The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has improved how it operates but policing in Scotland is “not financially sustainable” says a new report by the Auditor General for Scotland.
The Auditor General says the SPA, which oversees policing in Scotland, is still “unable to balance its budget” — and warned “it is now a matter of urgency that the SPA, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government reach agreement on what needs to be done to achieve financial sustainability.”
The SPA overspent on its £1.179 billion budget by £26.6 million in 2019-20, with the Scottish Government making up the gap in extra funding.
More than 85% of the Scottish police budget is spent on officer and staff wages.
A previous SPA plan to achieve financial balance by 2020-21 depended on reducing officer numbers.
However due to concerns around the impact of EU withdrawal, and in agreement with the Scottish Government, those planned reductions were cancelled.
Police Scotland has yet to develop a detailed workforce plan.
Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “The SPA has made progress in the past year whilst faced with the significant additional challenges of Covid-19 and preparing for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“It is now a matter of urgency that the SPA, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government reach agreement on what needs to be done to achieve financial sustainability.
“Without firmer progress on the key areas of budget balance and workforce planning, the SPA and Police Scotland will not be able to deliver the ambitions of the new Joint Strategy for Policing.”
The Auditor General’s report said: “The Scottish Police Authority reported a total resource outturn (revenue and capital) of £1,205.6 million in 2019/20, against a budget of £1,179.0 million, resulting in an overspend of £26.6 million (2.2 per cent).
“This was a £26.8 million overspend on revenue, offset by a £0.2 million underspend on capital.
“As in 2018/19, the Scottish Government agreed to provide additional cash (£32.9 million in 2019/20) to enable the Scottish Police Authority to meet cashflow requirements.”