One in 10 Suffolk police officers want to quit in next two years
Almost two-thirds of police officers in Suffolk suffer from low morale and one in 10 want to quit within two years, a police survey has revealed.
Matt Gould, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, said officers feel “betrayed” over government pension reforms and under mounting pressure from budget cuts and a reduced workforce.
The news comes amid growing fears Suffolk Constabulary faces a fresh round of job cuts after Essex and Norfolk police forces announced proposed cutbacks in recent weeks.
Details of Suffolk’s budget plans are due to be revealed in early December. The Pay and Morale Survey 2015, carried out by the Suffolk Police Federation which represents frontline officers, found 65.1% of officers have ‘low personal morale’ compared to 44.7% last year.
Meanwhile, 93.1% of officers have ‘low force morale’, up from 76.4% last year, and 10.7% of officers intend to leave within the next two years, up from 7.9% last year. A total of 303 officers (27%) responded to the survey. It was 39% last year.
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Mr Gould, who described the findings as “bleak”, said: “There are a number of officers considering leaving and I know that our chief constable is concerned and he has expressed a desire to meet with me and others to see whether there is anything we can do to combat this.
“In my opinion, it is a national issue which relates to the way that the police force is constantly under attack in the media and from government.
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“It also relates to attacks on their pay and pension and other conditions of service and also relates to an increasing workload with a decreasing number of officers.
“So the survey is entirely in line with what I expected. In fact, morale is higher that what I expected because of the perception that we have talking to officers on a day-to-day basis. We know how they are feeling about various issues.
“A lot of them are asking about a voluntary severance scheme to leave the force early and look for other jobs. It’s about a sense of betrayal almost with regards to pensions. They have been told they are going to be working longer for less money.”
According to official police data, the number of equivalent full-time officers fell from 1,221 in March 2014 to 1,140 in March 2015.
It comes amid a recruitment freeze and £20.5million of savings Suffolk Constabulary is required to make by 2020.
Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that 83.9% of officers who said they intend to leave said “how the police as a whole are treated” had a major effect.
Mr Gould added: “The £20.5m is going to come from staff and officers’ wages. Therefore, there is going to be less people to do the work and more pressure on the people that remain.
“We need a review into policing so that they (the government) can make an accurate determination as to what they want the police to do and how that is appropriately funded, because to make cuts without making an assessment is nonsensical.”
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: “It is perhaps inevitable, at a time of change and with the uncertainty concerning levels of funding for Suffolk Constabulary, that the morale of some is not as high as we’d all like.
“We must do whatever we can to work with officers and the federation to support everyone during these challenging times.”
A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: “The police service nationally is going through a period of extensive change and we recognise that this can have an effect on morale.
“While the number surveyed is under a third of officers serving within the Constabulary their views are valid and will be taken into account as we move forward.
“Support and help is available to anyone who would like to talk through their concerns with a senior officer or an independent adviser.”
Mike Penning, minister for policing, crime, criminal justice and victims, said: “Policing, by its very nature, is a stressful and demanding job. But it remains an attractive career choice, with a strong field of applicants whenever a force advertises for new recruits.
“Officers will continue to retire earlier than most public servants and pensions will continue to be among the best available. These are just two of the reasons that voluntary resignations have remained at just two per cent or less in recent years — far lower than other workforces in both the public and private sectors.
“This Government has made it easier for the police to do their job by cutting red tape, scrapping unnecessary targets, and giving officers the discretion to use their professional judgement. These changes have saved up to 4.5million hours of police time.”