EDINBURGH residents are being shortchanged on police numbers despite the city council paying £2.6 million a year for extra officers, Tories have claimed.
Figures show the Capital has seen one of the biggest drops in police officers per head of population anywhere in Scotland since the formation of the single national force.
And a motion to be debated at tomorrow’s full council meeting invites Police Scotland to review “why police numbers in Edinburgh do not support the growth in population”.
It also insists the council’s financial support for additional officers “should not be used to make up for unacceptable basic police provision”.
In 2013, when the previous eight forces were merged to create Police Scotland, Edinburgh had 1180 police offices, but by 2017 the number was down to 1155. That’s a fall from 24.21 per 10,000 citizens to 22.5 – a drop of 7.07 per cent.
Only the neighbouring division, covering the rest of Lothian and the Borders, fared worse with a 7.3 per cent fall in officers per head.
Greater Glasgow saw a 6.8 per cent fall but still has 36 officers per 10,000 citizens.
Conservative councillor Jim Campbell said: “The raw numbers paint a stark picture. Edinburgh has far fewer police per head of population than other parts of the country.
“In my own area, the local police on the beat say they are very pushed. They do an excellent job, but are struggling to respond to things.”
The council makes an annual contribution from its budget to Police Scotland for dedicated local officers across the city.
But Cllr Campbell said: “There doesn’t seem to be much evidence the council’s £2.6m is delivering a commitment to close the gap, which is what we’re looking for.
“We don’t have to pay that money. Whatever basic services are needed should be provided by the police out of central funding. If a council chooses to spend more that should be for additional officers.
“Given that most local authorities no longer fund the police, it is doubly insulting we are still funding them and we have such a poor number of police per head of population. It’s not acceptable.”
Edinburgh divisional commander Chief Superintendent Gareth Blair thanked the council for its “vital” role.
He said: “Council-funded officers are utilised to investigate a range of crimes that occur within our communities, as well as providing engagement and liaison with local residents, businesses and elected members.
“Since the first day of Police Scotland, there has been a national commitment to reviewing deployment models across the country and ensuring appropriate resources are in place in all areas, including Edinburgh, to provide the highest level of policing service to our communities.”
He said in addition to officers posted specifically within Edinburgh, officers from other departments were also based here.
“The benefit to a single force is that all divisions can call on assistance and support from specialist colleagues when required. We are satisfied the number of officers serving in Edinburgh at present reflects the current requirement based on operational demand.”