Fears for pub­lic safety as Cen­tral po­lice to axe one in four of­fi­cers

The Scotsman - - Features - garetH rOSe home af­fairs cor­re­spon­dent

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

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