Policing on the cheap?

Conference condemns replacing police staff with low-paid workers and unpaid volunteers

UNISON will oppose moves to replace police staff with low-paid workers and unpaid volunteers, the union’s police and justice conference decided today.

Renfrewshire council has announced an initiative to offer 11- month, full-time ‘traineeships’ that will train unemployed people as special constables, but pay them the national living wage – the legal minimum wage for anyone aged 25 or more.

Frank Winston, who works for Police Scotland, described the move as “taking policing back to the 1600s” and said that these workers will be “carrying out roles they are not trained or qualified to do.”

Paula Dunlop from the northern region police and justice committee said that when a police staff member leaves their job, “the first thing that seems to be done is to see if the role can be filled by a volunteer.”

Justin Winn, from Suffolk police branch said “I’m not against volunteering; my concern is for the public.

“When a member of the public calls 999 they expect someone trained.

“What I don’t understand is why forces would spend money on volunteers who can leave any time rather than on paid members of staff.”

Conference instructed the service group executive to oppose these cost-cutting initiatives, which will undermine the role of police staff.

They also instructed the service group executive to:

  • continue to highlight the threat of volunteers and oppose the introduction of powers to police staff volunteers;
  • work with the College of Policing to try and limit the scope of volunteers with the introduction of recognised roles and standards;
  • work with the Labour police and crime commissioners to lobby the Home Office on the serious risks to public confidence in the police if work that requires trained and accountable staff is handed over to volunteers.