Police forces will have to cut down on overtime payments
The Home Office has revealed more about its plans to cut police overtime bills by £70m a year, an idea criticised by senior and rank-and-file officers.
Currently some officers get paid overtime if they take a work phone call while off duty.
Police Minister David Hanson said there was a "culture" within the police service that overtime was "acceptable".
The government is pushing to reduce police spending in England and Wales by £545m by 2014.
The BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw says that police who take a "short phone call requiring a decision" while they are off duty can claim their hourly pay rate plus one third. The minimum pay rate is for four hours.
The revelation came as the government announced details of its High Level Working Group on Value for Money report aimed at cutting costs.
This builds on the government White Paper published in December 2009 which called on forces to pool resources in forensic work and procurement as part of attempts to make savings.
Members of the working group included representatives from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), the Association of Police Authorities (APA), the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
The forces have to begin cutting costs from April 2011, with some of the recommendations made in this report including:
• reducing back-office support services.
• overhauling police shift patterns
• seeking cheaper IT solutions.
• cutting costs by implementing a single national uniform for police officers and a separate one for PCSOs (police community support officers).
Mr Hanson said: "There is a culture that overtime is acceptable in the system and therefore it is something that has not been looked at with scrutiny in the way it should have been."
The system was "not being abused by officers" but the cost of overtime was "significant".
He said a new deal was currently being negotiated and would be announced next year.
He also said he was not worried that officers would leave if they had their overtime cut because they were driven by serving the public.
Slashing £70m from the present £500m overtime bill would be the equivalent of every constable and sergeant giving up around £520 from their annual salary.
Mr Hanson said money could be saved by recruiting special constables who would work free and putting on extra officers at peak times.
Senior officers in training will also have to go on compulsory courses about how to get value for money.
He said police funding would actually increase by 2.7% next year to £9.7bn and funding for front-line services would be protected until 2013.
Overtime 'not a choice'
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the organisation understood the "need for belts to tighten" but the cutbacks had to be considered ones.
He said: "One area of concern in the report is the recommendation that chief officers make cuts on overtime. This fails to appreciate the nature of the job officers do, that we don't do overtime out of choice, but out of a duty to uphold the law.
"We cannot just walk away from criminals or turn our backs on crimes being committed - policing is a 24/7 job and forces have to ensure the resilience of shifts matches the demands placed by crime."
Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell from Acpo said value for money was vital and forces had already begun work on cutting costs, but had to be able to respond flexibly to any event or crime at any time.
"Overtime is paid to officers of constable or sergeant rank only and reflects the realities of modern policing.
"It should always be properly monitored by chief officers and police authorities for cost effectiveness."