By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 27 January 2012
More than 2,000 police support jobs face the axe in the coming year, ahead of reform of Scotland’s eight regional forces into a single national police service.
The cuts, a third of all civilian police staff, come on top of around 1,000 job losses already implemented in the past year in Scottish police back offices.
Staff unions will ballot members on industrial action, and the figures have prompted renewed warnings from police representative bodies that they will not accept front-line officers taking on extra administrative burdens to make up the shortfall.
Dave Watson, Scottish campaigns head for Unison, said: ‘Cutting 2,000 police staff would take policing in Scotland back to the 1970s. It would be like Life on Mars, a cop show set in a time warp – but in fact, not in fiction.
‘Unison has consistently warned of the danger of cutting police staff. It makes no economic or policing sense – it simply means that important support and expert jobs are increasingly done by police officers.’
The Scottish Government insists that no substitution will be necessary, and Chief Constable Kevin Smith, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers of Scotland, said: ‘We are absolutely determined not to bring police officers off the street to fill staff roles.’
Ministers estimate that ending duplication in functions like human resources will save £40m a year. They expect restructuring to cost £234m over five years, but to deliver savings of £351m. Taken together with a parallel merger of the eight regional fire and rescue services, the reforms are projected to save £1.7bn over 15 years.
But the scope for savings is qualified by two ministerial undertakings: to avoid compulsory redundancies in the public sector, and to preserve police numbers at the current level of just over 17,200.
Bodies like CIPFA and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities have also warned that public sector restructuring has a way of throwing up unforeseen costs.
CIPFA and the Scottish Local Authorities Chief Internal Auditors Group have called for the reforms to be phased in, with the new structure shadowing the old boards for a year.