West Midlands Police has spent tens of thousands of pounds on legal fees in a bid to fend off a multi-million pound compensation bill for retiring senior officers, it emerged today.
The force used the A19 regulation between 2010 and 2013 to forcibly retire officers with 30 years’ service because serving officers cannot be made redundant.
It is now feared the force could face a multi-million pound compensation bill – reported to be as high as £15m – after 22 senior officers won an employment tribunal case at the High Court saying the move was not justified.
It is claimed the ruling could set a precedent for more than 500 former police officers who were subject to A19 and who have lodged legal cases against the force.
Today it can be revealed the force has spent £86,831.16 on legal fees fighting the tribunal so far. The force is also set to appeal the employment tribunal ruling – but says it cannot reveal the fees it will incur from that appeal yet as they have not been calculated. Bob Jones, the police and crime commissioner for the area, defended the spending, saying it was to avoid a ‘considerably larger burden’ on public funds.
He said: “We took strong legal advice at the time of the decision to use A19. The regulation itself is almost de facto age discriminatory because officers had to have 30 years’ service.
“The alternative to A19 would have led to the loss of lots of police staff and pushed more officers off the streets and into doing those necessary roles.”
He added that it would have seen police officers ‘doing everything, including cleaning the toilets’.
A separate judicial review in the High Court had said the use of A19 was ‘not unlawful’, before the employment tribunal decision. Critics of the use of A19 had highlighted the centuries’ worth of combined experience the force lost under the move, which also led to pensions being paid out prematurely for some officers who may have continued to serve for years to come.
The Express & Star revealed last year that the pension lump sum payouts for the 591 officers to leave the West Midlands force since December 2010 cost £71.3m. That is on top of £12.4m being paid out annually in pensions to those officers.
The West Midlands force shaved a combined £37m off its wage bill by losing the senior officers. The Staffordshire police force also implemented the same regulation, cutting the wage bill by £4.8m. The combined lump sums for 78 officers was £12m, while a further £1.7m will be paid out to those officers every year towards their pensions. Staffordshire began using the regulation on November 30 2011 and it was ended on January 1 last year.