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Force To Backfill Custody Staff With PCs

Welsh police staff claim decision is contradictory and will not always work in practice

A force is more than halving the number of its custody detention officers (CDOs) and replacing them with existing PCs despite the fact that the officers will be on higher wages than their civilian counterparts.

Gwent Police says reducing the number of CDOs from 34 to 15 and bringing in a further 15 police officers will allow it to be more flexible in custody suites – with PCs able to go out on the front-line if needed.

It is also training – and putting in place – a reserve of 50 PCs to fill in for colleagues in custody when necessary.

But the move, which will come in from April 2013, has been slammed by police staff and trade union Unison which says members could now face redundancies as part of an ongoing review.

Police staff were told of the implementation plan last week despite protests and face being placed on the Redeployment Register next year with redundancies also a possibility. The force claims the revised staffing model will save £110,645 a year.

Linda Sweet, Unison Branch Secretary for Gwent Police, said: “It doesn’t seem to be about cost savings – it seems to be about flexibility.

“They are saying police staff are not flexible enough because they can’t go back on the street whereas a police officer can.

“If it is busy in custody, police officers cannot be released anyway.

“When they can be abstracted (to go on regular duties) if they arrest someone – they cannot then jail them.”

Ms Sweet said staff had offered to be more flexible and take on additional duties but to no avail. She also said that the initial plan had been to use junior PCs to reduce running costs for the force - but that had since been dispensed with and some of those used will be senior PCs on higher wages.

Gwent Police said it needed to save £34 million by 2015 and that CDO staffing costs currently totalled £1.2 million a year. It also claimed its two custody suites in Newport Central and Ystrad-Mynach were underused on average with a below 30 per cent rate of cell usage.

In a statement, the force claimed neighbourhood policing would not suffer despite the redeployments.

ACC Simon Prince said: “We will continue to keep staff informed throughout this review and provide them with as much support as we can.

"We have an established and successful organisational change policy which will support any staff that do not get selected for a role in the new structure and which will match their skills to any other operational post in Gwent Police as part of our redeployment process.

“However, in an organisation where staff costs make up 84 per cent of the budget, there are clearly more difficult decisions on staffing to make over the next three years."

Unison said it would continue to fight the decision.

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