Second police action team to carry on pounding beat despite budget cut threat

The region’s second police community action team, led by Police Scotland and Scottish Borders Council, will be funded beyond March 2021.

By Kathryn Wylie
Thursday, 27th February 2020, 12:34 pm
Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull with members of the Borders' first and second police community action teams.
Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull with members of the Borders' first and second police community action teams.

That’s despite attempts by the region’s opposition councillors to scrap its funding when its contract is up next year in favour of using that cash to help repair the region’s failing CCTV networks.

Scottish National Party councillors claimed in their alternative budget that the £281,000 to fund a second team of officers, added to take the team’s total to 14 last year, could be better spent.

“The opposition’s position is quite clear,” Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell said. “Not only is there an obligation on this council to support safer communities, there’s an overwhelming expectation from the public that we will fulfil that obligation through the provision of public-space CCTV which supports local objectives of tackling antisocial behaviour, violence and drug and violence related incidents.

“As well as providing public reassurance, it protects the most vulnerable in society and helps keep people safe.”

He proposed a capital spend of £586m to renew the CCTV systems in eight priority towns over the next eight years.

“This brings me now to how we would pay for this,” Mr Bell added. “We will optimise the use of capital and technology through CCTV to promote safer communities rather than commit to endless revenue costs.

“We consider that the current cost of 14 officers as part of two community action teams is an excessive expenditure of council resources.

“When this council is short on money, we should be spending council resources on council priorities, not on police priorities.

“We opposed spending on a second team last year, and we don’t consider there’s enough evidence of an uplift in performance commensurate with doubling council founding to over £500,000.

“We will save £281,000 by not renewing, in March 2021, the contract for the second team.”

Conservative councillors, however, are sticking to their guns and insisting bobbies on the beat are a better use of money than CCTV cameras.

“These proposals are profoundly irresponsible,” Kelso councillor Simon Mountford said. “It’s bonkers to suggest that you can replace bobbies on the beat with pie in the sky.”

Independent Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer, meanwhile, urged councillors to see both the CCTV system and the action teams as vital.

He said: “It’s a complete misnomer to compare the two.

“It’s wrong to argue that we can have one without the other. They are complementary, and I still believe we are doing the Borders a disservice by removing CCTV.

“I will be backing the administration’s budget.”