Scottish Police Authority boss defends £950-a-day accountant

Media caption,
John Foley: "It is necessary to bring on board a senior financial person with appropriate skills."

The head of the Scottish Police Authority has defended paying an accountant £950 a day to help sort out its multi-million pound deficit.

John Foley told a Holyrood committee that its interim chief financial officer, on secondment from private firm PwC, had the "appropriate skills".

He added that he had "trawled" the public sector but there "was no availability".

Scotland's police service is facing a £188m funding gap by 2020/21.

The accounts of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Police Scotland, which manage a £1.1bn annual budget, have been the focus of heavy criticism.

At the end of last year, the country's Auditor General Caroline Gardner said there were "substantial issues" which needed to be addressed.

On Thursday morning representatives from the SPA and Police Scotland appeared before the parliament's public audit committee.

Members were told that since June the authority had been employing an accountant from the private sector.

SNP MSP Colin Beattie asked Mr Foley whether spending more than £131,100 on one person in the face of severe financial problems was an "act of desperation".

Image caption,
The chief constable said there would be a more visible community presence

The authority's chief executive said: "It is not an act of desperation. The requirement was to have senior financial resource which had capability to deliver moving forward because capability was part of the issue."

On the formation of a single police force four years ago it was decided there would be two chief finance officers, one for the SPA and one for Police Scotland.

Last year it was decided that those two roles would be amalgamated

Mr Foley was further questioned why a permanent appointment had yet to be made.

He said that the authority was "absolutely taking action".

Mr Foley added: "It is necessary to bring on board a senior financial person with appropriate skills.

"I took a trawl round the public sector to see if anyone of seniority or experience was available to do this and that did not result in us identifying anyone, there was no availability."

Corporate roles cut

It was confirmed to the committee that a person with the appropriate skills had been on secondment from PwC since June - at a cost of £950 per day - and would continue to be employed until the post was filled on a permanent basis.

Mr Foley said a selection process was ongoing and was hopeful of making the appointment next month.

It said that police officers would be cut by 400 as part of a 10-year-policing plan.

Officers would also be released from corporate and backroom roles, with priority being given to frontline operations and a more visible community presence.

Some corporate roles would also be cut.

Police Scotland's Chief Constable Phil Gormley said that changing technology meant that not everyone involved in fighting crime would be a serving police officer.

And he added that the workforce would be given new training to fight cybercrime.

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