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Scotland could see “fundamental reduction” in policing

The Resource Spending Review published in May indicated that the SPA and Police Scotland should plan for a flat-cash settlement.

The SPA and Police Scotland have issued warnings over the impact of the government’s Resource Spending Review on operational policing.

They have said that initial analysis suggests savings of £200m - £300m would need to be made over the period of the five year spending review – equating to between £50m and £75m per year.

The savings will be needed to accommodate pay awards and absorb non-pay inflationary pressure.

The force has said they have already removed £200m from the annual cost base of policing through reductions in chief officer, senior officer and staff numbers as well as improved working practices.

The two policing bodies have warned in a paper submitted to the Criminal Justice Committee that since pay represents 86% of the revenue budget – the necessary savings would likely mean pay-freezes or reducing the workforce size. It may also mean further reductions to the policing estate.

“By way of illustration, a 1% pay rise across the organisation would cost approximately £11 m. £11m is the annual cost of employing 225 officers or staff,” the report to Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee said.”

Officer numbers would have to be cut by 4,500 if the force had to pay for 5% wages over the period up 2026-27.

It added that the RSR is calling for a reset across public services – for savings to be made through efficiencies and innovation.

“Policing in Scotland has reset," the paper read.

"Policing in Scotland has progressed much of the reform now being asked of the public sector as a whole and in doing so returned £200m annually to the public purse. Policing in Scotland is now on track to deliver total cumulative savings of over £2 billion by 2026 compared to legacy arrangements.

“Delivering similar levels of additional savings from this baseline while maintaining service is not possible through efficiencies.”

A flat-cash settlement could also result in a reduction in capacity for forensic services, with this having “wider negative outcomes for the criminal justice system”, the paper states,

It adds that maintaining all existing police buildings within a flat-cash settlement would also not be viable “necessitating further rationalisation of the estate”.

And the move towards ultra-low-emission vehicles “would stall” because “forecast funding would be insufficient to purchase the level of charging infrastructure required to support a fully electric fleet”.

The paper warns that the “outlook is extremely challenging and concerning” and is due to be discussed by MSPs on Wednesday.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “Our largely fixed budgets and limited fiscal powers means the UK Government needs to provide the Scottish Government with sufficient funding to support public services and the economy in these difficult times.

“We have already made difficult choices to support pay offers in 2022-23 and rightly so, as our police workforce deserve this.

“Despite UK Government austerity we have increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17 and have invested more than £10 billion in policing since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013.”

A Treasury spokesperson said: “The responsibility for funding public services is largely devolved across the UK, but we have provided the Scottish Government with a record £41 billion per year for the next three years – the highest spending review settlement since devolution.”

PSNI has similarly recently raised concerns over their budgetary pressures.

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