Labour calls for community policing fund ahead of Budget day

The Scottish Government has been urged to create a fund for community policing as it prepares to announce its draft budget on Wednesday.

Scottish Labour say the fund would help to bolster the number of police officers working in communities across the country.

Official statistics published in September indicated there are about 350 fewer police officers in the third quarter of 2018 than there was at the beginning of 2013 – with around 17,500 officers employed at that time.

Policing in the country was reformed in April 2013 when eight forces were combined to create the centralised Police Scotland force.

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman Daniel Johnson said the drop in numbers over the last five years could be addressed by an investment of £20 million into local policing, with local authority boards allocated a portion of the sum to spend on community policing as they see fit.

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) approved calculations suggested that recruitment costs, including salary and training, for a new constable would total £42,699.

The cost to recruit 350 new officers would stand at close to £15 million, with proposals to invest the remaining £5 million on upgrading and maintaining police vehicles.

Mr Johnson said: “Like the Tories across the rest of the UK, the SNP’s ruinous cuts to local policing have left communities across Scotland without enough officers.

“At least 350 officers have now been lost amid the SNP’s obsession with centralisation since 2013. That is unacceptable.

“For just £20 million, we could reverse the SNP’s cuts to local policing and put power back in our communities.

“With more officers on the beat, crime could be cut, more collaborative, preventative work could take place and residents could once again be reassured.

“You cannot keep people safe on the cheap. The SNP must stop mimicking Tory austerity and use its budget to reverse its cuts to local policing.”

A spokesman for Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Police numbers remain high, with more than 900 more officers compared to when Labour was last in power – while the number of officers in England and Wales have fallen by almost 20,000.

“Scotland’s streets are also safer than a decade ago, with recorded crime falling by 42% and the number of adults experiencing crime decreasing from around one in five in 2008/09 to around one in seven in 2016/17.

“We are protecting Police Scotland’s revenue budget for the life of this Parliament, a £100 million increase by 2021 and dedicated police reform funding totalling £31 million this financial year.

“We will also continue to press the UK Government for the £125 million paid in VAT between 2013 and 2018 – and I call on Labour to stop backing the Tories and support our call for a full refund.”

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