Record number of police but overtime bill doubles

Spending on police overtime has nearly doubled over the past decade despite record numbers of police officers, according to a new report.

Overtime payments in England and Wales soared by around 90 per cent between 1999 and 2009, hitting £400 million last year, according to the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS).

The rise came as the number of police officers reached an all-time high of 142,151 in 2009, 15,337 higher than a decade ago.

Researchers said overall policing costs also grew by a “remarkable” 48 per cent over the 10-year period, from £9.8 billion to £14.5 billion.

After the future of the policing budget became one of the key battlegrounds during the general election campaign, the CCJS said its findings meant that a public debate about police priorities was needed “more than ever”.

The centre’s director Richard Garside questioned the value obtained from the massive spending hike as well as the rationale for the jump.

He said: “Spending has gone up by nearly a half but the value of this huge increase is much harder to pin down. We now have the largest police service ever. Yet there seems to be no clear rationale behind this incremental growth, nor a clear measure of its success.”

The report’s compilers said the rise in overtime appeared “counter-intuitive” given the current size of the workforce.