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.