MORE than 100 police staff in North Yorkshire have applied for voluntary redundancy – but the shortfall means hundreds more could be forced to leave their jobs.

One of the region’s most senior officers has praised staff for their “dedication and professionalism” amid a shake-up which will see one of North Yorkshire Police’s control rooms close and its calls operation centralised in York.

The force is looking to shed 313 staff posts in total.

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Madgwick, who is overseeing the changes, said the number of employees who had been granted voluntary redundancy requests had topped 100, with a “small number” of additional applications currently being considered.

The new structure will mean 153 roles being lost within the control rooms at the force’s Newby Wiske headquarters and its Fulford Road station in York following the decision.

He said 91 posts were being made available elsewhere and bosses were now trying to match staff with the qualifications needed to take those on.

Assistant Chief Constable Madgwick also vowed the control room changes would not affect 999 response times and “stringent back-up plans” were in place in case of any snags with the Fulford Road facility.

However, he admitted the situation was “not easy” for the force’s staff.

“I would really like to stress that we understand the impact that this will have on our staff,” he said. “I have to commend the dedication and professionalism of those who have had a letter on their doorstep about the security of their job but still come in and have done their job to the best of their ability.

“We know it’s not easy and a lot of people who go into the police force almost expect a job for life. But unfortunately these are tough times, and we have to make these cutbacks.

“We have tried very hard to get the number of people who may have to lose their jobs down to a minimum. Where we can we’ve tried to find alternative employment for staff. “Every day there is alternative employment coming up. As long as the staff have the required skills, we will always try to find them a matching role.

“The call centre is a key hub and a key part of how we deliver the service and we realise it was also something that was going to raise concerns and emotions.

“We are focussed on improving our performance, hitting our targets and serving the community, but unfortunately we also have to balance our budget.”

Police officer levels ‘are little better than in 1997’

POLICING levels in North Yorkshire are now little better than in 1997 – even before the latest cuts start to bite, official figures have shown.

The number of police officers per 100,000 people stands at 188, down from the peak figure of 217 in 2007 and only five more than the 183 in 1997.

Sergeant Mike Stubbs, of the North Yorkshire Police Federation, said the force’s figure was the sixth worst in the country, and said the figures showed there had also been a sharp drop recently in the number of officers working in criminal investigation, with only 134 this year compared with 169 last year.

He said: “If planned cuts go ahead, we will lose around a further 200 police officers by 2013, at a time when the population is projected to increase further.”

The figures emerged as City of York Councillors were tonight set to debate a Labour motion, raising concerns about the looming drop in police numbers.

A North Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said the projected number of officers for 2013 was more likely to be about 1,300 to 1,350, and the rise and fall in number of officers was for two reasons; in 2007, officer recruitment was suspended during a review and, in the current climate, the force had to do more with less and increase efficiencies while still maintaining its level of service.