'˜Public at risk' over insufficient Police Scotland staffing levels

The union representing civilian police workers has claimed the public are being put at risk by insufficient staffing levels.

Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable of Police Scotland. Picture: John Devlin

Unison, which speaks on behalf of staff who are not police officers, said it was “deeply unhappy” about resourcing with Police Scotland.

Last week Police Scotland officers received a 6.5 per cent pay award, but Unison said increases for its members were being “inhibited by a budget that favours the uniformed officer over the employee”.

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Hundreds of civilian staff were made redundant when Scotland’s eight regional police forces were merged in 2013 to form Police Scotland, with police officers moved into “back office” roles as cover. In an update to the Scottish Parliament’s justice sub-committee on policing, which meets tomorrow, Unison said its members had suffered as Police Scotland attempts to cut its budget deficit.

It said: “We are deeply unhappy with the resourcing of Police Scotland. It has been inadequate and both the public and our members have suffered. This lack of resourcing has been compounded by poor decision-making. It is the view of many Police Scotland staff that it is they who are paying for the deficit reduction plan currently being implemented. Policing comes at a cost and we never want that cost to be human life.”

It was announced last week that police officers would receive their biggest pay rise in more than 20 years, the equivalent of an additional £6,000 over the next two-and-a-half years for a mid-grade constable.

There are more than 5,500 members of police staff in Scotland, working in role such as call handlers, administrators and analysts.

Unison said: “Despite its infancy, Police Scotland has been encumbered with a history of poor choices and budgetary decisions from legacy forces.

“The bulk of these have been borne by Police Scotland staff and there is little in indications around funding that this situation is likely to change.

“The largest proportion of Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority budget goes to the salaries of officers and staff.

“Whereas officers pay and terms are agreed nationally, staff have remained on their legacy force or interim terms and conditions for nearly six years. The staff pay and reward modernisation programme which seeks to address this is inhibited by a budget that favours the uniformed officer over the employee.”

Deputy Chief Officer David Page, the force’s most senior civilian, said the service’s long-term strategy would seek to address how it invests in both officers and staff.

He said: “We recognise, and share, the view that modernisation of pay and conditions is of central importance to the workforce, and significant progress has been made through negotiations to progress the staff pay and reward modersation project to conclusion.

“As this matter is ongoing it is not appropriate for the service to comment on specifics, however, Police Scotland has worked hard to ensure that any negotiated offer is competitive, allowing us to continue to recruit and retain skilled staff across Scotland.

“Over and above the staff pay and reward modernisation project is our ten-year strategy, Serving a Changing Scotland, which sets out our vision to meet the projected needs of our communities, and to enable the police service to become operationally and financially sustainable.”