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Staff layoffs will cost Scots police force £60m

By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 28 January 2013

The merger of Scotland’s eight regional police forces into a single national body could cost the taxpayer more than £60m in redundancy deals for civilian staff

.The figures emerged in a national redundancy scheme, reportedly agreed in principle between the Scottish Government and the new Scottish Police Authority and leaked to a Sunday newspaper.

It follows revelations some months ago that the new force would have to pay VAT for the first time, costing up to £24m a year.

These extra costs have raised fresh doubts about the ability of the merger, which takes effect on April 1, to achieve the £350m of savings over five years envisaged by ministers.

According to the SPA paper, the national redundancy scheme comprises two elements. The first is an early retirement package to be offered to staff in their fifties, capped at 30 weeks’ salary plus four extra years of pension payments. The second is a voluntary redundancy scheme, enhanced by a £10,000 cash sweetener, aimed at younger staff.

The paper puts the overall cost of implementing the scheme, based on a reduction of 1,400 civilian staff, at £61.3m, saving £39.8m a year in salaries.

But the scale of the lay-offs has alarmed Labour, which supported the merger in the Scottish Parliament. It fears that officers’ time would be increasingly eaten up by back-office administration duties previously undertaken by the civilian staff.

Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said the plans implied that ‘police officers will be sitting in offices, staffing cell blocks or answering phones rather than being out on the streets’. He added: ‘That simply doesn't make sense.’

Unison, the main staff union, also challenged the need for so many job losses. The SPA said that no firm target had yet been reached but that the cost estimates were based on a ‘sensible mid-point’ between best- and worst-case scenarios.

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