Proposed changes to the police pension scheme could end up costing West Midlands Police up to £20 million every year - the equivalent of more than 400 full-time officers.
And the government's changes have been described as a 'hand grenade' by the Police and Crime Commissioner, with Chief Constable Dave Thompson saying the lack of notice around the changes was 'utterly extraordinary'.
Under new government proposals, police forces have been asked to contribute more to their employee pension schemes.
Speaking at a Strategic Policing and Crime Board meeting this week, Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson outlined how the proposals could end up costing the force more than £20 million per year.
This, he revealed, is on top of a revised figure of £175 million in cuts per year that the force is already having to enforce.
"The hand grenade that has been launched into our budget last week, which is the issue to do with police pensions, and we were told last week that a considerable extra employer cost was going to be placed upon us as a police force," he said.
"In the first year the extra cost to the West Midlands would be about £8.6 million, and by the next financial year there’d be an extra burden of over £20 million a year for this force.
"This is not funded by central government, we’ve not had any indication so far as to how that would be funded, other than we would have to find those savings internally, on top of all the other massive savings that we have had to make.
"We were using a figure of about £145 million per year, the reduction now is about £175 million per year. On top of that an extra cost would be this pension cost which is totally unplanned, totally uncosted, and just chucked into our budget.
"And it could cause, well it will cause, considerable difficulties to us. It is the equivalent of about 400 plus officer positions, that’s how serious it is."
Chief Constable Dave Thompson also spoke at the meeting, saying that never in his time with the police has he seen such a measure announced at such short notice.
And he went one further than the PCC, claiming that the government had got its sums wrong in terms of the changes to police pensions.
"So the government is intending to raise the employee contributions in total by 37 per cent, so that is a 37 per cent rise in the cost of employing every police officer in WMP. Next year, starting in April, policing will have to pay an extra £165 million in pensions contributions, but that’s because it’s slightly dampened by the Treasury in the first year.
"The full cost will be about £417 million. To give you some context, that is the operating budget of West Yorkshire Police, which is the fourth largest police force in the country. That’s the increase. The issue means that having received no notice of this, that next year could require a reduction in budget of £8.6 million, with an addition of about £14 million a year afterwards.
"I think this is utterly extraordinary. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything dropped on us with such short notice. And the impact is on two levels. As the commissioner rightly says, if that was equated to police officers it is a significant number, I think we’re approaching 500. Clearly our intention would be to not try and do that, but let’s all be realistic, that is a huge amount of money if policing has to find that.
"Our bigger concern is what this actually does to the police pension scheme. Actually argued quite simply, the Treasury have worked this out wrong. We are instigating more conversations with the Treasury on this, but the silence has been deafening in the last few weeks. We would like a response back on it, because it’s quite simply unreasonable on the level of consultation that’s taken place, and what’s proposed is equally unreasonable.
"Quite simply the cost of police pensions are dropping as a result of the changes being made, and we’re being charged more for a pension which is actually costing less. The police service already overpays on employee contributions, we actually overpay to the tune of £125 million a year already, that has not been taken into account.
"I think it’s absolutely extraordinary. I don’t think there’s a strong enough grasp in government of what they’re doing to the pension scheme, because the simple issue is that they’ve reduced the amount of people paying into it because we’ll be employing less police officers. That will imperil the scheme.
"There are some very perverse issues that this will trigger in policing, as well as the actual consequence on delivery of service to the public, which we think is huge. At a time when policing is being asked to prepare for a lot of eventualities and challenges, we’d also be planning to reduce our headcount."
The Chief Constable went on to call for an 'emergency budget' in November to address the issues, but added that he did not want to 'overly alarm' the public.