The Herald newspaper has reported a warning from the Scottish Police Federation that budget cuts to the police will see crime rates increase across Scotland.
According to the newspaper, research published by the Federation found:
• Police forces in Scotland are facing overall losses of £11 million from councils since the introduction by the SNP in 2008 of the Government’s concordat with local authorities;
• The overall proportion of funding for the police from local councils dropped from 10 per cent prior to the concordat to 8.8 per cent last year; and
• Whilst the concordat between the Government in Edinburgh and Scotland’s Local Government Association, Cosla, resulted in a modest increase in councils’ share of the budget, it removed ring-fencing of budgets such as on policing.
Les Gray, Chairman of the Scottish Police Federation said of the findings:
“There seems to be some sort of blissful ignorance at the minute that the cuts won’t really affect anyone. The reality is that there will be a drastic reduction in police numbers and that more people will become victims of crime as a result.
“Calls will go unanswered. The crime rate will rise unnecessarily. Detections will go down because there will not be the officers available. This is not scaremongering. It’s the reality. History has taught us that crime goes up in a recession anyway.
“It is a false economy, too. More crimes will lead to hikes in insurance and additional costs for the hospitals having to stitch people up. Taking a serious assault to trial costs £250,000. Taking a murder costs £1m. And that doesn’t even take account of the human cost to the victims.”
The research came however just days after it was reported that Strathclyde Police, Scotland’s largest force announced it was considering a £45 million move to a new headquarters in Glasgow, with a feasibility study into the move likely to cost £1 million.
The warning on the likely impact on crime of cuts to the police came as the Scottish Parliament voted to support the SNP Government’s £30 billion budget for 2010-11, though not without a number of concessions to gain opposition support.
Among the key highlights are:
• A new Independent Budget Review process will be established to consider the implications of forecasts of reducing public spending across Scotland, and make recommendations on how to deliver services within a much tighter fiscal environment. This had previously been called for by Conservative Leader, Annabel Goldie. Likewise, Conservative calls for the Government, every month, to publish online all spending above £25,000 will come into force in April;
• Total public sector pay will fall by 5.5% with Ministers taking a pay freeze and quango bosses expected to waive their bonuses, a key Liberal Democrat demand;
• An additional £31 million will be spent on affordable housing. Furthermore, following pressure by Scottish Labour, the Government will introduce a boiler scrappage scheme similar to England, with those who qualify able to receive £400 towards the cost of a more efficient boiler;
• £10 million will be spent on a new Home Insulation Scheme as called for by the Scottish Green Party; and
• A £20 million fund to meet the surge in demand for college places will be established in line with Liberal Democrat demands.
For the SNP, it’s Finance Secretary, John Swinney concluded:
“This is a Budget that will support economic recovery and protect frontline services – a Budget for all of Scotland.”
Labour rejected the budget plans, in protest over Mr Swinney’s decision to cancel the Glasgow Airport rail link project. Senior Labour MSP for Glasgow Baillieston, Margaret Curran was critical of the decision, making clear:
“The SNP and the Conservatives have stabbed Glasgow in the back by voting down Labour’s efforts to save the Glasgow Airport Rail Link. They will not be forgiven for betraying their constituents in this way.”
Despite efforts to gain their support, the Liberal Democrat took the decision to abstain in a belief that the proposed pay cuts for senior public sector managers did not go far enough.
The SNP were therefore only able to secure its budget as a result of the support of the Conservatives and Greens.
Speaking about the concessions they had received on an Independent Budget Review process and the publication of all public sector spending over £25,000, Conservative Finance Spokesman, Derek Brownlee hailed the budget “a transparency revolution”.
The decision by the Tories to support the SNP’s budget was a repeat of events last year which saw the SNP relying on the Conservatives to secure its budget for 2009-10. Could this be what Labour Leader, Iain Gray meant when he spoke in First Minister’s Question’s last week of the SNP’s “Tory budget buddies”.
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