New council committee to scrutinise police policy

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COUNCIL chiefs have signalled their determination to ensure maximum input into policing policy in the Capital – by setting up a dedicated scrutiny committee.

The former Lothian and Borders Police Board was scrapped when Police Scotland was created as a single national force earlier this year.

But there has since been widespread concern about apparent changes of police policy on issues including sauna licensing, stop and search tactics and the proposal to close five police station counters.

The shock step – which would see opening hours slashed at three more – has prompted the Evening News to launch our Save Our Stations campaign, opposing the cost-cutting exercise. Indeed, the council’s decision to launch a stand-alone committee to closely scrutinise police and fire issues follows a meeting with Police Scotland chiefs prompted by the station counter closure controversy.

Council leader Andrew Burns said: “Strategically the coalition felt that, given the scale and number of issues to do with both police and fire that have come to the fore in recent months, it was the right thing to have a separate scrutiny arrangement.

The primary purpose will be to scrutinise and monitor both the local police and the local fire plans.”

He said the recent summit with police chiefs had given him confidence that council views would have an influence.He said: “While local government doesn’t have any formal powers in relation to Police Scotland, from the meeting we had with Chief Constable Sir Stephen House and local commander Mark Williams, there is an absolute willingness to make sure the council has an input and say on local police services and that’s exactly what the new committee will strive to do.”

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie added: “We regard this as a very serious subject and we didn’t want to subsume it into the agenda of another committee.”

SNP councillor Mike Bridgman, who will be convener of the new committee, said it is expected Chief Superintendent Williams will attend meetings.

He said: “We will get statistical information from the divisional commander and we will be scrutinising and analysing the reports to make sure Edinburgh is being policed as we believe it should be.

“We will ask him about policing issues facing the city [and to] make this work for the people of Edinburgh.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com