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Concerns that Police Scotland plan to cut civilian staff could negatively affect frontline service | UK News

Concerns have been raised that Police Scotland’s plan to cut civilian staff could negatively affect frontline policing.

The force has launched a voluntary redundancy scheme in a bid to save money.

Civilian staff seeking either voluntary redundancy or voluntary early retirement will be able to apply from 8 January until 9 February.

The chair of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) – which represents rank-and-file officers – is fearful that the cuts could have a knock-on effect that will hinder those on the frontline.

David Threadgold, chair of the SPF, told Sky News that he is concerned that officers on modified duties that aren’t on the frontline may be relied upon to cover any shortcomings which will then affect the rest of the service.

He said: “If these functions that the people are leaving [are] required to be done, it can only be done by one other group of people and that is police officers.

“So, it will be a further impact on the service that we can provide, the resource that we have, and you might well have a situation where we end up paying police officer wages to carry out functions that might not have been at that level if it was carried out by a member of support staff.”

The move was approved at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Board last week.

It will be open to staff with a minimum of two years continuous service, but not all applications will be accepted “to ensure the continued operational effectiveness”.

Exemptions include staff in “critical roles”, including those working in call centres, control rooms and custody suites.

Formal statutory consultation with trade unions is under way and senior leaders have been briefed.

Unison has objected to the plans, with the union warning similar actions a decade ago forced police to fill the roles.

David Malcolm, Unison Scotland police branch secretary, added: “Police staff are already under significant pressure. They’re picking up the slack for areas of the organisation that are already under-resourced.

“There’s only so much they can reasonably be expected to do before they and the system break.”

The force has warned that without an additional £128m, officer numbers could drop by almost 1,500 and it may move to a “reduced attendance model” nationwide.

Mr Threadgold highlighted that there’s a recruitment freeze on officers until April and is concerned that may be extended until 2025.

He said a “huge amount of investment” goes into training and more funding is required to recruit and retain officers.

Mr Threadgold said all those in the force just want to do their job and be proactive in stopping crime, adding: “We want to help the people in our communities and we want to make Scotland a safer place.”

He added: “This is the best job in the world, in my opinion. And when you join the police, your career can take you any place that you want to go.”

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Police and staff were given a 7% pay award this year, and Chief Constable Jo Farrell told a SPA board meeting last week that voluntary redundancies would be sought.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said the force had been “very clear” about the pressures on policing because of this year’s budget settlement.

They added: “These pressures have led to a reduction in police officer numbers to around 16,600 and we are building a service model which reflects that level.

“At the same time, we are reducing police staff numbers proportionately to the reduction in officer numbers and returning overtime costs to normal levels.

“Our commitment to no compulsory redundancies remains in place.”

The Scottish government previously said policing was “a priority” and funding had been increased by £80m to £1.45bn in 2023-24.

However, Finance Secretary and Deputy First Minister Shona Robison has already warned ahead of the Scottish budget this month that the public sector workforce will have to shrink due to funding pressures.

The Scottish government said: “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.”

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