation membership will not be liable for the current £282.96 annual subscription fees and possible taxation liabilities.

“The Home Office is leading on a process to define adequate representation for SCs and to seek to clarify future roles and responsibilities with ASCO, the Federation, NPCC and forces. ASCO is committed to finding a way to progress representation fit for the future in the interests of all Special Constables.”

The NPCC said it was working to ensure an agreement would be reached.

It said: “Special Constables play a vital role in the police service and undertake many of the same tasks as their regular colleagues. Therefore, they deserve to have representation and support that reflects their work in public service.”

In a statement, the APCC said: "The APCC continues to take part in discussions convened by the Home Office, along with other key stakeholders, about the change in legislation that will allow special constables to join the Police Federation, and how this will be implemented.”

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