Police Scotland must save £11m in coming financial year warns finance chief

Janet Murray

Police Scotland will need to find £11 million in funding to break even in the coming financial year its finance chief has warned.

The single force must save the extra £11m for the 2015-16 financial year, having already found £46.5m of the £57.5m it needs.

However, for the third year running, it will ask the Scottish Police Authority, its ruling board, to give its support to an unbalanced budget for the coming year.

Janet Murray, director of finance at Police Scotland attributed the difficulty in finding the savings to the SNP’s commitment to maintaining the number of officers.

In a draft budget she mentioned difficult choices in the year ahead.

She said: “The delivery and timing of such cost reductions represents a considerable challenge to the authority and Police Scotland in terms of the options available for service delivery.

“Any such proposals will therefore require significant effort, political willingness and support and appetite for change.”

The £11m savings the police need to find represent about one per cent of the force’s total budget of £1 billion.

Police Scotland is reducing its wage bill for civilian workers with a large slice of the savings already earmarked as a result of early retirements and voluntary redundancies.

However, officers who leave must be replaced which means the force’s biggest outlay is protected from cuts.

Chief superintendent Niven Rennie, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents criticised the Scottish government’s policy of maintaining officer numbers.

He said: “I am at a loss to suggest what they might want to cut; they have already cut to the bone.

“The government have set a figure of 17234 for police officers but it is very hard to square their budget with that figure. If you want that many cops, you must provide the budget to go with it.

“They have already cut the car fleet - we have heard of an officer trying to go by bus to a call.

“They have cut admin and they are letting civilian workers go - meaning some of their jobs have to be backfilled by police.”

The SPA has passed two unbalanced budgets previously – each time the force was able to make the necessary savings “in year”.

But Amy McDonald, SPA’s director of financial accountability, said this financial year would be more difficult.

She wrote: “Much of the duplication from having nine individual police organisations has already been removed, and the efficiencies of having combined functions have been realised.

“Achieving a balanced budget in the 2015/16 year is therefore a considerably more difficult and stretching target.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Clearly, it is for SPA and Police Scotland to determine the best possible use of the budget according to national and local priorities and one of the benefits of police reform is that all parts of Scotland now have access to specialist equipment and expertise whenever and wherever it is needed.”

Savings already determined for the coming financial year include a reduction in rent allowance of £1m for officers as the benefit is wound down and a fall of £1m in fuel costs as prices decline.

But the majority of savings will come from continued rationalisation by the single force – which includes £4m saved through closing excess buildings.

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