Response 987380017

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Other views

7. We would welcome any additional views you have on our strategy and how it will affect you, or any other person.

We would welcome any views you have.
Introduction 1. The Auditor General for Scotland appoints the auditor of the Scottish Police Authority (which includes the audit of Police Scotland). Audit Scotland has been the appointed auditor since the formation of the two organisations in 2013 under the terms of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012. 2. Our audit work has raised a number of issues that need to be addressed if the vision outlined in the draft Policing 2026 strategy is going to be realised. Our work informs this response which focuses predominantly on how Policing 2026 will be implemented. The vision 3. We welcome the development of a long-term strategy for policing. It is an important stage in the history of police reform that began with the formation of the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland in 2013. Policing 2026 presents a clear analysis of the future demands facing the police service in terms of the changing nature of:  society  crime – with a decline in crimes taking place in a public space, but an in increase crimes that take place in a private space, such as domestic abuse, and virtual space (cybercrimes)  demands on the police service such as the rise in the number of vulnerable people that the police have to deal with. Implementation 4. The successful implementation of Policing 2026 will require strong and consistent leadership from both the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland and an effective relationship between them. The Scottish Police Authority will scrutinise and monitor Police Scotland’s progress in implementing Policing 2026 and hold it to account. The Scottish Police Authority must ensure that the information it receives enable it to scrutinise and challenge progress effectively. Early agreement about how this will be done is important. 5. Policing 2026 discusses the challenges that will face Police Scotland in implementing it. The draft strategy suggests that Police Scotland will prepare a three-year implementation plan following its finalisation which will lay the groundwork for the shift to the vision it outlines (page 54). This will extend to mid-2020. Given the on-going challenges that the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland face in terms of governance and finance, this timescale seems realistic. 6. We initially recommended that the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland produced a long-term financial strategy in November 2013. We therefore welcome the commitment to produce such a strategy to underpin how Policing 2026 will be implemented (page 50). We suggest that the financial strategy is published alongside Policing 2026 when the latter is finalised. The long-term financial strategy must also be supported by specific strategies (containing financial plans and projections) for areas such as workforce, estate, IT, fleet and procurement. 7. Policing 2026 rightly notes that failure to invest in people and infrastructure will “[…] compromise our ability to deliver the policing service that Scotland needs” (page 11). However, in 2015/16, there was an underspend on capital expenditure which was used to offset an overspend on revenue expenditure. This means that investment in infrastructure (whether it is in the estate, IT systems or the police fleet) may have been delayed to support the day-to-day running of the organisation. The scale of the underspend was significant: £19.4 million against a capital budget of £38 million. There will likely be an underspend on the capital budget again in 2016/17. Policing 2026 suggests that a financially sustainable position will be reached by 2019/20 but this cannot be at the expense of necessary long-term capital investment. 8. The Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland have received additional funding from the Scottish Government throughout their lifetime to enable reform and transformation of the police service. Some of this funding has been used to pay VAT costs but there is limited evidence that any of this funding has been used for reform and transformation in the way that it is envisaged in Policing 2026. Protecting any future funding that is earmarked for reform and transformation from day-to-day spending pressures will be imperative. 9. Policing 2026 envisages a greatly enhanced role for technology in enabling police officers and staff to perform their duties more efficiently and effectively. It also envisages significant savings arising from the greater use of technology. However, along with certain other parts of the public sector, the track record of implementing major IT developments in Scottish policing has been poor. To deliver the technological vision outlined in 2026 and the Scottish Government’s wider justice digital strategy, there will need to be a clear IT strategy and a strong IT team within Police Scotland, supported by external advisors where necessary. We welcome the commitment made by the chief executive of the Scottish Police Authority that the IT strategy will be in place alongside the finalised version of the Policing 2026 vision. 10. Policing 2026 stresses the importance of having the “[…] skills, tools and capacity to address future needs rather than focusing on the size or structure of our organisation.” To date, Police Scotland has had to maintain a minimum number of police officers. This reduces the flexibility that the organisation has to deploy its resources, and requires police officers to perform roles that could potentially be performed by police staff, either more effectively, more cheaply, or both. Policing 2026 indicates that the number of police officers will remain the same in 2017/18 and then start to change. It is not clear what this change will be. 11. Given the emphasis placed in Policing 2026 on the importance of partnership working, collaboration and information sharing with public bodies, it might be helpful For Policing 2026 to articulate how Police Scotland intends to work within the wider community planning framework and within in the context of the statement of ambition for community planning.

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Audit Scotland