Mention recently about the billions of pounds wasted with tax credits & the news that millions of people now have to pay back around £4 billion in overpayments, reminded me of my earliest days in the job.
After leaving training school for my first nick, I was posted to one of the major towns in the area. In those days, the job had to provide either free accommodation or a rent allowance if you had your own place. The accommodation usually consisted of a police house – we had them in every community once – or a section house/hostel where single officers lived in shared facilities.
I got to lodge with a lady who worked at the police station & rented out a spare room to new probationers. For this I received a monthly rent allowance which covered the rent I paid to my landlady.
I used to walk to work from my digs as I didn’t have my own transport.
After some months I moved into the joint facilities & my rent allowance was no longer due since the shared accommodation was provided free of charge. It comes from the days when they had to give police officers lots of financial benefits as the wages were considered to be quite poor. (these have all been taken away over the years).
I duly notified the pay office at HQ that I was now in the free accommodation & they’d need to stop my rent allowance. I was quite surprised when they paid it to me the next month. I advised them again in writing & by telephone, but they paid it for several months before stopping it & notifying me I’d need to pay it back.
I didn’t have a problem with paying the money back, even though I hadn’t asked for it & had actively told them to stop sending it, after all, the money wasn’t mine. However, being young, free & single I had, of course, spent every penny of it. So I wrote to the pay office & requested that, as it would cause some financial hardship if they took it back in one go (it was about a month’s salary) & it was their cock-up, could they take it back at the same rate they gave it, i.e. in instalments. ‘Of course’, they said.
It should really have been no surprise when they took the whole lot out of my next month’s salary leaving me with 3 sheckles & a couple of groats to live on for the whole month. Happy days.