More than 1,000 police would be cut 'if pay increases continue'

Police Scotland needs to save up to £300m over the next five years, MSPs have been told.

More than 1,000 police would be cut ‘if pay increases continue’ as force faces saving £300m in five years iStock

Over 1,000 police officers would need to be laid off if the 5% pay offer is replicated next year, with savings of between £200m and £300m required in Scottish policing, MSPs have been told.

For the service to operate within a flat-cash funding allocation, an average of £50m to £75m per year would be needed to accommodate pay awards and to absorb non-pay inflationary pressure.

The evaluation of finances was made by the Scottish Police Authority and the Police Service of Scotland.

It was set out in a joint written submission from the organisations to the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee.

In their evidence to MSPs, the policing bodies indicated that £200m has already been removed from the annual cost base of policing in Scotland compared to legacy arrangements.

This had been achieved though “significant” reductions in chief officer, senior officers and staff numbers, as well as efficiencies and improved working practices, they noted.

With pay representing 86% of policing in Scotland’s revenue budget, further significant cost reductions “can only be delivered” though a pay-freeze or by funding cost of living pay awards by reducing the size of the workforce, according to the organisations.

They estimate that a 1% pay rise across the organisation would cost approximately £11m – the annual cost of employing 225 officers or staff.

If the 5% pay award – agreed earlier this month – was replicated in 2023/2024, it would represent an additional £55m of inflationary pressure.

This would require a reduction of 1,125 full time equivalent officers and staff members, the submission said.

If the 5% award was to be repeated up to 2026/2027, accumulated savings of £222m would be required, with the equivalent of an average 4,500 headcount reduction based on current salaries.

Further significant reductions in the number of police buildings would also be required to save on utilities, non-domestic rates and maintenance costs.

An indicative assessment has suggested that a further 20% reduction in the estate footprint could be achieved, the submission noted – roughly equivalent to 18 buildings the size of London Road Police Station in Glasgow.

The policing bodies warn that should funding allocations follow the parameters of the Resource Spending Review (RSR), published by the Scottish Government in May, there would be a “fundamental reduction” in Scottish policing’s capacity and capability to respond to the needs of the public.

They indicated that this could have implications on protect people from existing and emerging threats, the ability to police major events and demonstrations, operational effectiveness, and on community policing.

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