'Badly bruised' SPA boss fails to win watchdog backing

The head of a police watchdog has failed to give his backing to the embattled chief executive of the Scottish Police Authority.

The SPA manages Police Scotland's 1.1bn budget
The SPA manages Police Scotland's 1.1bn budget

John Foley, the head of the SPA, is facing calls for his resignation following the publication of a report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) which raised concerns about his leadership of the organisation and described key relationships as “dysfunctional”.

Appearing before MSPs on Holyrood’s justice sub-committee on policing, Derek Penman, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, was asked if he had confidence in Mr Foley.

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He replied: “My position around the chief executive is that there needs to be an effective relationship with the chair and they need to have the skill set that’s necessary for moving on policing in the new structures.

“I would hope that the recommendation that we have put in place which is to look at the executive structures within the SPA will also look at what skill sets and things are required from that and determine what the best mix of team and staff would be.”

Mr Penman said that in fairness to the chief executive, he is “very busy” and “spread very thinly” as a result of staffing issues.

He earlier told Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell he does not think Mr Foley and outgoing chairman Andrew Flanagan had worked well together.

Mr Flanagan announced his resignation last week in advance of the HMICS report.

Speaking at the SPA’s monthly public board meeting in Edinburgh yesterday, Mr Foley said staff morale had been badly hit by the HMICS report.

He said: “Morale has been damaged. I had a number of representations from members of staff in that respect.

“The issue appears to be that the report was leaked, which gave rise to information entering into the public arena before HMICS had the opportunity to explain further the content.

“One of the main issues appears to be around the use of the word ‘capacity’. It would appear that’s been picked up as a lack of ability as opposed to capacity being broader and having sufficient capacity to address things.”

He added: “The staff are feeling very bruised in relation to that.”

SPA board member Nicola Marchant has been tasked with carrying out a review of the board’s function, which will report back to the Scottish Government in three to four months.