Booze trouble fears over police licensing staff cuts

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THERE are fears problem pubs could slip through the cracks in the move to a single Scottish police force, as it emerged 28 licensing staff may lose their jobs under Scottish Government proposals.

Figures seen by the News reveal that civilian posts for the entire workforce dealing with alcohol and taxi licensing for Lothian and Borders Police could be lost under plans to replace the country’s eight regional forces with a single 
Police Service of Scotland.

Today, politicians branded the move a “disgrace” and warned that licensing could be left exclusively in the hands of the city council.

A police spokesman stressed that no decision has yet been made on the future composition of licensing departments.

The dossier, produced by a working group led by senior police officers, shows that posts for 22 police staff involved in alcohol licensing and six working with taxi licensing could be under threat.

Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack said: “We have a real problem with drunken and aggressive behaviour linked to our pubs and clubs which stretch our emergency services to the limit.

“For the police now to leave the licensing of taxis and the night-time economy in the hands of the council smacks of cutting without understanding.

“To walk away from helping to ensure that our city remains safe for residents and tourists is a disgrace.”

In June, MSPs passed legislation to create a single police force for Scotland which will be up and running by April. It has been argued that £1.7 billion can be saved over 15 years without cutting the number of front-line police officers.

Councillor Chas Booth, who sits on the city licensing board, said he would urge colleagues to express their concerns in a letter to the Scottish Government and argued that it was a “step in the wrong direction”.

He said: “It would be extremely concerning if there would be a reduction in police numbers in the licensing department and that would certainly be a matter of grave concern, especially with the focus on alcohol at the moment and the harm that it does to society.”

A spokesman for Unison, which represents civilian workers in the force, said the union was “deeply concerned” about the potential job losses.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “A financial paper was prepared which outlines possible options to reduce the operating costs of the police service. These are only options and no decisions have been made or will be made without a full evaluation of the circumstances and consultation with staff. “