Police turn back from closures

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POLICE and fire bosses unveiled their budgets for next year vowing to continue to look at ways of saving cash.

Both the chief constable and chief fire officer said the financial plans for 2011/12 were announced against a backdrop of “restraint and cuts”.

However, they agreed that the priority was to maintain frontline services and protect communities.

Chief Constable Kevin Smith said because the cash reduction in grant was 2.6 per cent and not nearer nine per cent as anticipated, Central Scotland Police would not be closing any of its smaller stations – but that could change in the future.

The force had been looking at a number of cost-cutting measures which included a proposal to shut 11 satellite offices, including Camelon, Maddiston and Bo’ness, to save £185,000.

Meanwhile, Chief Fire Officer Kenny Taylor has said a reduction in staff numbers will now be carried out “from the top” rather than losing eight firefighter posts.

The chief constable tabled a revenue budget of £25.451 million for Central Scotland Joint Police Board to approve last Friday.

He said it’s preparation had “not been as difficult as first thought but was quite stringent” and referred to the commitment from the three local authorities, Falkirk, Stirling and Clackmanannshire, to increase police officer numbers to 868 in Central Scotland,

With officer salaries making up more than two-thirds of the budget, savings had to come from the remainder and was a tough task, but the chief added drastically reducing civilian numbers was not the answer. He added that 34 members of staff were taking redundancy, with a further three applications rejected because it would have cost too much to give them a package or their post still needed to be filled.

Mr Smith said: “To cut police staff numbers would mean the force would not be as effective. We need people in back office functions as well as frontline operations. Otherwise it would be a lose-lose situation.”

He added that Central Scotland continued to perform well with excellent clear up rates and he was “not asking people to invest in a failing force”.

Falkirk Council will spend £13.158 million on policing next year, with another £7.811 million being its share of Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service’s £14.934 million revenue budget.

The chief fire officer proposed efficiency savings of almost £800,000, including cuts in overtime, cleaning services and an internal restructure.

Mr Taylor said: “We are still doing work with colleagues in Fife and Tayside looking at where services can be shared.”

Gordon McQuade, secretary of the Central Scotland branch of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “We welcome the decision to carry out a restructuring of senior management which will means the frontline in Central Scotland can now be fully staffed.”