Approval given ‘to retire’ long serving police officers

At a full meeting of the Sussex Police Authority in Lewes yesterday afternoon (Thursday 26 May) approval was given for Sussex Police to retire police officers with 30 years’ service.

The Authority considered the detailed proposal presented by the Force, outlining that the application to use Regulation A19 was made reluctantly following careful consideration, but was the only way to enable the substantial changes required to protect policing while meeting the financial challenge faced. The Authority’s approval is for a period of three years and is subject to an annual review.

Steve Waight, who was appointed as the new Chair of the Sussex Police Authority earlier in the meeting, said: “Approval to use Regulation A19 is a decision that has not been taken lightly. It has followed thorough scrutiny of the Force’s proposals and detailed debate by Authority members today. In addition to fixing the period of the approval, we have also granted the Chief Constable discretion to review appeals in exceptional circumstances where application should be delayed.

“The Police Authority is charged with overseeing the budget and long-term strategy of the Force, with our members from across Sussex ensuring the needs of local people are at the heart of decision making. This means we must make decisions that are right for the people of Sussex for the long-term, even when the outcome is difficult and has a regrettable impact on Sussex Police officers or staff.

“The Force faces a significant financial challenge and we have ensured that their Serving Sussex 2015 programme aims to provide excellent policing even in these tough times. We have no desire to require many good officers to retire, but it is the only option available to deliver these imperative plans.”

Sussex Police needs to save an estimated £52 million from its annual budget by 2015. The Force has embarked on its largest ever programme of work - called Serving Sussex 2015 - to build a policing model operationally and financially fit for the future.

With 84 percent of the Force’s annual budget spent on officers and staff, it would be impossible to do this without a smaller workforce. Estimated reductions of around 500 police officers and 550 police staff are needed by 2015. Already more than 300 police staff have left under a voluntary severance scheme.

Recruitment of new officers was stopped last year and, in combination with officers retiring or leaving for other reasons, it was initially hoped this would lead to reductions in line with the estimates. However, the rate of this normal turnover has slowed considerably with fewer officers now choosing to retire or transfer to other forces.

This means that the Force will not be able to meet its workforce reduction target and deliver the changes planned without using Police Pensions Regulation A19, which requires officers with 30 years’ pensionable service to retire ‘in the general interests of efficiency’.

Chief Constable Martin Richards added: “Requesting to use Regulation A19 was a very difficult and reluctant decision. I do not welcome the prospect of any officers being required to retire through no fault of their own and undoubtedly neither will many of them. However, the Police Authority’s approval was essential if we are to deliver our plans for effective and sustainable policing.

“Doing the right thing for the people of Sussex isn’t always easy. There have been and there will continue to be tough choices that will directly affect the thousands of people who work for the Force and the 1.5 million people we serve, who must remain at the forefront of our decisions.

“We will now work with the Police Federation and the Superintendents’ Association to support those officers who will sadly be required to retire.”

Sussex is one of a number of forces to announce the need to use Regulation A19, with many others still considering it. The Force has been consulting closely with the staff associations that represent police officers and will continue to do so.

Although the Police Pensions Regulations only require 28 days’ notice, Sussex Police has pledged to give all officers who will be affected at least three months’ notice. A combined package of support in partnership with the staff associations is also proposed, including financial advice and help with job searching and interviews.