Derbyshire police are looking for an army of volunteers to wash their cars, put up posters and complete their paperwork.
But readers and volunteer leaders have hit out at the scheme, claiming organisations are using helpers to do work that should be paid – in order to make savings on their operating costs.
Police want volunteers to carry out administration tasks and are launching the scheme this month.
Volunteers will be asked to take messages, arrange meetings, take minutes and update computer records.
Others will help by distributing leaflets, putting up posters, washing cars or doing other manual tasks which would previously have been paid.
All volunteers must be at least 18, will undergo an interview and be asked to provide references. They will have their backgrounds checked and be expected to maintain high standards of conduct at all times.
Kris Ambler, of Advice Derbyshire said: “Volunteering should never be used as an alternative for paid employment. The route to economic recovery is in creating good, sustainable jobs, and not in boosting numbers of volunteers.
“It is particularly disheartening to hear of public sector organisations seeking to use volunteers to perform roles that either were or should be paid – in the name of making savings.”
David Radford of Chesterfield Volunteer Centre added: “More organisations are looking towards volunteers to fill roles. Volunteers are not free labour or a way to make things run cheaper. That would be an abuse of someone’s time.”
The scheme sparked a debate on the Derbyshire Times Facebook site.
Candy Marie Mitchell said: “Police cut back on staff and now need people to do these jobs for free.”
Shonagh Staten added: “It does seem to be the case that jobs are being cut, volunteers are being enlisted and then people that do that voluntary work are being told they have “no worth” because they aren’t contributing to the UK’s finances.”
Jayne Saxton said: “Reduced funding has meant many job losses especially for police staff and it’s a disgrace.”
But Hannah Elizabeth Treweek added: “I think more people should be more willing to do things to improve their own life skills and job prospects rather then sit around and wait for it to happen. Derbyshire police do us a service by keeping our neighbourhoods safe.”
Assistant chief constable Dee Collins said the volunteering roles will help officers spend more time on the streets.
She added: “We recognise that there are many community-spirited people who have the spare time, skills and dedication to offer their services voluntarily.
“Volunteers will be paid expenses but no salary.
“The roles the volunteers will take up are not jobs which have previously been filled by paid employees.”