Overtime system allows some to double their pay

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Indy Politics

Most workers can only dream about the perks enjoyed by Britain's police officers. Principal among the Byzantine system of "extras" is overtime, which cost the Exchequer £275m in 2000-2001.

Most workers can only dream about the perks enjoyed by Britain's police officers. Principal among the Byzantine system of "extras" is overtime, which cost the Exchequer £275m in 2000-2001.

Normally officers have received half as much pay again for working past the end of their shifts. Under the new system payments will be cut to time and a third. In cases where there was minimal notice "double time" has been the norm – that will be cut to time and a half.

Many officers have relied on such payments to finance their lifestyles, although some of them would argue the system simply enabled them to make ends meet.

The most overtime has usually been worked by the big city forces such as those in London, Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Merseyside. Police with these forces have taken on duties such as anti-terrorism cases which can result in long working hours.

Overtime reached legendary levels during the year-long miners' strike in 1984-85. Officers were drafted in from all over Britain in an attempt to contain "flying pickets" and mass demonstrations. Those stationed in the Nottinghamshire coalfield, which saw some of the worst violence, wore T-shirts on their off-duty moments emblazoned with the letters "ASPOM", which stood for Arthur Scargill pays our mortgages. Some officers almost doubled their normal wages.

More recently the race disturbances in northern England and the extra security required in the wake of 11 September saw another explosion in overtime payments.

The new structure aims to either simplify or remove scores of other allowances. Plain clothes officers have been paid extra for wearing their own garments. This will be halved from April 2003 and discontinued from 1 April 2004. Those licensed to use fire arms have received "stand-by" payments and officers who have had to search or fingerprint badly decomposed bodies have also received extra payments.

Many of the allowances, such as "subsistence, refreshment and lodging" are to be replaced with expenses schemes where officers will require receipts in order to claim reimbursement. Payments for moving house will also require receipts.

Police enjoy pensions tied to their final salaries at a time when the private sector has begun moving away from such arrangements. There are indications that at some stage the system will be abandoned for new recruits, but it seems officers already serving will continue to enjoy the benefit.

When on duty, the only clothing worn by officers that is not paid for by the state is underwear. Most officers enjoy some free travel, although arrangements vary from force to force. Police in London receive free transport on the Tube and free train journeys into work if they live within a 70-mile radius of the capital.

Under a scheme to help young recruits buy their own homes in areas of high property prices, interest free loans are on offer.

Increasingly extra healthcare is provided including physiotherapy, largely in an attempt to contain the number of days lost through ill health. Sports facilities and police clubs are also among the perks in some forces.

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