£7.5m cost of police overtime

'Significant overspend': A police ring of steel outside the Liberal Democrats conference at Sheffield's City Hall in March.

'Significant overspend': A police ring of steel outside the Liberal Democrats conference at Sheffield's City Hall in March.

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POLice chiefs spent more than £7.5 million on overtime payments to bobbies and staff last year - including £140,000 on extra staff for the three-day Lib Dem conference held in Sheffield city centre.

The overtime bill for South Yorkshire Police was discussed yesterday by the county’s Police Authority, which oversees the way the force is run and funded.

Busy time: Police hold back demonstrators at the conference.

Busy time: Police hold back demonstrators at the conference.

A report on the issue, prepared by Chief Constable Med Hughes, shows that in the last financial year a total of £7,565,318 was spent on extra payments to bobbies and civilians asked to work extra hours or on cancelled days off.

But despite running into millions, the amount was £157,254 better than police chiefs had budgeted for, which was £7,722,572 - a reduction of 7.7 per cent.

A breakdown reveals:

n Sheffield, which had £2,342,961 to spend on overtime, paid out £2,361,139 - £18,178 more than planned

n Rotherham, which had £595,572 available, spent £619,892 - £24,320 more than expected

n Doncaster police chiefs spent £61,175 less than expected - £1,238,137 out of a pot of £1,299,312 available

n Barnsley spent £49,405 less than was budgeted for - £750,526 out of a £799,931 pot.

Chf Con Hughes admits there was one ‘significant overspend on police overtime’ based on what the force’s ‘operational support services’ unit paid out.

There was a budget of £899,086 set but altogether £1,010,989 was paid out, with the Liberal Democrat party conference in March held responsible for the £111,903 overspend.

Chf Con Hughes said: “Of the £111,903 overspend on police overtime, £140,032 was expenditure in relation to the policing of the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference.

“At the time of setting the budget the date and venue of the conference was not known and therefore not budgeted for. Had it not been for this the department would have had an underspend on police overtime.” He said civilian members of staff were paid £39,901 in overtime to cover the conference. Matthew Sinclair, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “While overtime can be necessary to cope with major events and unexpected staff shortages, it is expensive and the management in police forces should be working to minimise it.

“A bill of £7.5m will strike many taxpayers as excessive and the police force should be looking at ways to reduce it more sharply.’’

South Yorkshire Police Authority chairman Charles Perryman said: “The Authority does not want to fall into the trap of continually cutting the overtime budget as this will make the police force less efficient.

“At a time when police officer numbers are being reduced, a robust overtime budget provides a direct and efficient management resource to maintain a level of policing the public continues to expect.

“The Authority has asked the force to ensure it can maintain operational resilience and respond quickly for any unforeseen circumstances.