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Police officer numbers could drop due to funding cuts, warns chief

Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone warned the force could face a £66 million funding shortfall in the next five years (PA)
Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone warned the force could face a £66 million funding shortfall in the next five years (PA)

Real-terms funding cuts to Police Scotland could see officer numbers fall and delays in modernising the force, the chief constable has warned.

Speaking at a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) on Thursday, Sir Iain Livingstone shared his disappointment at the funding allocation and said he is “deeply concerned” about the position in which policing may be in if the spending review is implemented.

He warned cuts may have to be made to officer numbers, adding: “Funding future pay awards may only be possible through having a far smaller workforce – fewer officers.”

He claimed Police Scotland could see a capital funding shortfall that would see less cash for fleets, the estate and digital division.

Sir Iain said: “In March we described the gap between expected capital funding and our necessary requirements.

“Anticipated capital funding for the next five years is £26 million less than required for our fleet, £20 million less than required for our estate, and £20 million less than is required for our digital division as we seek to digitalise policing.”

The chief constable warned public services could see increasing pressure due to the cost-of-living crisis.

He added: “The position is not the revenue protection that we expected and that high cost-of-living crisis has the potential to increase the vulnerability of people while at the same time increasing pressure on the services which exist to support them.”

Sir Iain warned that public services, including the police, will face “difficult and exhausting” choices in the coming years about where to allocate funding, and he warned this could lead to a situation of “disharmony”.

He added: “It places additional strain across society and such pressures have the potential to lead to disruption, protest, disharmony.

Police Scotland officers
The police chief said pay awards for officers should be fair and affordable (PA)

“But of course policing as a public service will clearly be subject to especially high inflation and real term increases in our operating costs. These increased costs will not be matched by increases to our funding in the absence of real time revenue protection as laid out in a spending review.”

The chief constable also referenced ongoing pay negotiations and argued that pay awards for officers should be fair and affordable, adding: “Officers and staff work incredibly hard to serve their fellow citizens and deserve fair recompense given the unique position the unique challenges and demands placed upon them and the sacrifices that come from being a holder of the office of constable.

“It is important officers and staff are rewarded fairly, particularly with their own household expenses are rising.

“I remain committed to seeking a pay settlement going through the police negotiating board. And we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to achieve this.”