POLICE forces are spending more on overtime payments for officers to cover staff shortages, according to new figures.
The overtime bill for 39 forces in England and Wales rose £6 million on last year and totalled more than £1 billion over the last three years, data obtained by the BBC under a Freedom of Information request showed.
One officer, working for the Metropolitan Police, was paid £45,000 for overtime worked during 2014/15.
The overall cost of paying officers to work extra hours amounted to £313.2 million in 2014/15, up from £307.1 million the previous year.
A third of the total annual bill was accounted for by the Met, the BBC said.
The force said it used overtime only when “essential” and was often paid to officers in “very specialist roles”, which were performed by only a limited number of staff.
A Met spokeswoman said: “Overtime is called upon when it is essential to maintain operational effectiveness and, in the context of capital city policing and national responsibilities, there are times when there is a genuine need to call on officers to work beyond their scheduled hours to police unforeseen events, to provide security, or public reassurance.
“The Metropolitan Police Service is committed to the effective control and management of overtime in supporting the delivery of an efficient policing service and consequently there has been a reduction in overtime expenditure in recent financial years.
“The few officers receiving significant payments in respect of overtime are in roles where their working time is determined by the operational circumstances.”
One officer at West Midlands Police was paid £32,702 for working overtime in its call centre, which a spokesman for the force said had had a recruitment shortage.
Two forces, Bedfordshire and Cleveland, saw a 50 per cent rise in overtime costs year-on-year, while South Wales Police saw its bill rise from 5.2 million last year to 8.4 million this year.
Police Scotland spent £18.2 million on overtime in 2014/15, down £6 million on the previous year, while the Police Service of Northern Ireland decreased its annual bill from £6.9 million to £4.7 million.
Sergeants and constables can claim overtime if they remain on duty after their shift ends, are recalled within two hours of their last shift, or work extra hours at short notice.