Police Scotland watchdog confident savings are ‘in the bag’

Philip Gormley, Andrew Flanagan and John Foley gave evidence to MSPs yesterday. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Philip Gormley, Andrew Flanagan and John Foley gave evidence to MSPs yesterday. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
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The police watchdog has assured MSPs that Scotland’s national force is on track to make savings of £1.1 billion despite a scathing report from auditors.

An Audit Scotland report published in December warned policing in Scotland could face a funding gap of almost £85 million by 2018-19.

It also reported incomplete records and poor financial management had delayed the audit of the accounts, while “substantial corrections” were needed before completion.

Appearing before the Scottish Parliament’s public audit committee yesterday, officials from the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) said work was under way to address the concerns.

A previous report by the Auditor General recommended that, by the end of March 2014, the SPA and Police Scotland develop a long-term financial strategy.

The latest report noted the SPA still does not have a long-term strategy in place and progress towards developing one has been slow.

SPA chairman Andrew Flanagan, a chartered accountant who was appointed to the role in September, told MSPs: “I have never before received such a serious audit report.

“It is important for me to say that I fully accept the recommendations of the auditor and these will be implemented.

“I do not expect such a report to be repeated and I will do everything necessary to ensure that it is not.”

Mr Flanagan said a long-term strategy would be developed by the end of March, adding he had seen nothing to suggest savings of £1.1bn by 2026 were “unattainable”.

John Foley, SPA chief executive, agreed he was “absolutely confident that will be the case”, adding 85 per cent of the savings are already “in the bag”.

Meanwhile, Police Scotland’s new chief constable, Philip Gormley, said he would work with the SPA. The pledge came after tensions between his predecessor Sir Stephen House and the SPA were raised by the committee.

Mr Gormley, who took on the role of chief constable last month, said: “My approach will be to work collaboratively and in a complementary manner to the police authority.

“In my experience, that is the only way we are going to generate light rather than heat, and I have no view about the past. My approach will be to work in a entirely collaborative manner with the authority, recognising that we have different responsibilities.”