Victoria Police forced to use $100m reserve after failing to fill vacancies

After losing public support due to its brutal enforcement of COVID-19 lockdowns, Victoria Police's recruiting crisis deepens.

Victoria Police forced to use $100m reserve after failing to fill vacancies
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Victoria Police has been compelled to use more than $100 million in savings from unfilled staff positions to fund its daily operations amid a persistent resource crisis.

As of April 30, the organisation had accumulated $117.5 million in savings due to approximately 800 staff vacancies.

Data provided to the parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee indicated that nearly $30 million of these savings were allocated to officer entitlements, including advanced personal leave, accident make-up pay, and unfunded additional superannuation contributions.

An additional $7.2 million was spent on overtime and recall payments, while the bulk, $84.6 million, went towards increased WorkCover premiums.

The police force has faced numerous challenges, including a surge in resignations post-Covid and a significant number of officers off duty on WorkCover, primarily due to mental health issues.

Despite the state government’s commitment in May 2022 to recruit an additional 502 officers, the total number of police officers dropped from 16,159 to 15,842 by June 30 last year. Police Minister Anthony Carbines acknowledged at a recent budget inquiry hearing that the force was dealing with several recruitment challenges.

Opposition police spokesman Brad Battin criticised the allocation of the savings, stating:

“Victoria Police have nearly 1000 vacancies, leaving stations closed across Victoria because Labor can’t manage money. The additional funds should be putting police on the beat, not covering Labor’s $84 million increase to WorkCover premiums. Labor’s mismanagement of the state’s finances is leaving the community less safe amid a continuing rise in violent crimes.”

A Victoria Police spokeswoman claimed that it is not uncommon for large organisations to have unfunded employee entitlements.

“This, among other things, occurs when employees take more leave in advance than anticipated or more employees are on WorkCover and Victoria Police covers part of their salary,” she said.

“Victoria Police so far this financial year has used a proportion of the $117.5 million saved from staff vacancies towards a $27.4 million deficit in unfunded entitlements. With a $4.2 billion annual budget, Victoria Police regularly directs savings from one area of the organisation to another. Even when fully staffed, we will always have areas where Victoria Police has savings or underspending which can be reallocated.”

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  • By Avi Yemini

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