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£1.4 million announced for recruitment drive as call centres axed

Police Scotland mergers to be slowed following HMICS report
Published - 03/09/2015 By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle

The Scottish Government is giving Police Scotland £1.4 million so it can recruit call handling staff - as it slows down the force's control room mergers.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson announced that the force will follow the recommendation in a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) examining the M9 deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill.

An initial 101 report of the car being off the road was not followed up by the force and the car was not examined until three days later.

The inspectorate says the closure of control rooms in Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness should still go ahead, but delayed until those in Govan and Bilston Glen have more staff and when the new area control room in Dundee is fully operational.

It also called for a detailed and independently assessed transition plan to be developed.

Derek Penman said control room staff are doing a good job but added staff shortages are "creating additional risk".

A Unison spokesman welcomed the report saying that their leads had been driving home the message regarding the centres.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson told the Scottish Parliament: "This recommendation will require the accelerated recruitment of 70-75 call handling staff to consolidate service centre operations, plus additional area control room staff to ensure that the combined North Area Control Room in Dundee is fully operational before the closure of the Aberdeen and Inverness control rooms.

"There is a cost attached to implementing this recommendation, estimated by Police Scotland at around £1.4 million in this financial year.

"I can confirm to the chamber today I am making £1.4 million of new money available immediately for Police Scotland to meet this cost."

He added: "The M9 incident had terrible consequences and I do not want any family to go through that experience again."

Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell said the body's recommendation highlighted the folly of making "so many support staff redundant in the first place", while Labour's Graeme Pearson blasted outgoing Chief Constable Sir Stephen House for indicating the M9 incident had been the fault of one individual.

SNP member Roderick Campbell said: "Does my friend agree with the secretary of the Scottish Police Federation Calum Steele that if they want to see what a real crisis in policing looks like, they will need to cast their eyes south of the border?"

This allowed Mr Matheson to boast of maintaining officer numbers in Scotland as England and Wales see their numbers continue to drop.

The Justice Secretary also announced that the force's next chief constable will carry out further scrutiny sessions in the future.

As hinted at earlier this year, the practice of consensual stop and search - which is unique to Scotland - will cease to be a police power after a new statutory code of practice is drawn up.

Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said: “We are committed to ensuring that stop and search remains a proportionate and appropriate tactic available to officers to disrupt and prevent offending.

"We will continue to work with all our partners to ensure best practice is implemented to provide communities with confidence that such tactics are being used ethically, legally, proportionately and appropriately at all times.

“Through stop and search, officers are removing drugs and weapons from our communities and recovering stolen property. Our focus remains to keep people safe and locating and removing such items is a vital part of helping us achieve that result.”

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