500 police staff facing the axe within five months as cuts bite

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Up TO 500 civilian police staff across Scotland face losing their jobs over the next five months ahead of the creation of the new single force.

New figures have detailed the number of voluntary redundancies needed nationally before the end of March – with critics warning cuts to the eight current forces are too rapid and too extensive.

Fears have been raised over the impact on frontline officers and the likelihood they may be drafted onto back office functions.

Lothian and Borders Police have around 1,150 civilian police staff – out of 7,200 in Scotland.

They are expected to lose at least 100 roles in the first round. Altogether up to 3,200 face the axe over the next few years, according to new single force chief Stephen House.

The local force has opened a new round of voluntary redundancies to prevent the duplication of roles when the eight forces become the Police Service of Scotland in April.

David Strang, Lothian and Borders chief constable, wrote in a report published this week: “The Police Service of Scotland will face significant financial challenges from April 1, 2013. There is a requirement to substantially reduce the number of police staff transferring to, and remaining in, the new service.

“Current financial planning indicates the need to reduce in the region of 500 police staff in 2012-13 with a much larger reduction in 2013-14 – the first year of operation of the new service.”

Lewis Macdonald, justice spokesman for Labour at Holyrood, which backed the creation of the single force but has warned about the depth of cuts, said: “Given the size of Lothian and Borders it’s also regrettable to see 100 or more face going from a single force.

“There’s at least one police station in Edinburgh where civilian police staff have been replaced with officers and this is a good example of what we are afraid of happening nationally. For every cop behind a desk that’s one not on the street.”

Iain Whyte, convener of the Lothian and Borders Police Board and a member of the new national board, said: “The Scottish Government has told the new organisation that it can’t have any compulsory redundancies on staff and police officers numbers must remain at the same level.”

Meanwhile, Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue has announced a second wave of voluntary redundancies as they face similar cut backs and duplication of roles ahead of the creation of a single Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Unlike the police, cutbacks are expected to be less significant and only 15 personnel took up the offer last year.

Mike Bridgman, head of the Scottish Fire Conveners’ Forum and a city councillor in Edinburgh, said: “I would hope any reduction to staffing does not affect the services going ­forward. But this is a matter for the new national fire board to tackle come first of April.”