Police forces in Yorkshire spent nearly £4m recruiting temporary and agency staff to plug gaps in their ranks last year, new figures have revealed.
The cost of outsourcing almost 2,000 members of staff stood at £2.4m for West Yorkshire Police in 2017, while South Yorkshire Police looked set to break the £1m mark for the same period having spent £847,000 by December.
From IT workers to firearms trainers, the number of agency and temporary staff drafted in by West Yorkshire Police more than tripled over the last five years, from a combined total of 432 in 2012 to 1,954 last year.
Its 2017 bill for outsourcing staff rose by more than £2m compared to 2012, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Yorkshire Post.
Craig Grandison, vice chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents officers, said the boom in agency staff among forces was “symptomatic” of cuts to policing budgets.
“We all want to see the police providing best value to the public,” he said. “Unfortunately the long-term use of agency staff does not do that. I would prefer that the money was invested into permanent police staff to support the officers on front-line policing.”
While the number of agency and temporary staff recruited in 2017 actually fell by 100 compared to 2016, West Yorkshire Police forked out about £800,000 more last year to pay for fewer roles to be filled. Mr Grandison said forces were struggling to attract suitable applicants for some posts because of uncertainty surrounding job security.
Nigel Brook, assistant chief officer at West Yorkshire Police, said the figures come after significant budget cuts, and included those for permanent employees temporarily filling vacancies.
Latest Home Office statistics show that across England and Wales, the number of police officers has fallen by more than 20,000 between 2009 and 2017.
Extra officers were recruited in West Yorkshire to help with demand for child sexual exploitation investigations.
Mr Brook said: “As a result of very significant budget cuts, the force launched a whole series of reviews.
“During the course of such work, it is common for permanent recruitment to cease and instead to employ agency or temporary staff in order to minimise redundancies once final structures are determined.
“For instance, the review of our support staff covering over 1,000 posts has meant a much higher number of agency and temporary posts (and vacancies) and we are only in 2018 permanently recruiting into the new structures.”
Meanwhile, South Yorkshire Police’s spending more than doubled from £385,000 in 2015/16 to £1m in 2016/17.
A force spokesperson said it had launched a series of joint IT service projects in partnership with Humberside Police, which contributed to the sharp rise.
She said: “There has been a rise in agency/temporary staff over the last 12 months due to a number of joint IT service projects between South Yorkshire Police and Humberside Police, where we have been implementing several important IT projects to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of both forces,” the spokesperson said.
“The technical nature of this work requires staff with specialist skillsets, with some projects requiring additional staff, who have been brought in to work on these projects until they are live. These projects will deliver long-term benefits to both forces and to the communities we serve.”
Both forces will share the services and costs.
The spokeswoman added: “In some areas of business we have also seen an increase in the number of contract staff required to fill posts temporarily while recruitment of permanent posts takes place.
“While costs did increase last year, they are short term and will provide significant benefits for both forces.”
Humberside Police paid agencies £483,000 in the last year.
Elsewhere, on average, a combined total of 99 temporary and agency staff were employed North Yorkshire Police each month in 2015.
This rose to monthly averages of 112 in 2016, and 132 in 2017.
It represents an increase of about one third in agency and temporary staff filling roles at the force over the last two years, according to the data.
A North Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “In the current environment and with pressures upon budgets, it’s prudent that we ensure we keep a tight rein on recruitment and staffing levels.
“However, we have to balance this with the needs of and demands on the force, in order to ensure we deliver the highest level of service that we possibly can.”
They said that agency and temporary staff can be a cost-effective solution to help bolster its workforce and provide the best value for the public.
“Like a number of organisations, North Yorkshire Police employs a strategic resourcing model, which includes the option to utilise flexible resources, expanding and contracting in response to short and medium term business requirements. “We also review the external labour market to determine the best option on fulfilling short and medium term business requirements.
“The employment of temporary and agency staff can provide a cost-effective way of bringing in expertise and resource, sometimes on a short to medium term basis, to assist our workforce and ensure that as a service, we provide best value to the public of North Yorkshire.”