Edinburgh set to axe funding for extra police

Edinburgh currently pays �2.1m towards policing costs, the highest local authority figure in Scotland. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Edinburgh currently pays �2.1m towards policing costs, the highest local authority figure in Scotland. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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Edinburgh’s ruling coalition is preparing to withdraw all council funding for extra police officers in the capital.

The controversial move to end the annual £2.1 million contribution to Police Scotland is one of the cuts expected to be made by the SNP-Labour administration as it searches for savings to make ends meet next year.

The plan to axe the funding – which pays for additional community-based officers – has been floated before and rejected – although the council’s policing contribution was reduced by £500,000 last year.

But it is understood the promise by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to recruit extra police in England, which means extra funding coming to Scotland, has encouraged council chiefs to believe Police Scotland will be receiving a budget boost and the council could now reasonably withdraw its financial input.

One source said: “It looks as if it’s going ahead this time.

“The only argument is whether to remove it all in 2020-21 or whether to cut £1.6m in 2020-21 and the remaining £500,000 the following year.”

Edinburgh contributes more to policing costs than any other local authority in Scotland and many councils have already pulled such funding altogether.

During last year’s search for budget reductions in the city, council officials put forward an option for a two-year withdrawal of funding which they said would “reflect the general trend across Scotland” and “be consistent with the principle that Police Scotland is the responsibility of central government”.

But the administration ruled out scrapping the contribution completely and opted instead for the £500,000 cut. The source said: “The SNP in particular was always reluctant to withdraw the funding.

“What has changed now is that Boris Johnson is going to spend extra money on police officers in England, so money will come to Scotland as part of the Barnett consequentials and politically the Scottish Government will be forced to pass it on in its entirety to Police Scotland, so the feeling is this is the time to cut our money.”

The £2.6m which Edinburgh previously gave to Police Scotland was to fund 54 additional community-based officers.

But Leith Labour councillor Gordon Munro, a long-standing critic of the council funding of the police, said he did not believe withdrawing the contribution would affect policing level.

He said: “This is a high-tariff cost we cannot afford. The position I have been advocating for several years is one that has to be taken. I think there is no option.”