Police Scotland’s budget this year was hit by a £15m black hole due to the impact of Covid-19 on income for the force and due to the cost of PPE, MSPs were told.
In total, the policing budget was hit by £7m worth of pressure due to Covid-19, including £8m in lost income from not policing events such as football matches, music concerts, and other large sporting and cultural events.
The force’s chief financial officer, James Gray, who was giving evidence to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing in Holyrood this morning, said further pressure on local government and public bodies would see income from them drop even further, despite an £11m reduction in recent years.
Charges for the police attending airports have also been reduced for this year due to the drop in passenger footfall, an income stream worth more than £5m to the police.
The cost of PPE has also seen costs for the police skyrocket, with PPE procurement contributing to the £7m pressure on the police’s budget.
Mr Gray said: "Given the footfall in passenger numbers into the main airports has been so low we have, with the agreement of the Scottish Government, reduced those charges in the current year to reflect the fact that Edinburgh Airport for example would expect to have had 1.2 million passengers and had 5,000 go through.”
The finance chief added that the predictions made about how Covid-19 would impact the police budget had “understated” the full extent of its impact.
Mr Gray added that the 2021/22 budget would face similar uncertainties and would come with additional pressures as public bodies look to reduce spending.
He said: “We made assumptions in March which we thought were quite severe – we forecasted 20 per cent reduction in income – and that turned out to be understating it as we went through the summer and saw the actual impact of lockdown and the knock-on impact on events which continues to be an issue and will be for months to come.
"Looking forward to next year with the knock-on impact on other public bodies as was mentioned earlier, the income we rely on from local authorities and other public sector bodies which has been decreasing over a number of years and has already decreased by £11m, we would anticipate that that may accelerate in 2021/22 as other public sector bodies have to pull back to their core activities.
"It’s hard to actually quantify what that impact might be at the moment on next year’s income budget but it will be significant.”
Police Scotland’s deputy chief officer David Page added that the police were in need of more funding to allow for further reductions in the workforce after Mr Gray branded the current situation – where around 85 per cent of the policing budget is taken up by salaries – was “unsustainable”.
Mr Page said increased investment in the non-pay side of the police budget would allow for more focus on technological solutions to modern day policing.
He said it would help pay for a switch from petrol and diesel police cars and vans to electric models, and pay for the much needed repair and maintenance of the police’s buildings estate.
Mr Gray said such investment would see savings “in the medium term” but would not bring forward any immediate savings.