UNISON response to the Police and Fire Reform Bill – stage 3 debate: The centralisation of Scotland’s Police and Fire services is being driven entirely by cost savings that will not deliver for Scotland – says UNISON.
The police staffs union criticised the lack of a detailed business plan and said MSPs will be voting on a Bill without a clear picture of what it means for the future of our services.
UNISON has been critical of the centralisation of police services from the start, raising concerns about lack of local democratic accountability; loss of VAT exemption which could cost taxpayers between £30-£40m; and the de-civilianisation of the force which will turn the policing clock back decades. It has also raised serious concerns that the Bill will lead to the future privatisation of Scotland’s police services.
George McIrvine, chair of UNISON’s police staff committee, said: “The Government’s plan to maintain an artificial target of police officers, within the budget cuts, will result in the loss of up to 3,000 police staff roles. Hundreds of police officers are already being taken off the streets to backfill police staff jobs – jobs they aren’t trained to do and at a greater cost – and this will rise significantly if plans go ahead.
“We need the skills of police staffs to enable police officers to do the job the public wants them to do, where they want them to do it – that is fighting crime, out on the streets. But to achieve this we need a balanced police staffing structure that’s free from political direction on officer numbers. The spotlight has to be on need, not cost.”
Dave Watson, UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said: “Decisions on the future of Scotland’s police and fire services are being driven entirely by cost savings and it’s time we put the focus back on what the public actually need, want and expect from our emergency services.
“MSPs should be asking for a full, detailed business plan before making decisions that could decimate Scotland’s police service.
“As it stands, the Bill allows private contractors to be appointed to perform the roles of police staffs – signalling the future privatisation of police services. Surely it’s only a matter of time before discussions turn to the privatisation of police functions – such as custody and 999 calls – under the guise of ‘best value’?”
Notes to editors
1. The stage 3 debate on the Police & Fire Reform Bill is due to take place at the Scottish Parliament tomorrow, Wednesday, June 27.
2. As the Scottish Government has an arbitrary target to maintain police officer numbers at 17234, the focus of the savings are concentrated on police staffs. This has resulted in over 1000 police staff posts being lost already. As a consequence police officers are taking on the work of police staffs.
3. Other documents giving analysis of the Police reform process and UNISON’s campaign for a balanced, modern police force – rather than cutting thousands of police staff jobs – are available on our website:For more information see:
· UNISON’s e-brief on Police & Fire Reform Bill – stage 3 debate http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/MSPBriefing_Police&FireReformBill_Stage3Debate_June2012.pdf
· UNISON’s evidence to the Justice Committee (http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/Police&FireReform_SPJusticeCtteEvidence_Feb2012.pdf)
· UNISON’s police pages (http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/police/index.html)