Police Scotland to absorb most civilian staff

POLICE Scotland Chief Constable Stephen House will have authority over the vast majority of police staff, it has been confirmed.

Picture: Ian Rutherford
Picture: Ian Rutherford
Picture: Ian Rutherford

The force’s civilian watchdog will now refocus its efforts on the “not inconsiderable task” of holding “a very powerful chief constable” to account, according to a Scottish Police Authority (SPA) spokesman.

Police Scotland has also been told that it will receive no more government funding for its £45 million project to replace its outdated computer network.

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The Scottish Government had estimated that computer integration would cost £12 million in the first three years, although this has since been branded an underestimate.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill confirmed today that the chief constable has reached “an accord” with SPA chairman Vic Emery in the long running dispute over who should control human resources for police staff.

In a letter to Holyrood’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing today, Mr MacAskill said the SPA will continue to lead on long-term strategy, performance scrutiny, workforce policy, budget accountability, the national forensic service, independent custody visiting, complaints and senior appointments

He said: “Police Scotland will deliver support services including information communication technology (ICT), procurement, estates and fleet as part of its wider operational role.

“This marks the next step of a process to ensure the SPA has the sharpest focus on the strategic challenges ahead.”

An SPA spokesman said: “Police Scotland already has directors of HR and finance, and it may be that the residual HR and finance structures in SPA will also transfer over under those people where necessary.

‘Powerful’ chief constable

“The vast majority bar relatively small numbers will sit in Police Scotland.

“In the early phase some of the functions that traditionally sat with the old Scottish Police Services Authority like ICT had been kept under the SPA’s wing. We saw that as a low risk way with a minimum transfer of people.

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“Now, to focus on the not inconsiderable task of applying the appropriate checks and balances, challenges and support for what is a very powerful chief constable those functions for which you are providing a service to policing as well as governance should transfer over to police.

“This has been caricatured as a fight over turf but the board has always wanted to follow the legislation and guidance that we have been given. We are clear that this is a new direction for us.”

ICT integration has been described as the police’s number one priority amid claims it is like working with “chalk and slate”, still relies on outdated floppy discs, does not comply with police regulations and could leave police open to criticism if a prisoner dies in custody.

When asked if the government was going to give the police more money for IT at a press conference in Edinburgh today, Mr MacAskill said: “No. These matters are being worked out by Police Scotland and the SPA and they are confident that they can deliver. The police budget is capable of providing for that.”

The SPA has said it is confident that it can meet the cost of ICT integration from existing budget. Money could be found by selling off redundant buildings once used by the old eight forces, the SPA has said. A full business case will be presented to SPA members next week.

Mr MacAskill has written to Holyrood’s Justice Committee regarding the deal struck between Police Scotland and the SPA.

He added: “Obviously there have been discussions between the SPA and the chief constable. I am very grateful for the efforts of both.

“We have two outstanding leaders in Vic Emery and Sir Stephen House and I am glad that they have reached an accord.”