Police Scotland expect to reduce service levels as a result of more Scottish Government cuts

By Bill Heaney

When was the last time you saw two policemen patrolling Dumbarton High Street together?

Or looked on in dismay as you witnessed a police car or van leaving their Crosslet headquarters with blue lights flashing and sirens screaming, crossing the busy Boulevard and jumping the traffic lights before travelling at high speed down Roundriding Road towards the town centre?

The police must know, surely, that the schools empty out of pupils around three o’clock, but on they travel at speed towards the centre where nothing more serious may have happened than a fight outside a pub or someone has stolen a packet of sausages from a supermarket.

This kind of thing is also happening when councils are reducing the number of crossing patrols – lollipop people – because of SNP government cuts.

Why are the police so short of officers on the ground in places such as Helensburgh where only one officer was left one one occasion to cover that part of Argyll while others attended an incident in Balloch?

Today’s Scottish Police Authority meeting and board papers give a warning that the funding allocation provided by the Scottish Government will mean reducing the police workforce.

And that there will be a recruitment pause and reduction of levels of service provided to the public.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, who was today critical of the way the police are being forced to operate, said:  “This is very real evidence that Police Scotland is having to make plans to do less going forward as a result of the Scottish Government’s budget decisions.

“As well as the additional stress and burden this will place on officers, the public will not forgive the government if this means fewer crimes are responded to.

“The police service is between a rock and a hard place. They are being forced to make terrible choices because the Scottish Government have expected them to do so much with so little for so long.

“The Scottish Government must support the police service. That means resourcing the service properly and placing the welfare and voices of officers and communities at the centre of decisions about the future.”    

Meanwhile, it looks as though the rank and file police themselves are not buying the excuses from the politicians.

They have been urged to refuse calls to go into work when off-duty amid a protest over a pay dispute with the Scottish Government. The body that represents rank-and-file officers have demanded a “fair and justifiable” pay rise of 8.5 per cent.

Officers cannot legally strike or take any form of industrial action and made the pay increase request a few months ago but have yet to get a response from the SNP executive. They have now been urged to work-to-rule in a bid to force discussions about their wages.

Officers have been urged not to report for duty when they have time off, not working when they feel ill and not to accept anything less than regulatory entitlement. The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has claimed that the pay demand has come at a time when the force is “stretched beyond the limit”.

Off-duty officers staged a protest outside Thursday’s meeting of the Scottish Police Authority as they demanded that talks about their wage rise are pushed forward.

Chairman of the SPF David Threadgold claimed he knew of one officer who should have had 60 days off in the first 30 week of the year, but had 24 days off disrupted where they had to work instead.

The following extract is from a report to the SPA Board by Deputy Chief Constable Designate, Fiona Taylor (right) :


By Fiona Taylor, DCC designate

As consistently stated, the funding allocation provided by the Scottish Government represents a real terms reduction and does not allow policing in Scotland to maintain our workforce at the levels of previous years and at the same time make a fair pay award in 2023-24.

Hard choices are being taken to maintain effective policing within the funding available and action is being taken to achieve savings. Areas which encounter the greatest demand and which carry the greatest risk in keeping people safe, are being prioritised for resources, to ensure policing continues to address harm and protect the vulnerable. As part of this urgent action, as of Wednesday 9 August we have paused police staff recruitment other than for reform or externally funded posts; roles based in our Contact, Command and Control (C3) Division or Resource Deployment Unit; Police Custody and Security Officers; and Public Inquiry and Support Assistants. Recruitment of Probationary Constables will continue and our commitment to no compulsory redundancies for police staff remains.

The Policing Our Communities programme led by Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham KPM and Deputy Chief Officer David Page (left).

Police Scotland’s budgeted officer establishment has reduced from 17,234 to 16,600 and we are building a service model which reflects that number. At the same time, we will reduce police staff costs in proportion to the reduction in officer numbers and reduce overtime spending. Work is being co-ordinated under the Policing Our Communities programme led by Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham KPM and Deputy Chief Officer David Page. This work will shape our Service and define core policing, seek to reduce demand and increase capacity, and accelerate change which provides benefits to operational policing, including the ongoing transformation of our estate.

We will also review support services and command structures. The safety and welfare of our officers and staff is a key consideration and it would not be right to ask fewer people to deliver the same level of service. What we do may take longer or may need to be done differently, and the levels of service we provide to the public relating to some issues will inevitably reduce.

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