CUTS have been blamed for a police force’s officers and staff banking more than 10,000 rest days between them.

At the end of last month there were 10,792 rest days at Durham Police which had been cancelled, were outstanding or were waiting for re-rostering.

Andy Jackson, chairman of the Durham branch of the Police Federation, said: "Durham Police has seen one of the largest reductions in officer numbers of any force in the country having lost approximately 32 per cent of officers between 2007 and 2017. 

"We have recently seen an increase in crime coupled with a greater demand than ever before on our services.

"On occasions, we are struggling to meet the demands of the public and our officers face many pressures and challenges on a daily basis to keep our communities safe.

"As a result, a number of our officers are having to work on their rest days to meet this demand which can impact on their wellbeing and gives rise to the number of rest days owed to officers. 

"My colleagues are professional, extremely hard-working and are highly motivated to serve the public.

"Any cancellation of rest days and an inability to have sufficient rest periods has an impact on their morale as well as their mental and physical health. Eight out of ten officers, in a recent survey, have said they are feeling symptoms of anxiety or depression.

"We aim to work with the force to look at options to reduce the number of rest days owed and ensure that officers are afforded sufficient periods of rest so that they are capable of performing their duties effectively. 

"We have recently seen an increase in officers suffering stress-related issues and it is incumbent upon the force to ensure that officers wellbeing continues to be a top priority."

Officers working for the force - which has been repeatedly rated as outstanding in inspection reports - are owed on average just under five days each.

Durham Police’s assistant chief officer, Gary Ridley said: “Clearly there will be some officers and staff who are owed more than this and some who are owed less than this. Some officers and staff may have accrued higher balances over time.

“The force monitors this on a monthly basis as part of its overall approach to balancing the welfare needs of its officers and staff against the need for service delivery.”

Reacting to figures published by the Press Association for forces in England and Wales, the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said the backlog in rest days was a “dangerous situation” for the public.

It claimed policing was in crisis and lacking the resources to meet the demands it was facing everyday.

There were almost a quarter-of-a-million rest days owed to 70,000 police officers in England and Wales as of September 17 last year – the last time the country’s terror alert was at “critical” following the Parsons Green terror attack.

Cleveland Police officers had 4,945 rest days owing on that date. It said the health and wellbeing of its officers was its “utmost priority”.

Chief Superintendent Alison Jackson, of Cleveland Police, said: “Rest days are important to officers as they provide much needed time off to recover from duties which can often be stressful and traumatic.

“However, like all forces across the country, sometimes rest days have to be cancelled to ensure incidents and events are staffed to the best of our ability. Firearms incidents and planned events are an example of why we would cancel rest days.

“Careful consideration is always undertaken when rest days are being discussed and the decision is never taken lightly when we do cancel them.

“We understand the importance of rest days for our officers and when appropriate we try to reschedule them to ensure the welfare of each of our officers is met.”

Northumbria Police had 9,769 outstanding rest days owed to officers as at October 10 last year.

Its temporary Deputy Chief Constable Darren Best said: “Cancellation of rest days is a significant decision that is only taken at Chief Officer level, we will always endeavour to resource major events with the officers on duty that given day to avoid bringing officers in on their days off.

“When rest days are cancelled, we ask supervisors to be as flexible as possible to allow officers to book time off.

“It is no secret that police officer numbers have fallen in recent years and this does make it more challenging to resource big events where a large police presence is required.

“But despite these challenges, I want to reassure the communities we serve we are still in a position to deliver an outstanding service to the people we serve.”

North Yorkshire did not feature in the PA survey.