Edinburgh police funding ‘could be better spent’ on city’s homeless

FUNDING set to be cut from community policing could be better spent tackling homelessness, a senior councillor has claimed.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 8:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st January 2019, 8:25 pm
Police in Edinburgh. Pic: Steven Scott Taylor.

Police Scotland chiefs were grilled over the Capital’s funding deal for officers – with fears the local authority “does not get good value” for the money it hands over.

Members of Edinburgh City Council’s finance and resources committee will today examine proposals to cut millions of pounds of funding from the 2019/20 budget. The 
proposals total £41m – but the figure is set to drop to around £34m after a deal was struck between the SNP and Greens in Holyrood over the Scottish Government budget yesterday.

One of the tabled proposals is to cut £522,000 of the £1.6m paid to Police Scotland for community policing by the authority – which police chiefs told councillors could see the loss of nine of the current 53 officers.

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The vice convener of the council’s housing and economy committee, Labour Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron, has suggested that the money could be spent on other priorities.

Addressing police chiefs, she said: “We are the lowest-funded area from the Scottish Government.

“It could be argued that the funding we give you could be allocated to supporting homeless and getting people out of poverty – which actually could even reduce levels of some crime.”

Chief superintendent Gareth Blair told councillors that if the funding is withdrawn, a £150,000 pot for community based initiatives to tackle antisocial behaviour, violence, and disorder would likely be cut.

He added: “It would be a bit more challenging to tackle some of the significant issues in Edinburgh – such as operations for motorcycle thefts and Operation Moonbeam around Bonfire Night.

“Our proposal is for four less family and household support officers and five less community police officers.”

Police Scotland also came under fire for giving the Capital less officers per head of population than other parts of Scotland.

Conservative Cllr Jim Campbell said: “The fact that over 5,000 deployments were made into Edinburgh from the rest of Scotland seems to suggest Edinburgh has insufficient officers to start with. I will be asking how many of these deployments were of local police officers from other divisions.

“The SNP/Labour council administration has not got good value for the £2.6m expenditure. Why is Edinburgh paying so much more than other councils for community police officers? Edinburgh is disadvantaged around those deployments.”

Police Scotland said it could not break down how many of the 5,000 officers drafted into the Capital were for 
community policing – and said that Edinburgh has specialist requirements including the parliament.

Deputy chief constable Paul Anderson told councillors that “there’s a sufficient resource to meet that 
crime.”

He said: “It’s very difficult to compare one location to another location.”