Lothian and Borders Police and their board need to improve scrutiny and training of police board members, an inspectors’ report says.
Overall, though, the joint report from the Accounts Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland (HMICS) is very positive.
It says the force and the board have an effective working relationship and work well together and with partner organisations to provide policing services to communities.
Police numbers have been maintained while measures are being taken to manage a reduction in the police budget.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Andrew Laing, commented: “The overall performance of Lothian and Borders Police is good. The force has a clear long-term strategy aimed at tackling the root causes of crime, and crime continues to fall.
“The force should continue to consider how serious crimes of violence could be reduced, how crime detection can be improved and what more could be done to monitor and understand service user satisfaction.”
However, the report also says there is room to improve understanding of the overall, long-term policing strategy at all levels in the force and that the force and board should work together to develop clear measures against which progress can be assessed.
The Accounts Commission found that the board generally performs well. The essential elements of best value are in place, it said, and the board is clear on where it can make further improvements.
The board should now look at improving the way it scrutinises the force and ensure that members have a consistent and shared understanding of all aspects of their roles and responsibilities.
The commission also highlights the possibility of changes to the composition of the board after the local government elections in May 2012, and the ongoing deliberations about police reform. It says the board should assess the implications and maintain its commitment to improvement and partnership work with the force during this period of transition.
The force and the board will now produce an improvement plan to show how they intend to address the findings.
Councillor Gavin Logan (Con, Tweeddale East) is one of two Scottish Borders Council elected representatives on the board and said there was a lot of good news in the report.
“I welcome the report from Audit Scotland and HMICS which highlights all the positive aspects of policing in the Borders and the work of the police board,” he said.
“I do agree, however, that new board members should have to undergo a detailed training programme and I take on board their views about the scrutinising role of the councillors.”
Councillor Logan’s fellow police board member from the Borders, Trevor Jones (Con, Mid Berwickshire), said all the councillors on the board have the opportunity to look into the operation of any of the force’s departments they choose.
“I have been quite impressed by the practices used to make sure the force is doing what it should be doing,” he said.
“We also have the opportunity to put together the chief constable’s objectives and make sure that his assessment at the end of the year is an accurate one.
“Crime figures continue to decline, while detection rates continue to rise in the Borders and as far as our own G Division is concerned, it is an outstanding little gem within the Lothian and Borders Police set-up.”