New Police Scotland chief warns of continued cutbacks

Police Scotland’s new chief constable was warned his force must continue to make savings as he took up his new post yesterday.

Police Scotland’s new chief constable was warned his force must continue to make savings as he took up his new post yesterday.

Phil Gormley was sworn in at the police college in Tulliallan, Perthshire, to succeed Sir Stephen House, who retired in December.

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Mr Gormley assumed office as justice secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs further cuts had to be made, despite extra money being provided for frontline policing and counter-terrorism. Police Scotland must save £1.1 billion by 2026 and faces a £25 million shortfall by the end of the financial year.

But Mr Matheson said “there is still scope for efficiencies to be found” at Police Scotland, in evidence to Holyrood’s justice committee.

Asked by SNP MSP Gil Paterson whether the force was “off the hook” following extra funding for the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), Mr Matheson said: “There is still a requirement to make further savings and efficiencies within the organisation. This isn’t a departure from recognising that they need to continue to achieve these savings effectively, but what it does do is provide them with the level of resource which I believe will assist them to continue to take forward the work that they are undertaking.”

Mr Paterson said: “We have heard that the pips are beginning to squeak. Is there an expectation from the government that this can be achieved?”

Mr Matheson said: “We have heard from the evidence already that there is still scope for efficiencies to be found. There is no doubt that when you bring together eight legacy forces that there are always going to be significant areas of overlap where efficiencies can be gained, and I don’t think they have all been realised as yet.

“There are still areas of bureaucracy which I think could be alleviated, and there are areas where further gains can be maintained.”

Speaking after being sworn in, the chief constable said his force faced a “challenging financial environment”.

He said: “Much has been achieved in the first few years of Police Scotland but there is still more to be done, and I recognise the importance the public and partners place on the level of service we provide.

“There is no doubt we are in a challenging financial environment – despite the savings already made, it is my responsibility working with colleagues to deliver the best service possible with the available resources. This will require difficult decisions but I am determined that we will develop a service the public trust and have confidence in and which our officers and staff are proud to provide.”

He added: “It will be vital we work closely with all our partners to ensure that we make the best possible use of public resources to provide the service and protection that the people and communities of Scotland have a right to expect.”