BUDGET AND OTHER MATTERS
The tragedy of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris has focussed minds about the challenges we all face in our daily lives. The pressure placed on the police service and associated bodies in attempting to prevent such atrocities has been brought into sharp focus as has the need for the service, along with other first responders, to prepare for any eventuality. All of which costs money.
The media in England and Wales have tended to concentrate on the reduction in police officer numbers following the Paris attacks. As an outsider, this has been long overdue. Continued cuts to the police budget South of the border has brought about a massive reduction in officer numbers whilst the recent introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners has been identified as one reason for a reluctance on the part of politicians there to look to amalgamate forces to meet the financial challenge. The gradual intrusion of private security firms to fill the breach created by officer number reduction should be a source of concern for us all.
In Scotland, our budget considerations are at a crucial stage. I have just submitted an Association position on the subject to the Justice Committee for Policing at the Scottish Parliament. Our submission recognises the difficulty that the government face when allocating their budget and deciding on the priorities for the forthcoming period. We remain of the view that the public sector in Scotland has duplication and inefficiency in its system and further reform could bring with it savings and a redistribution of funds.
At the heart of our position, however, is an observation that the government’s commitment to 17,234 is hampering our ability to meet the financial challenges we face. To be clear, we do not advocate a reduction in police officer numbers. We don’t know if 17,234 is the number of officers Scotland requires to police effectively, we may need more, we may need less, but 17,234 is what we have based on the fact that this is 1000 more than we had on the day that the government made a commitment to extra officers in 2007. No science or planning went into that decision but it is one we remain tied to for political reasons.
The problem we have with the government position is the reduction in budget allied to the retention of officers. This has caused the service to allow valued staff members to leave and to look to reduce our spend elsewhere. As a result, staff costs now equate to over 92% of our total budget. With further cuts predicted it is becoming harder to provide a 21st century level of service. Already we have seen officers once again delivering citations and undertaking firearms inquiries whilst others are drawn into control rooms and to service custody suites. Our fleet has been significantly reduced, offices have closed and, at Superintendent level, a 25% loss has necessitated that the workload merely increases for those that remain with precious little administrative support to assist them.
The Association believes that the commitment to 17,234 comes at a cost. This is a cost that the government has thus far been unwilling to meet. That remains a political matter based on their priorities, we can accept that. What we cannot support, however, is a continued reduction in budget allied to the red-circling of these numbers as the sums just don’t add up.
Thus our plea is, either fund the service appropriately or remove the constraints and allow us to redefine the service within the budget we have been given. This will once again allow for a balanced workforce but will also require a more mature debate about the service we provide. A significant reduction in budget must equate to a change in the service delivery model which sees the police shed certain tasks with safety of the citizens of Scotland remaining the priority.
We await developments.
Allied to the foregoing is the Superintendents Review. This is now well under way and a series of meetings with members are taking place. This is your chance to influence how your working life will look in the future. It is a once in a generation opportunity. Everyone should have been in receipt of the question set and, if you are unable to meet the review team in person, you can email your views directly to them.
Early indications are that members are re-emphasising the points that appeared in our surveys and that the Association has been highlighting for some time. Length of the working day, lack of administrative support, lack of resilience, intrusion of new procedures and processes, shortage of training opportunities, impact of the performance model, spans of command, CAV days and appraisal are some of the issues that we understand have been raised.
These are not easy issues to contend with but they are impacting on the wellbeing of our membership and possibly making the rank of Superintendent unattractive to potential candidates. It will be interesting to see the proposals from the service with respect to their intent to address these matters.
It is worthy of note that, at the outset, there was agreement that the Strategic Governance Group could implement change where clear improvement might result during the review process. It is therefore hoped that some matters might be addressed before the report is received in the spring.
Some of you may be aware of a potential issue relating to the Annual Allowance statements that were recently despatched by the Public Pensions Agency. It would appear that, in respect of some, pay data issued by the service and upon which the statements were based may have been erroneous. I have written to the Police Service of Scotland and requested that all data be checked for accuracy as a matter of urgency given the timescales required for reporting any potential breach to HMRC. I await a response but remain available to provide any further information you may require at this time.
Further on taxation related matters. The Life Time Allowance position is becoming clearer. We are awaiting final detail on the protection and how it is to be applied. This will be available soon and will require those who wish to seek protection submitting applications to the HMRC. These will probably require pension forecast statements to be included. Thus any person who believes they may require to seek protection against LTA might be best obtaining a forecast statement in advance from the SPPA if they haven’t already done so.
Hopefully these updates are of interest to you.
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