DOZENS more civilian workers with Lothian and Borders Police have agreed to take voluntary redundancy, sparking new fears that frontline officers will end up carrying out paperwork.
The redundancies form the latest round of cost-cutting by the force which hopes to save £1.7 million a year by axing the backroom roles.
Scottish Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: “This is a real concern and it’s an issue which was discussed at yesterday’s justice committee which heard from conveners of police boards. Stephen Curran, convener of the Strathclyde Police Authority, pointed out that Lothian and Borders Police was particularly vulnerable because of the number of civilian staff they had to deal with its status as the capital city. He said the loss of civilian staff was a danger to all forces, but for Lothian and Borders it was greatest.
“It’s a real risk that police officers will end up having to carry out work which was done by civilian staff.”
More than 200 people applied to leave under the redundancy scheme, but police chiefs mainly chose workers whose departure would “pay back” in salary savings within 12 months.
A total of 92 staff were given voluntary redundancy between April 2010 and May last year, with the losses now set to exceed ten per cent of civilian workers.
The departing staff were selected after a review found their job could be “permanently deleted”, removing the need for replacements. The cost of the new wave of redundancies has been put at £1.6m in pay-outs and pension contributions.
The average redundancy payment being made is £32,169.
Iain Whyte, convener of the police board, said: “These redundancies have been looked at carefully to try and avoid any impact on frontline officers.
“Inevitably people will have to do things in different ways. That may mean waiting longer for a piece of admin to be done.”
Last July, the force came under attack after it was revealed that 36 officers were set to be removed from frontline duties in the Lothians to cover for axed custody staff.
A police spokeswoman said: “The voluntary redundancy scheme was introduced as a result of increased pressure on the force budget, which forced us to look at ways that we could reduce salary costs.
“One of the criteria for selecting successful applicants was ensuring that the corresponding post could be removed from the organisational structure. To this end, each application was considered within the context of ensuring the best possible standards of service.”