POLICE Scotland have paid out more than £4000 a week in overtime payments to staff at a troubled call-handling centre since it absorbed the work of two other facilities.
The Bilston Glen centre at Loanhead, which was at the centre of the M9 tragedy controversy, took on the work of other centres in Stirling and Glenrothes in April 2015.
Opponents claimed that the centre had been inadequately resourced from the start – and it has now emerged that £350,000 was paid in overtime to fill gaps in the rota to handle increased demand for the under-fire service.
Police Scotland, however, insists that its total overtime costs came down after Stirling and Glenrothes were axed, while service delivery to the public has improved.
John Yuill, 28, and Lamara Bell, 25, died in 2015 when the car they were travelling in crashed off the M9. It took three days for officers to arrive at the scene despite a call to the force’s 101 number.
Problems with logging calls at Bilston Glen were blamed, where staff complained of a lack of resources and insufficient training.
The figures unveiled by the Conservatives show that overtime payments at the centre reached £289,728 in 2015/16, and £60,852 so far in 2016/17.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said some overtime payments will be necessary. But he added: “The sheer scale of these points to a major problem with staffing and resources there.
“If the Scottish Government had ensured these facilities were properly staffed to begin with, there wouldn’t be a requirement for additional payments of this magnitude.”
Chief Superintendent Roddy Newbigging, of Police Scotland, said overtime costs for Bilston Glen, Stirling and Glenrothes in 2014/15 were £398,275 and fell by about £100,000 the following year.
He added: “Last month Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMIC) reported that the service which the public receives has improved, with 93 per cent to 97 per cent of ‘999’ calls being answered within 10 seconds and 91 per cent to 100% of non-emergency 101 calls being answered within 40 seconds.
“Therefore, we are now providing an improved level of service at a much reduced cost to the public.”
Last month HMIC pointed to a range of concerns with the call centre. A total of 98 “notable incidents” had taken place between April and November last year, the majority down to individual error. Thirty-six of those arose from 999 calls, while 52 related to calls to the non-emergency 101 number, it said.