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Police Scotland chief seeks extra £128m from Government to maintain front line

Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell has addressed the SPA for the first time since taking up the role (handout/PA)
Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell has addressed the SPA for the first time since taking up the role (handout/PA)

Police Scotland’s new chief constable has recommended the Scottish Government provides the force with an extra £128 million next year to maintain “a visible, accessible and proactive front line”.

Jo Farrell told a Scottish Police Authority (SPA) board meeting the additional funding is required to restart the recruitment of officers and cover a recent 7% pay award to existing employees.

The force has warned that without the extra cash, officer numbers could drop by almost 1,500 and it may move to a “reduced attendance model” nationwide.

During her first report to the scrutiny body since taking up her post in October, Ms Farrell said she had also advised a request of an extra £5 million this year to cover escalating costs.

The chief constable, who previously led Durham Constabulary, explained civil unrest, new laws and “increasingly complex investigations” had contributed to a “growing community need and increase in contacts to policing from the public”.

She added: “I know the challenges of delivering effective policing on a budget in the current financial year, including additional, unforeseen and unfunded demand around policing protests and sporting events such as European football matches and the increasing pressures from new legislation.

“The board has been clear that a balanced budget is a red line for policing in Scotland, and therefore I have written to the chief executive, as the accountable officer, recommending that she write to Scottish Government and request contingency funding of £5 million of allocation in the current financial year.”

On next year’s budget, she said: “We will learn what funding is available when the Scottish Government publishes the 2024/25 Budget next month.

“High inflation and other factors have caused intense pressure across public finances. The Cabinet secretary for justice has been clear not all asks in the justice system can be met.

“Our ask is for £128 million over and above flat cash, including an uplift to provide appropriate capital funding.

“This will allow us to restart officer recruitment for the year ahead, to fund the cost of this year’s 7% pay award for officers and staff, and make it credible over the next year to enable a programme of voluntary retirement and redundancy, and to develop a new operating model that enables us to live within projected funding while maintaining service to the public.

“Without funding over and above flat cash, we will be unable to recruit police officers in 2024/25. My experience in England is this would significantly impact on community policing and proactivity.

Police Scotland officers
Jo Farrell said Police Scotland needs more cash this year to fund ‘unforeseen and unfunded demand’ (PA)

“A visible, accessible and proactive front line is vital to prevent crime and maintain the relationships and intelligence for enforcement and detection and for the fight against drugs and solving murders.”

In a report presented to the SPA board meeting, Police Scotland asked for a £74.5 million increase in revenue funding, along with a £26.4 million boost in capital, £5 million in its reform budget and £22.6 million for voluntary redundancy and voluntary early retirement.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Russell Findlay said: “The chief constable should not have to put out a begging bowl to the SNP Government, but she can see the damage their brutal under-funding of Police Scotland is doing – and that it must be reversed.

“Officer numbers are already at near-record lows and will continue to plummet unless ministers stump up the cash required to finance pay deals.

“Violent crime is at a 10-year high, so it’s imperative that Police Scotland are given the resources needed in the Scottish Budget to make our streets safe.”

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.

Russell Findlay
Tory justice spokesman Russell Findlay condemned the ‘brutal under-funding’ of police by the Scottish Government (PA)

The chief constable also said during the SPA meeting that she “apologised unreservedly”, after it emerged she had tasked an officer to drive her 120 miles home from Edinburgh to Northumberland in a police vehicle during Storm Babet on October 20.

Having apologised previously in a statement, this was the first time she had addressed the issue in public.

Describing the episode as an “error of judgment”, she explained to board members: “The train service I was due to take after work was cancelled.

“With my usual police vehicle unavailable, I asked my office to arrange for a car to drive me home to the Northumberland area.

“A colleague who had been visiting Police Scotland was also driven home in the same police vehicle.

“Having a road policing vehicle redirected to carry out his journey in those circumstances was an error of judgment.

“I apologise unreservedly to my colleagues, to the authority, and to the public.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Policing is a priority for this Government which is why, despite difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we increased police funding by £80 million to £1.45 billion in 2023-24.

“There are 379 more officers than in 2007 and Scotland continues to have more police officers per capita than England and Wales

“The Deputy First Minister said last week that the UK Government’s autumn statement delivered the ‘worst case scenario’ for Scotland’s finances.

“Ministers are assessing the full implications of that statement as they develop a Budget that meets the needs of the people of Scotland, in line with our missions of equality, community and opportunity.”