Police body searches for new finance boss amid funding '˜crisis'

The body charged with managing Police Scotland's £1 billion annual budget has begun the search for a new chief financial officer just days after being heavily criticised for its 'weak leadership'.

Police Scotland is projected to face a budget gap of 200 million pounds by 2020-21. Picture: John Devlin

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is looking for someone to “streamline and transform” its financial management as part of a post which will command at salary of up to £115,000.

Last week Auditor General Caroline Gardner delivered a scathing assessment of the SPA, telling MSPs there had been “unacceptable” levels of financial leadership in the first three years of Police Scotland.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The national police force, which is tasked with making cumulative savings worth £1.1bn by 2026, is now projected to face a budget gap of £200 million by 2020-21.

The chief financial officer position will see the SPA and Police Scotland merge their two existing financial director roles into one.

Previously, Police Scotland was served by interim chief financial officer James Gray, on secondment from accountancy firm PwC, while Karen Kelly of Glennifer Solutions held the same role at the SPA until December.

In a statement, the SPA said: “The new role will provide both the SPA board and Police Scotland leadership teams with a single point of strategic advice on financial matters. It will also reduce the risk of conflicting priorities, duplication and bureaucracy impacting on the effectiveness of the finance function in shaping a more effective and efficient policing organisation. Once implemented, the merged role will also contribute significant savings.”

Following Ms Gardner’s evidence to Holyrood’s audit committee last week, SNP MSP Alex Neil, a member of the committee, described the SPA as in “crisis”. The committee has now called on John Foley, the SPA chief executive, and Chief Constable Phil Gormley to appear before it to explain the “financial mess”.

Ms Gardner raised a series of concerns during her appearance in front of MSPs, including transparency within the SPA.

The organisation was heavily criticised in December when it took a decision to hold the majority of its meetings – including its finance and investment committee – in private.

Speaking yesterday, Ms Gardner said: “My primary concern is the quality of the financial leadership and management across the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland.

“The successful recruitment of appropriate finance staff, including a permanent chief financial officer, is therefore key to securing improvement in those areas and I welcome that this is now under way.”