A forty-five per cent budgetary shortfall is slowing the process of transformation for Police Scotland, politicians have heard.
A reduction in capital expenditure of an originally planned £246.8 million – to help upgrade the force’s technology, fleet and building estate – is lagging behind because of an underinvestment by government.
MSPs heard at the justice sub-committee on policing at the Scottish Parliament that the fast pace of technological development in the market is also presenting “challenges” to the force.
David Page, Deputy Chief Officer, Police Scotland, said: “We have laid out a clear strategy and plans for technology, estates and fleet. Clearly, not getting the capital investment that we require slows down the speed at which we can implement those plans. That said, we continue to make progress on all three fronts, especially on estates and fleet, on which we have shifted the strategies on to a much more collaborative approach with partners.
“We are trying to lead on the electrification and decarbonisation of the fleet. That is consistent with Scottish and UK Government policy, it is benefiting the environment generally and it actually makes it cheaper to run the fleet in the long term. We are grateful for the support that Transport Scotland has provided over and above our normal budget to assist Police Scotland in progressing with our push into that green space.”
At the virtual session, he added: “On technology, there is no doubt that we could do much more if we had more money, but we— [Inaudible.]—improvement as we can. The big challenge with not getting the investment that we require, especially for our technology plans, is that technology shifts and moves so quickly. We published the DDICT—data, digital and information and communications technology— strategy a couple of years ago, and a lot of it was principally geared around a three to four-year profile of investment. However, we are running at a much slower pace, which has an effect on those plans because the profile of technology availability changes considerably. For example, we might not be using the same sort of technology, or there might be different challenges.”
Mr Page – a civilian officer – said that running at 55% of what was asked for in the refreshed “Joint Strategy for Policing (2020)— Policing for a safe, protected and resilient Scotland” meant that it ‘slows down the process and means that it takes longer for us to deliver’.
The committee heard also that by providing the necessary investment for the force’s transformation aims, it will help bring down the size of the workforce, which represents about 85% of the entire police budget.
Mr Page said: “We have been asking for some time for a considerable injection of capital investment to support the transformation of Police Scotland. We have shown what we can do with investment in things such as the legacy project and the contact assessment model; if we improve our systems and our processes utilising technology, we can increase the capacity of Police Scotland to deliver services. If we get that investment, that will reduce the requirement for the workforce to be the size that it is. We can adjust the workforce alongside the digital capability of the organisation to function.”
James Gray, chief financial officer, Police Scotland, added: “We were looking for in the region of £45 million to take forward the digital, data and ICT strategy next year, and £169 million over a five-year period. Among the key components of work are the rolling out of mobile devices to the remaining police officers, moving ahead on more police systems and taking forward the body-worn video work that the force is looking to do. The figures are £45 million for next year and £169 million over the next five years.”