POLICE overtime costs have been slashed in Oxfordshire as bosses reorganise working practices to meet savings targets.

Thames Valley Police spend on officer overtime has fallen from 800 claims worth £1.4m in 2008/09 to 692 claims worth £906,704 in 2011/12.

The overtime spend for civilian staff fell from 131 claims worth £105,698 to 63 worth £15,273 in those years.

Overall, Thames Valley Police must save £55m by March 2015.

Bosses said tighter controls on overtime and changes to working practices had help cut payments. But the body that represents frontline staff said some police officers were working for free rather than arguing for extra cash, and that was hitting morale.

Force spokesman Lucy Billen said: “As part of the force’s on-going productivity strategy, overtime payments to officers have been reduced through more proactive management of time and improved working practices.”

An increase in shift patterns from eight to 10 hours so officers can finish that day’s work is “one of the changes to working practices that have contributed to the reductions” she said.

The force has set a target to cut overtime payments by £2.6m by 2015 and has so far saved £1.6m. A major restructuring that took affect in 2011/12 also cut costs, she said.

Andy Viney, secretary of the Thames Valley Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: “There has been an awful amount of pressure to cut down on overtime. We are aware that an awful lot officers are working overtime and not claiming it.

“If you make it difficult to claim then a lot of people will say they can’t be bothered and do the hours anyway. It is just one of the many things that is affecting police morale.”

Officers are required to prepare evidence to give to the Crown Prosecution Service on the same day as an arrest, often requiring overtime, he said.

A key change has been changing payments from double time to time-and-a-half if a rest day has been cancelled with less than five days notice, he added.

In 2009/10 the officer overtime spend was £1.2m for 816 claims and this was £1.2m for 819 claims in 2010/11. For civilian staff, the spend was £89,774 for 134 claims and £79,250 for 114 claims in these two years.