Fears for public safety as Central police to axe one in four officers
CENTRAL Police has become the latest force to introduce swingeing cuts with plans to axe almost a quarter of officers.
The joint police board has approved plans for a reduction of 194 officers and 180 support staff – almost half of its civilian employees – over four years.
It follows news yesterday that Strathclyde Police Force plans to cut 200 officers and 600 civilians while Pat Shearer, chief constable of Dumfries and Galloway, admitted 62 officers and 138 civilians will have to go.
Scottish forces are facing budget cuts of up to 25 per cent over four years, although the full extent will not be known until after the UK and Scottish governments’ spending reviews.
The proportion of officer cuts planned by Central has shocked police unions.
Les Gray, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “It is the public that is going to suffer as a result of these cuts.
“It is the public that is going to be left unprotected. The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens. They say times are tough, they’re tougher still when you are a victim of crime.”
David O’Connor, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps), said: “I know we have to balance our books, but the amount of experience we are going to lose in the short term could be a false economy. We may end up having to buy it back at a greater cost.”
Police officers cannot be made redundant and Central has admitted it will struggle to lose 194 over four years through natural wastage – retirements and people leaving the force for jobs elsewhere.
At present it loses 30 officers a year this way, but this is expected to fall to 25 in 2012/13, and could drop further because of the state of the job market.
As a result, it is considering imposing Regulation A19 of the Police Pensions Regulation Act 1987, where officers with more than 30 years experience can be forced to retire if it is in the interests of the efficiency of the force. Strathclyde and Lothian and Borders police are also considering imposing Regulation A19.
Kevin Smith, chief constable of Central, said in his report: “The budget process has been marked, nationally, by laudable aspirations of achieving these significant cuts whilst protecting frontline services.
“Clearly, however, there has to be an honest, professional appraisal of the reality that we face. If the cuts are as deep as now anticipated, there will be a significant impact on service delivery as we currently know it.”
He also highlighted the impact of the NHS being ringfenced and protected from public sector cuts. It is estimated that including the health service would reduce the size of the cuts faced by police from 25 per cent to 16 per cent, over four years.
Mr Smith said: “All things being equal, the extent of reductions in other public services would be less severe if the NHS is not protected.”
Mr O’Connor and Councillor Martin Greig, convener of Grampian Joint Police Board, are among those who have said the NHS should not be protected.
Among savings planned by Central Police, are £65,000 through reductions of conferences and training, £50,000 on uniforms, £15,000 on laundry, £10,000 on postage, £30,000 on legal advice, and £50,000 through withdrawing the subsidy from the force canteen.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The recruitment of more than 1,000 additional police officers has been a real achievement by this government. We have provided forces with additional resources to maintain these record high numbers and we fully expect that to continue to be delivered.”
How The Scotsman reported Strathclyde Police’s cuts yesterday