CIVILIAN staff working in police stations will be “thrown on the scrapheap” as part of the controversial plans to close public counters, a union leader has warned.
Compulsory redundancies have been ruled out under Scottish Government policy, but Unison says many employees whose posts disappear in the shake-up will lose shift payments, and find themselves in a “pool” for redeployment with nothing to do, and feel they have no alternative but to leave.
Ten police stations across Edinburgh and the Lothians, used by more than 100,000 people a year, would see their front desks axed under proposals drawn up by the new single police force. While nostalgic memories of long-running BBC1 drama Dixon of Dock Green have us expecting friendly bobbies, most police counters are staffed by civilian employees.
Around 125 jobs are expected to go across Scotland under the proposals. In Edinburgh, 16 of the current 42 front counter posts are earmarked to go, along with ten out of 40 in the rest of the former Lothian and Borders force area. The controversial step has prompted the News to launch a campaign – Save Our Stations – to fight the cuts.
Last night it was endorsed by George McIrvine, Unison branch secretary for police staff, who said the closures “will diminish the service”.
He said: “If you are advocating community policing, how can you do that while closing police station counters? You are ripping the heart out of it.” He said counter staff had a wide range of duties. “They don’t just sit waiting on someone coming in. That’s nonsense.”
Mr McIrvine said the Scottish Government’s pledge to retain the current number of police officers meant savings had to come from other areas of police operations and by the end of the year more than 1400 civilian staff would have left under voluntary redundancy and early retirement.
Chief Constable Sir Stephen House told a board meeting of the Scottish Police Authority earlier this month that the counter closures and cutbacks would allow more civilian staff who wanted to leave to do so.
He said: “We have a large number of support staff who wish to go and we have prevented them from leaving the organisation under voluntary redundancy/early retirement.”
But Mr McIrvine said it was a “myth” that there was a long queue of civilian staff keen to go. He said: “The people who can and want to go have gone.
“What we have now is a young workforce with families and mortgages. These people don’t want to go. They need their jobs. There is a no compulsory redundancies policy, so the theory is people whose posts are declared redundant will be redeployed – but it depends what is available and where.
“They will be put in a pool and paid for doing nothing.”
Unison claim staff manning counters likely to have their opening hours cut stand to lose thousands in shift payments.
And Mr McIrvine said maintaining the number of officers and shedding civilian staff had already led to “backfilling” – officers taking over duties previously carried out by civilians.
How you can help
Back the campaign by displaying a poster and signing the petition, which is already available to sign at several locations including:
• The Mill at St Joseph’s, the cafe beside Balerno Parish Church;
• Balerno Garage Ltd, Deanpark Brae;
• Sideburns Barber Shop, Oxgangs Broadway, Oxgangs;
• Craigmillar Post Office, Niddrie Mains Road.
To receive a petition and poster e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0131-620 8733, or call into the offices at 108 Holyrood Road.
Email the following to SoS@edinburghnews.com along with your name and address
“Dear Sir Stephen House,
I want my local police station to stay open to the public. Please think again.”