Local authorities given 'absolutely hee-haw' resources as part of community justice shake-up
Government proposals to overhaul the delivery of community justice offer “absolutely hee-haw” in the way of resource for local authorities to fufil the new responsibilities, a Holyrood committee has heard.
Councillor Peter McNamara, who chairs a group which brings together convenors of Scotland’s eight Community Justice Authorities (CJAs), told MSPs on the Justice Committee that the shake-up was insufficiently resourced.
The Scottish Government last night said that three years of transition funding would be made available and committed to an ongoing review of whether extra resources would be required.
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The Community Justice (Scotland) Bill, introduced by ministers before summer recess, will see Scotland’s eight community justice authorities abolished in favour of more local arrangements.
The proposed legislation also seeks to establish a new national body – Community Justice Scotland (CJS) – to oversee community justice.
Delivering evidence before the committee, Councillor McNamara - who, as well as being chair of the National Community Justice Convenors Group, is also convenor of South West Scotland CJA - said the changes provide a “real opportunity” for the involvement of local people.
“But when you shift the justice agenda on to the community planning partnership there is a resource issue,” he added.
“And what the bill states quite clearly is that there is £2million available for a national body but there is absolutely hee-haw available for local authorities.
“If we want it to work we have to resource it properly and we can’t simply leave it to the likes of officers to get on with it. If we are serious about reducing reoffending which has an impact on our community then we should resource it properly.
“And if we resource it properly there will be a consequence of a reduced number of people in prison, a reduced public purse and we could reinforce what happens in the community with any of the savings that we make.”
It is not the first time concerns have been raised about resources that have been allocated under the bill.
Last month, Holyrood reported Police Scotland concerns that the “vague” government proposals are likely to place a significant “burden” on the single force.
Ministers have committed to monitoring the transition period following the shift away from CJAs before coming to a view on what, if any, continued resource is required to support the new model.
A government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government is providing £1.6million funding per annum to local authorities for three years to support community planning partners’ transition to the new model.
“This transitional funding is in addition to the £95million per annum which we provide to local authorities to fund Criminal Justice Social Work, and which has been protected, year-on-year, in the face of significant cuts from the UK Government.
“This Bill supports our work to reduce reoffending by, amongst other things, strengthening and promoting the use of community-based alternatives to custody.
“We have worked closely with our partners to develop this model, including COSLA, and we believe it provides the best approach to community justice in Scotland. We look forward to hearing the constructive views of others as the Bill goes through Parliament.”