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Cuts likely if police get their hoped-for 3% rise

By Derek Cheng

Commissioner Peter Marshall says he is not under Government pressure to cut costs, but the police union says that's nonsense. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Commissioner Peter Marshall says he is not under Government pressure to cut costs, but the police union says that's nonsense. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Police bosses conceded yesterday that a 3 per cent wage rise and inflationary pressure would see police having to find $470 million in the next four years - which would increase pressure to close stations and reduce the number of staff.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall stressed that no constabulary or civilian police staff would lose their jobs, and insisted that police would continue to increase frontline resources.

But he said those who left the police force might not be replaced. About 350 staff leave the force each year.

Meanwhile, police union boss Greg O'Connor said Government austerity was forcing the commissioner to take a hard line on wage negotiations, setting up police officers to take the blame for inevitable cuts.

Under questioning from Labour MP Phil Goff at the law and order select committee yesterday, Deputy Commissioner Viv Rickard said wage rises for when staff achieve certification requirements would cost $170 million in the next four years.

He said a 3 per cent pay rise a year and inflationary pressures would see a further $300 million hole over that period.

When Mr Goff noted that the total - $470 million over four years - amounted to about $120 million a year, Mr Rickard stressed that wage negotiations had not begun.

After the committee hearing, Mr Marshall said closing some police stations was a possibility, but there were no plans to do so at this stage.

Mr O'Connor said the commissioner's hands were tied.

"If police stations close and staff numbers are reduced, that will not be the fault of the police officers, but the result of Government policy.

"The commissioner is left with no choice, but essentially it is Government policy that would have forced him into that position. It's a very ham-fisted attempt to blame those inevitable cuts on police officers, who face the same inflationary pressures [as everyone else]."

Mr O'Connor said he did not want to conduct wage negotiations through the media - but he considered a drop in wages to be unacceptable, and a wage rise less than the rate of inflation amounted to a fall in wages.

The inflation rate in the year to June 2011 was 5.3 per cent, but it dropped to 1.8 per cent in the year to December 2011.

Mr Marshall had earlier told the committee he was under no Government pressure to find savings, but Mr O'Connor said that was nonsense.

"He can't say anything else. His walk from Parliament back to headquarters, if he had said anything else, would be to simply empty out his office."

The Herald earlier revealed that police bosses had floated proposals that included saving $360 million over the next three years, or $120 million a year.

Mr Marshall said he was not aware of the $360 million figure.

"There are a number of figures being bandied around by officials but it certainly hasn't had any resonance with me."

THINNING BLUE LINE
* A 3 per cent wage rise and inflationary pressure would see police having to find $470 million in the next four years.
* This would increase pressure to close stations and reduce staff numbers.
* The Police Commissioner has said the police will continue to increase frontline resources.
* 350 staff leave police each year.

- NZ Herald

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