Police will need more money, warns senior officer

POLICE Scotland will need more money if it is to maintain the present record-high number of officers, the Scottish Government has been warned.

Chief Superintendent David O'Connor talks of a 'tipping point'. Picture: Jane Barlow

Chief Superintendent David O’Connor predicted the national force will reach “tipping point” next year.

The Association of Scottish Police Superintendent president claimed Chief Constable Sir Stephen House had been hamstrung by government policies such as no compulsory redundancies for civilians, protected terms and conditions for officers, savings targets of around £60 million a year, and 1,000 more officers on the beat than in 2007.

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Sir Stephen has previously admitted that he may struggle to maintain the 17,234 officer pledge in the next two financial years. But Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, has insisted it must be met.

Mr O’Connor said: “I’ve no doubt Police Scotland will make its financial savings this year.

“Next year, those challenges are going to be significant. There are only so many places where the chief constable can save money. There will come a tipping point where something will have to give.

“There has to be a discussion at a high level in terms of police funding.

“If they want to maintain police officer numbers, there will come a point in time where we will have to step forward and say, give us more money.

“Crime is at a 39-year low, public confidence is very high, and at this juncture I believe we should be putting a case forward to increase funding for police.”

Sir Stephen has spoken candidly about his concerns in meeting savings targets of £130m over the next two years.

In December, he said that the 1,000 extra officers had been “beneficial”, but admitted being able to keep them with his forecasted budget was “unlikely”.

He added: “This is not about money, it’s about a political choice. The government decides the budget the police get, not the police.”

However, the Police Scotland party line is a continuing commitment to the extra officers.

A spokesman for the force said: “Police Scotland remains committed to maintaining 17,234 police officers. We recognise the significant financial challenges we face.

“Work is ongoing on reducing the number of people in the organisation through voluntary redundancy and early retirement. There are no plans for any compulsory redundancies.

“The force is working to do all we can to reduce the costs of policing and identify savings across all areas of the business.”

The Scottish Police Authority, which controls the force’s purse strings, reiterated that pledge – for the foreseeable future.

Graham Houston, deputy chairman of the Scottish Police Authority, said: “The SPA accepted its budget in full knowledge of the 17,234 police officers pledge by the Scottish Government.

“There was never a question that this commitment would shift.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have made absolutely clear that we are committed to maintaining over 1,000 additional officers in Scotland compared to 2007.

“Latest statistics show that this government continues to keep its promise to protect police officer numbers at these levels.”