Saturday, December 17, 2011

Police chiefs warn of £22m 'hidden cost' in single force, there will be start problems, but they are solvable, act like professionals!

Dear All

When I was pushing the idea of a single national Police force at the SNP National Assembly, I did so know that although this was a good idea of benefit, some people would lose out.

However the Police in Scotland had to merge to make a 21st Century force and deal with the challenges of the ever changing nature of crime.

We need a national force, unfortunately in the past, self interest stop this idea going forward.

In the reorganization there will be problems, such as start up costs, this is to be expected.

But there is supposed to be experienced officers who can deal with this, we aren’t asking anyone to go to the moon here.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) said in reply to a Government consultation on the plans that it will require cuts to police staff.

That was part of my original idea, to contract the service in a concentrated unit before allowing growth.

We need to be standing first on the bedrock of sound principles; then stage two reform can take place.

When I proposed the single force idea in September 2010, stage two was preparing for an independence landscape that saw the police take over the functions of customs and UK Border Agency.

There would be much more accountability and transparency if my original idea had been seen through to its logical conclusion.

Accountability would be done in a multi layer approach, special Holyrood committee, national board and retained local boards.

Acpos has flagged up the issue of vat, stating that under Scottish Government proposals the single service would be liable for £22 million a year in VAT to the Treasury, because of changes in the way the new organisation will be funded.

With good will and dialogue this could be sorted between Westminster and Holyrood, perhaps by a technical amendment for a new public sector vat exemption certificate. The nuts and bolts of that would have to be ironed out.

The idea that the police pay Vat to the treasury is bizarre anyway, it is on an outdated concept and the move to streamlining services is the true nature of reform in Scotland.

So far very few people in politics are talking of local and public sector reform because the Scottish Government have no ideas of merit, it is a key debate of this Holyrood term.
Police reform is a tip of a very large iceberg.

On job losses Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has intimated should not happen in a letter to staff and officers in September but he doesn’t have operational control so although his letter may allay fears, it isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

Les Gray, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said:

"It would be ludicrous if the new police service had to pay VAT. That would be like washing public funds down the drain – money that should be spent on providing the public with an excellent police service. It would be scandalous."

Gray is very much anti single force; however all over Scotland there are similar law enforcement bodies which are national services, UK Border Agency, Customs, Prison Service and Transport Police.

The Scottish Government has stated the new single service will not be a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB) like the Scottish Police Services Authority, which has been forced to pay millions in VAT.

To return to job losses for a sec, Kenny MacAskill wrote to staff and said:

"All officers and staff in post when the new organisation is established will transfer to the new Scottish Police Service on the day of establishment and will retain their terms and conditions of service on transfer. There should be no compulsory redundancies."

What he did write was a guarantee of future employment because there can’t be while the restructure takes place because all levers must be available to the organizers of the new body.

It has first to contract to a core unit then it can expand properly, everyone should know this without it having to be said.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said:

"It will be for the new service, after detailed planning and transitional work, to determine the workforce balance of the new service. All personnel in post on the day of reform will be entitled to transfer to the new service."

Clearly, the Scottish Government is setting out its stall that job losses although regrettable are out of their hands.

But it was wrong for Kenny MacAskill to imply that everyone’s job would be safe, tell the truth is far better politically, don’t leave people with false hope because people can’t live on that.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, there are other ideas such as introducing a commercial arm as part of the national force structure but that is for another time and place.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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