Warning over cost of Police Scotland pay rise

police scotland officers Image copyright Getty Images

Scrapping the public sector pay cap could add "significant pressure" to Police Scotland's budget, a report has warned.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed earlier this month that the 1% cap on public sector pay rises will be removed next year.

A report to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) said a 2% pay rise would cost the force almost £26m.

That would be the equivalent of 600 police officers, the report said.

The pay cap has led to complaints that public sector workers have seen dramatic real-terms drops in their earnings in recent years.

When she outlined her plans to scrap it, Ms Sturgeon said future pay rises would be based on the cost of living.

Range of scenarios

The current retail price index (RPI) inflation rate stands at 3.9%, while the consumer price index (CPI) inflation rate, which does not take into account housing costs such as council tax and mortgages, is 2.9%.

Scottish NHS workers recently joined their colleagues across the UK in calling for a 3.9% pay rise, plus an additional £800.

The SPA report sets out a range of scenarios, which estimate the costs of giving Police Scotland officers and staff pay rises of 2%, 2.7% and 3%.

It found that a 2% pay rise would increase costs by £25.8m by 2020/21, while a 2.7% award would lead to a £43m increase and 3% would see a £50.4m rise in costs.

The force currently employs about 17,200 police officers and about 5,600 civilian staff.

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Media captionNicola Sturgeon said earlier this month that the 1% public sector pay cap will be lifted with "affordable pay rises" from 2018

The report said the figures showed that increasing salaries by more than 1% would therefore bring "a significant cost pressure into the core budget".

And while it is assumed that the Scottish government would fund any increases above the existing 1% pay cap, the report said there has so far been "no commitment from the Scottish government to do this".

It added: "An additional 1% award will require an additional £25.8 million of savings to be identified to achieve a balance budget in 2020/21.

"To put that into context, a further £25.8 million of savings would be the equivalent of reducing the police officer establishment by an additional 600 officers, or the equivalent of reducing police staff numbers by a further 850 over the next three years."

'Fair deal'

Police Scotland has already outlined plans to cut officer numbers by 400 as part of its 10-year policing plan.

Recruitment levels would remain unchanged for 2017/18, but would begin to slow between 2018 and 2020, the force said.

It came after the public spending watchdog said the police service was facing a £188m funding gap by 2020/21.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "Public sector workers in Scotland and across the UK deserve a fair deal, and we will deliver a pay policy that is affordable and recognises real life circumstances.

"However, to ensure we can really improve both pay and public services it is time for the UK government to end austerity and invest properly in public services and those who work in them.

"We will continue to press the UK government over the glaring VAT disparity which means that the SPA is the only territorial police authority in the UK unable to recover VAT."

Scottish Labour's justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said even a 2% rise would remain a real terms pay cut for police officers and staff.

She added: "If the SNP government is going to lift the pay cap then it must provide the additional resources and not make hard-pressed public bodies have to find the rise out of existing budgets. It would be wrong to lift the pay cap by cutting jobs and services."

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