Police Scotland’s budget is expected to take a £15 million hit due to the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) and a loss of income from policing events and sporting fixtures, MSPs have been told.
The force’s finance bosses said an estimated £8 million of revenue has been lost due to sport and gig cancellations, as well as a reduction in airport traffic.
The cost of providing officers with PPE is also expected to cost Police Scotland £7 million this financial year.
Overall, Police Scotland faces a budget deficit of £44 million, with financial issues expected to continue next year due to the impact of coronavirus.
Giving evidence to Holyrood’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, chief financial officer James Gray said: “One of the biggest impacts has been a reduced level of income as a result of policing less events and less sporting-type events, so that has had an £8 million impact on the budget.
“We would expect that to continue into 2021-22 and there will be some residual impact around airports and passenger numbers, and the number of events that are held.”
Mr Gray said Police Scotland is not limiting how much PPE is being purchased because of the cost, but the financial implications are likely to have a substantial impact on the force’s budget.
MSPs heard the cost of PPE “was not a consideration in the early days”, with the focus being on ensuring staff had the equipment they required.
Mr Gray added: “I am concerned about the additional costs that we’ve been incurring, the costs that will carry on into next year and the general pressure on public finances – both across the UK and within Scotland.
“That may make the settlement for 2021-22 more challenging than it would otherwise have been, had we not had this pandemic.”
He also said Police Scotland repeatedly posting budget deficits “has a destabilising effect on the organisation”, but the chief constable has stressed there are no plans to cut officer numbers in light of the pandemic and Brexit.
However, he suggested that if a 2017 plan to cut officer numbers by 750 had been enacted, the budget would have balanced.
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