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Police Scotland needs ‘substantial above-inflation increase in funding’ to maintain police stations, cars and IT

Police Scotland officers and motorbike - Image credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Archive/PA Images

Police Scotland needs ‘substantial above-inflation increase in funding’ to maintain police stations, cars and IT

A “substantial above-inflation increase in funding” for the police estate is “sorely needed”, a Holyrood Committee has concluded.

A pre-budget report from MSPs on the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing looking at police capital spending – funding for equipment and premises – found it was insufficient to allow officers to operate efficiently.

The shortfall affects Police Scotland’s ability to maintain police stations and replace or upgrade other equipment such as cars and IT systems.

Police Scotland has one of the lowest capital spends per employee among police forces across the UK.

In evidence to the committee Police Scotland the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) said an increased budget was needed because of a “historic under-investment in policing”.

The police capital budget allocation increased by 3.7 per cent from £41.6m to £43.1m between 2018-19 to 2019-20, but the SPA and Police Scotland say the allocation for 2019-20 represents less than half – 43 per cent – of what is needed.

In a joint written submission to the Sub-Committee, Police Scotland and the SPA estimated that the police service required £99.3m in 2019-20, instead of the allocated £43.1m – a shortfall of £56.2m.

Concerns were raised in evidence to the committee that the lack of funding for building maintenance could compromise health and safety, while the ability to replace vehicles as they aged and keep up to date with technology was also affected.

Calum Steele from the Scottish Police Federation told the committee that insufficient funding impacted on everything from replacing uniforms to “provision of fleet, buildings, estate and other infrastructure”.

Chief Superintendent Ivor Marshall from the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents warned that officers “left working with sub-optimal equipment in sub-optimal conditions” would not be as productive or effective.

A key conclusion from the report, which will form an annexe to the main Justice Committee’s pre-budget report to the Scottish Government, was that the current budget for the police estate is insufficient.

However, the committee also underlined that there must be oversight to ensure money was spent effectively, particularly on ICT, and warned that spending on new technology should not be prioritised over basic equipment and software.

The MSPs also noted that they did not see the rationale in plans to save money by reducing police officer numbers by 400 after Brexit, since the ‘reserve force’ created for this purpose was already being routinely used.

Speaking as the report was launched, sub-committee convener John Finnie said: “The capital budget for police stations and cars is insufficient, and the sub-committee is clear that a substantial above-inflation increase in funding for the police estate is sorely needed.

“Conditions and equipment are too often dilapidated. This doesn’t help the police in keeping people, or indeed themselves, safe.

“That said, we also want to ensure money is spent wisely and in the best interests of the public and police.

“We have a number of questions for the police authority and the police themselves about the basis of their spending decisions. We want to see money spent on the right priorities.”

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