The Scottish Police Authority’s (SPA) Finance Committee met today (8 November) to scrutinise Police Scotland’s latest financial forecast for 2017-18, which now shows a projected revenue deficit of some £36 million.
The bulk of this £10 million improvement since the beginning of the reporting year relates to underspends on police staff. Committee members sought assurances from Police Scotland that robust risk assessments were taking place within the service before decisions were made to allow staff to leave or to leave posts vacant.
The Committee sought assurance in particular around areas of policing activity including custody and intelligence analysis, which staff associations and unions have raised through their engagement with SPA as areas of potential risk.
Committee members reinforced their expectations that the impacts on workforce health and wellbeing would be balanced with the need to reduce costs, and that a smaller workforce would not simply be asked to absorb the same levels of work.
Police Scotland updated the Committee that in the areas of custody where an operating model was becoming clearer but was still under development, there would be imminent steps to begin recruitment of permanent specialist custody staff and so begin to reduce the temporary reliance on backfilling by police officers. In other areas which were still subject to review, like analysts, further work was taking place internally about managing down and reprioritising internal demands.
The Committee also heard information from Police Scotland that it now anticipated being able to spend all the capital investment money allocated to it before the end of the financial year. Members tested the service’s assessment of confidence levels across the service on delivering this, given previous reports indicating projected underspends that might require to be returned to the Scottish Government. Assurance was received and members will be holding Police Scotland to account for delivery of that revised position.
SPA Finance Committee Chair Elaine Wilkinson said:
“While it is clearly encouraging from a purely accounting perspective that the projected underspend for this year has reduced, Authority members have made clear today that our focus is not simply on delivering to meet a short-term bottom line. The evidence we have been presented with today makes clear that major transformative work capable of delivering recurring revenue savings is still required next year and beyond. This Committee, and our colleagues on the People Committee, will be continuing to focus on assuring the Authority as a whole that operational risks, workforce wellbeing, and coherence with our longer-term 2026 strategy remain at the forefront of all emerging cost reduction work in Police Scotland.”