One of Wales’s three police forces has confirmed it is making plans to cut around 200 jobs in its call handling unit.
South Wales Police – which includes the cities of Cardiff and Swansea in its coverage – said it faces a £47 million gap in funding over the next four years.
In a bid to protect frontline services, the force is looking at making a “number of” redundancies at its four call centres across the region.
It comes following an “enforced retirement scheme” of senior police officers with more than 30 years’ service.
South Wales Police is proposing to centralise call handling functions in one location, at Bridgend Headquarters – rather than continue with the arrangements currently in place at Pontypridd, Bridgend, Swansea and Cardiff Gate.
Senior officers say a “one stop shop” approach will provide a better service but will not have an adverse effect on 999 calls.
Chief Constable Peter Vaughan said: “The stark reality is the force must achieve £19 million of savings between now and the end of March next year.
“Our people are what makes this organisation so successful and they have worked so hard to produce such a stunning performance, with crime at a 25-year low.
“But having made over £30 million of cash savings over the past five years, we have little option now but to reduce our numbers.
“Quite simply, our staff account for over 80 per cent of our costs so any savings will necessarily have an impact on them.
“It is with great sadness and reluctance therefore, that we have to implement a redundancy programme.”
In March 2010, South Wales Police launched Project Reform to review the service it provides as well as refocusing efforts on frontline policing.
It is anticipated the process will create savings of around £9 million for 2011/12 – with additional money generated through funds via council tax payments.
However, the force said this would still leave a gap of “between £5 million and £6 million”.
In a bid to balance the books, it is anticipated 200 call centre staff posts will be lost over the coming 18 months.
A police spokeswoman said: “One of the first areas to be examined under Project Reform was our call handling services.
“The review of the call and incident management unit looked at the way 999 calls are handled, inquiries to 101 and police switchboards and the way information from the public is processed.
“It has been concluded the force can provide a better service by having a ‘one stop shop’ call handling function.
“This centralised structure will enable calls to be dealt with more efficiently at a single point, rather than callers being passed to different centres in different parts of the force.
“Not filling vacant posts, voluntary early retirement and voluntary redundancies will be considered prior to any compulsory losses.”
Police say a new centralised system will also “prevent duplication”, bringing an end to callers’ details having to be taken more than once by operators at different call centres.
“It is important to stress this reorganisation will affect non-emergency calls that are received through the 101 number only,” a spokeswoman added.
“999 calls will not be affected and will be answered as usual.”
South Wales Police has now entered a formal 90-day consultation period and is continuing to work with unions Unison and GMB to discuss the proposed changes.
The news follows the announcement that South Wales Police had begun its A19 retirement policy for officers with more than 30 years’ service.
Earlier this month, 130 officers who have been in the force for more than 30 years were notified that they were being entered into the process.
Under UK law, police officers cannot be made redundant.
However, South Wales Police also admitted it could not rule out further job losses in future.
A spokeswoman added: “Project Reform is a continuous programme aimed at ensuring we are efficient and effective. All aspects of the service we offer are under review.”