In a report presented to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) yesterday, Police Scotland admitted achieving planned savings of £57.5m for 2015-16 from its £1 billion budget were always likely to be “challenging”.
The force said there was a £6.8m overspend for the financial year to date, which is forecast to rise to £25.3m.
Police Scotland was formed from the country’s eight regional forces in 2013 with the aim of saving £1.1bn by 2026.
Between 2012-13 and 201-/15 more than £140m – more than the combined budgets of three legacy forces – was saved from the overall budget.
But appearing before the SPA yesterday in place of Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson said savings were getting “more difficult” to make.
Speaking after the meeting, he said: “We provided an update to the SPA board which highlighted a forecast budget deficit of £25m for the current financial year, which as we’ve previously said, was always identified as the most challenging for us.
“Our commitment to delivering effective and responsive policing to our communities is our priority, against a backdrop of having already achieved savings which are the equivalent of three legacy forces. Savings achieved in 2015-16 will bring that amount to the equivalent of the budgets of four legacy forces. We remain on track to deliver savings to the public purse of £1.1bn by 2026.”
The Police Scotland report said cost savings of £57.5m for the current financial year were “always acknowledged to be challenging”. It said a number of savings “will not fully deliver within the current financial year”.
Lib Dem justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: “Serious concerns were raised at the time of the creation of the single force regarding Police Scotland’s ability to make the savings that were projected. SNP ministers have always insisted that Police Scotland’s finances were on track despite evidence to the contrary.”
Labour MSP Graeme Pearson added: “After all the pain suffered by staff these past years, the growing budget gap reflects the absence of a fully-fleshed business case for reform from the start. The public need a viable police service.
“It is Michael Matheson’s duty to deliver one. We need his answer to this growing crisis.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “In previous years, Police Scotland and the SPA have successfully worked together to identify further savings and close any notional gaps, and savings targets were met in the first two years of reform.
“We will continue to work closely with both organisations to ensure policing in Scotland continues to perform effectively and efficiently.”