West Midlands Police says it will have to start cutting staff numbers almost as soon at it takes on the last of 450 new recruits.
The admission came from the force’s head of HR who told Strategic Police and Crime Board members the first influx of staff since 2010 will only stabilise officer numbers – which will then have to be cut again almost immediately.
There was also a warning that a new innovation partner will be used to draw up a new operating model for the force.
The search for 450 new officers only began in February, ending a four-year recruitment freeze. The employment process started formally this week.
The response has been incredible – 20,000 people have already registered an interest in landing one of 450 new posts, which will be phased in over the next two years.
The successful applicants will have a starting salary of £21,999 and will be paid for via a council tax increase and the use of £60 million of police reserves.
But the Board was told that both the total roster of police officers and police staff numbers will still have to be cut back from 2016 to meet projected government-imposed budget cuts.
The force has already been forced to shave 20 per cent off its budget since 2010, with cuts totalling £126 million.
And in the current financial year it is expected to make further cuts of around £23 million.
The new recruitment campaign has been started to cope with the number of officers who are leaving the force early.
Last year the Post revealed that so many police officers were heading for the exit that it was contributing to a £24 million force underspend on its budget.
Chris Rowson, head of human resources at West Midlands Police, said: “From 2016/17, the position around officers will need to be reduced in relation to the budget that will be available.
“The recruitment of 450 officers will stabilise police officer strength over the next two years, although beyond this period both it and the police establishment will need to reduce to reflect lower budget settlements.
“A similar position is forecast with regard to police staff, with reductions in the establishment, required over the later period of the current Comprehensive Spending Review (2016/17).
“Work developed though the innovation and integration partner will be focused on establishing a new operating model, which reflects the resources available over the medium and longer term.”
Speaking previously about the new police officer posts, police and crime commissioner Bob Jones said: “I am hoping that this two year injection of resources, will keep us off the slippery slope of increasing crime and reduced resources.
“This is not about additional officers, it’s about replacing numbers.
“I want to act before we reach a tipping point and to keep us off the slippery slope in the first place.”
News of the extra jobs cuts comes as the force also faces an expensive legal challenge from more than 500 former officers who were forced into early retirement.
Between 2010 and 2013, the force imposed ‘Pension Regulation A19’ in a cost-cutting measure, terminating the careers of 600 officers who served for 30 years or more.
In February, 22 senior officers won an employment tribunal case at the High Court, but now a further 500 have lodged cases for age discrimination.
The force is appealing the tribunal decision but could still be hit with a multi-million pound bill for unlawfully curtailing the careers of its most experienced officers. Plans have also been revealed to reduce the pay of some desk-bound officers who are on restricted duties.
The proposals, which were made as part of a raft of controversial recommendations from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, will see officers’ salary reduced by £3,000.
The only officers who will escape the pay cut are those who are on restricted duties because they have been injured in the line of duty.
Mr Rowson, who delivered a report on the plans, said there were around 160 officers on restricted duties across the force.
He added: “Earlier this year, the Police Arbitration Tribunal published findings in respect of a number of Winsor Review recommendations.
“These included the management and deployment of restricted officers.
“The tribunal found that, those officers who could not perform ‘the full range of duties of a constable’, should have their pay reduced by approximately £3,000 pa, (excluding officers injured in the line of duty).
“The police negotiating board are now working through how this should be implemented, including relevant definitions.
“The force has started work on understanding which roles would be suitable for restricted officers, and how the recommendation may impact on those currently restricted. The force currently has 160 restricted officers (2.1 per cent of total police strength) of which the majority are deployed to corporate functions.”