Second-hand car sales help fund Police Scotland

Scotland's cash-strapped national police force is using the sale of vehicles and surplus property to help fund its activities after seeing its capital budget slashed.

Sales of police vehicles contribute to the new forces capital budget which has fallen to £22 million. Picture: John Devlin

Figures presented to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) yesterday show Police Scotland’s capital funding from the Scottish Government has fallen from £40 million in 2015/16 to £22m this year.

Under an agreement reached with ministers, the force will this year hold on to £5.8m raised from the sale of property and vehicles, which will fund expenditure.

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Police Scotland said the agreement was standard practice and had been in place since the inception of the national force. But staff associations said the measure was needed because of the huge squeeze on police finances.

Police Scotland, which has an annual revenue budget of around £1 billion, must find savings totalling £1.1bn by 2026. The smaller capital budget is used to fund key areas such as IT, vehicles, forensics and its building estate.

The capital budget of £22m for 2016/17 is made up of a £16.2m grant from the government and the retention of capital receipts totalling £5.8m.

A report presented to the SPA yesterday details how “slippage” last year means that at least £2m of this year’s capital budget is already accounted for and will be used for improvements to the vehicle fleet and a solicitor consultation room.

However, the report notes that fleet expenditure will be “curtailed” and restricted to replacements for “accident write offs”.

Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said Police Scotland faced “drastic” choices about ageing buildings and overused police vehicles.

He said: “The buildings and the IT infrastructure across the police service is in a shocking state of repair, arguably neglected under the watch of the previous forces.

“It’s unfair in the extreme to expect the new police service to rectify the failures of others with a significantly reduced capital budget.”

Niven Rennie, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, added: “One of our major issues is the estate that Police Scotland has inherited. A lot of its is crumbling.

“There needs to be major investment. I’ve been saying for some time that the fixation on police officer numbers left little money to attend to the other issues, especially when the capital budget is being cut.

“They have to find some way of improving the infrastructure. If retaining capital receipts is a way of doing that, then that’s to be welcomed.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman confirmed an agreement reached with the SPA and Police Scotland meant capital receipts could be retained until the end of 2018/19.

Chief Superintendent Billy Gordon, of Police Scotland, said: “Police Scotland continues to review its estate as part of its wider estates strategy.

“Making the best use of our buildings is an ongoing process as we create a sustainable operating model for our service. We provide regular updates on our estate and estates strategy to the SPA for their approval.”