Police forces have paid at least £123 million to job agencies to fill gaps in frontline investigations over two years, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Figures obtained by this newspaper show forces across the UK – which are facing a budget crisis with cuts affecting frontline services – handed the money to agencies in fees and for payments to temporary staff.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The Mail on Sunday revealed the Metropolitan Police paid £73.4 million to agencies. Scotland Yard has previously been criticised for spending £10 million on a leadership training course for staff over three years.
More FOIs revealed other high-spending forces included West Midlands, which paid agencies £8.6 million, and West Yorkshire, which paid them £5.2 million.
The total figure of £123.1 million for the agency payments from 2016 to 2018 is the equivalent to the bill for the entry salaries of 5,325 police constables earning £23,124. But the real cost is feared to be higher as only 39 out of 46 forces responded to our request.
One agency advert is currently seeking candidates to fill a role investigating ‘sexual offences’ alongside the Met Police.
And another company, Peel Solutions, has advertised for ‘50 violent crime investigators’ to help with the Met Police’s Operation Domain gangs crackdown.
The roles being offered were for six-month contracts with staff to be paid between £16 and £20 per hour. One of the two directors of Peel Solutions, established in 2015 and based in Warrington, Cheshire, is a former detective superintendent of Cheshire Police called Andy Smith. Mr Smith, who was a police officer for 25 years, owns a four-bedroom, detached house worth an estimated £364,000 in Great Sankey, Cheshire.
Another firm, Red Snapper, is advertising for investigator roles in Northampton and Ashton-under-Lyne as well as crime-scene investigators in Surrey.
John Apter, Police Federation Chair, said: ‘We simply do not have the numbers of officers any more and, as the work is still there, forces have to find ways to meet that demand. Police staff [which include agency workers] have a significant role to play but they should never be there to replace warranted police officers.’
A Met Police spokesman said its agency bill was reducing but they had ‘adopted a deliberate strategy to use a number of agency staff’ for supporting investigative work.
Mr Smith of Peel Solutions said: ‘I’m proud to be able to provide the right skills and experience to law-enforcement organisations to enable them to conduct investigations effectively and efficiently.’