Fears over £190 million police funding black hole

Auditor general Caroline Gardner raises concerns over the financial situation at the Scottish Police authority

Auditor general Caroline Gardner raises concerns over the financial situation at the Scottish Police authority

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Scotland's police bodies have come under fire over weak financial leadership amid fears of a looming £190 million funding black hole by the end of the decade.

Public Spending watchdogs have branded the situation "unacceptable" at the Scottish Police Authority after issuing the third consecutive annual audit which questions body's control of its purse strings, this time for 2015/16.

It slams inaccurate records and says poor financial management led to another "challenging" annual audit, with significant corrections needed to the SPA's accounts.

The forecast overspend of £17.5 million for 2016/17 means that Police Scotland could be facing a cumulative deficit of £188.2 million by the end of the current Parliamentary term, today's audit finds. These projections include the Scottish Government's commitment to maintain a real terms increase in the policing budget for the duration of the current parliamentary session.

Auditor general Caroline Gardner said: "The Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland are among the largest and most important public bodies in the country. It's therefore unacceptable that I've had to report to the Parliament on weak financial leadership and management in all three years of their existence.

"Substantial improvement is required now to deliver the strong financial leadership, long-term planning and robust scrutiny that will be needed if policing in Scotland is to withstand the major challenges ahead."

The authority oversees the new national force, Police Scotland, which was founded three years ago, but has been beset by financial problems, including a £20 million reveue overspend in 2015/16 and a "failed" IT system which saw £19 million written off.

Audit Scotland says the accounts feature more detail on how reform funding from the Scottish Government has been used, but says the SPA needs to be more open about how it allocates funding to Police Scotland and what this is expected to achieve.

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