The savings imposed on Police Scotland are unsustainable and have led to fewer officers supporting communities, according to force personnel interviewed for a Scottish Government document.
Concerns that officers are suffering from “change fatigue” were also expressed in the Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform document.
The report outlined fears that Police Scotland will struggle to achieve a balanced budget in the next three years, and acknowledged that the force leadership lacked the skills and knowledge to merge eight regional forces into one.
It also suggested that centralisation after the merger has meant that divisional commanders do not have the decision-making or budget authority that equivalent individuals in other organisations enjoy.
The report said officers had experienced a lot of changes, including reductions in staff redeployments to specialist units and restructuring of beat areas. “This has led to some concern that the workforce are experiencing ‘change fatigue’,” the report said.
Others interviewed for the report suggested officers were “frustrated” that they were unable to help shape changes that are being introduced.
The report was based on interviews with 33 senior people across the police and fire services, as well as individuals in organisations that deal directly with the emergency services.
The report said: “Police Scotland interviewees highlighted the challenges in realising efficiencies. Several respondents suggested that the savings required were unsustainable.
“Partners also stated that savings that had been made had led to inefficiencies; for example, police officers are backfilling support staff roles, leading to officers being less available to support communities.”
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said: ““The SNP focus on cost savings above all has clearly undermined police capability and police officers are rightly concerned about their ability to do their jobs.”
Interim Chief Constable Iain Livingstone noted that the report had made some positive comments about progress.
He said: “We are determined to further develop a positive culture which protects the wellbeing of everyone working in Police Scotland and we continue to engage with the workforce.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said there had been a significant number of achievements in the first five years of reform.