POLICE support staff in the Borders face an anxious six months to discover whether they will keep their jobs, writes Kenny Paterson.
In follows comments by the new head of Scotland’s single police force, Stephen House, who said up to 3,000 civilian posts could be lost across the country as services merge. And a leaked financial dossier by the Police Reform Board detailed a raft of cost-cutting proposals, including an option to get rid of 550 support posts before the introduction of the Police Service of Scotland in April, saving £11.2million.
In the Borders, there are around 45 civilian staff whose positions could be at threat.
Local area commander, Superintendent Andrew Allan, admitted there was some anxiety in G Division ahead of the cuts, which are part of savings worth £300million needing to be made in the next three-and-a-half years. But he added that the scale of the job losses could be vastly different from the figures quoted so far.
Mr Allan said: “Staff have all seen the news and heard the 3,000 figure. They are concerned about what could happen.
“There is a huge amount of uncertainty and speculation at present. I am not even sure if the suggested areas for reducing spending are those that Mr House may consider.
“Any chief appointed would have to consider how the budget pressures are balanced with all the demands of a policing service. I do expect things to become clearer in the next few months, but I am trying to keep staff as calm as possible amidst the speculation.
“I have no doubt that some economies of scale will come naturally from a single police service for Scotland, but the scale of the budget pressure may mean we have to consider options we would rather not.”
Jim Hume, South of Scotland MSP, added: “News that the merger could result in up to 3,000 job losses is concerning and the worry is how that will translate into day-to-day policing on the ground across the Borders. The SNP’s cuts coupled with unrealistic targets mean that rather than focusing on how best to take the police forward, Mr House’s first job is deciding how to cut the force back.”
Following the leaked document, Mr House told staff that savings required from the police service in Scotland have grown considerably. He also said that the work to assess how the required savings can be achieved is an on-going process and the financial paper was developed to provide options in relation to how the new service could save money.
“What it is important to emphasise is that these options are exactly that and no decisions have been made,” said Mr House.
Chair of the Scottish Police Authority, Vic Emery, added that it was not possible to put an accurate number on staff reductions until all options had been assessed. He said this was a priority which would be discussed and taken forward in the coming weeks.