RUC early retirement plan to cost £200mp

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The Independent Online

Royal Ulster Constabulary officers taking voluntary early retirement under the Government's scheme to reduce the size of the force are being offered the "most generous" terms ever available in the public sector, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Mandelson, said yesterday.

Royal Ulster Constabulary officers taking voluntary early retirement under the Government's scheme to reduce the size of the force are being offered the "most generous" terms ever available in the public sector, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Mandelson, said yesterday.

Almost 2,000 officers are expected to leave over the next few years during the drive to reduce core RUC numbers to 7,500, as recommended in the Patten report on the future of policing. The Government estimates a cost of around £200m over the first five years of the scheme.

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland is unhappy with the deal and said it fell short of what they expected, although it was better than initial offers.

Months of negotiations have preceded the offer, but the federation said it could not recommend it to members and would leave it to them to decide.

Under the proposals, a 50-year-old chief superintendent with 30 years' pensionable service could receive a lump sum of more than £300,000 and an annual pension of over £27,000. A constable of similar age with the same service would get nearly £134,000 plus an annual pension of just over £13,000.

Mr Mandelson said the scheme offered "substantially enhanced" terms. He added: "This is a unique scheme for a body of men and women who have served through some of the most difficult times imaginable. Taken overall, it is the most generous voluntary early-retirement scheme ever offered in the UK public sector.

"The Prime Minister and I have undertaken that officers who take voluntary early retirement will receive sympathetic and generous treatment, benefiting the distinguished service they have given."

Officers will not be able to leave under the new terms until the necessary legislation has been passed by Parliament and it is expected the first will leave in January.

The Patten report recommended that the regular force should be reduced by 1,000 - to be achieved by a cut of some 2,000 balanced against recruitment aimed at improving Catholic numbers in the force.

The federation chairman, Les Rodgers, circulated his members with details of the scheme. He said: "The package is not what we wanted but it is considerably better than that proposed by Patten and the [Northern Ireland Office] in the early meetings. However, the federation sees it still... as failing to meet many of the members' expectations.

"The reality is that government requires 2,500 officers to leave the regular force over the next five years and 6,000 to stay. Any arrangements would of necessity be discriminatory."

He said the package would be better for some than others and for that reason the federation had taken a "neutral position on advising members to either accept or reject it".

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