Edinburgh’s law enforcement services are at risk of significant cutbacks, as city councillors have been cautioned that insufficient funding could lead to a scaled-down response to certain types of crimes. The city’s top police officials have underscored the potential consequences of a “flat cash settlement,” indicating that it would translate to fewer officers and an overall reduction in service quality.
The looming funding crisis may compel police officers to allocate fewer resources to address “low-level” crimes such as vandalism, road traffic offenses, and damage to cars. While ensuring a continued emphasis on prioritizing “high harm, high risk, high vulnerability” crimes, the force acknowledged that it would be the “lower hanging fruit” that would bear the brunt of the cutbacks.
Police Scotland has issued a warning, asserting that without a £128 million injection from the Scottish Government, approximately 3,000 jobs across the country are at risk. The urgency of the matter comes as the Scottish Government is set to unveil its budget for 2024-25 later this month. Finance Secretary Shona Robinson has already issued a warning about a potential “worst-case scenario” and the likelihood of a smaller public sector workforce.
During a recent session with members of the Edinburgh Council’s Culture and Communities Committee, police officials highlighted the pivotal role the upcoming spending review decision would play in determining the future of policing in the region. They expressed the need to move away from a reactive approach to budget cuts, advocating for a “spend to save” strategy that, if properly funded, could yield long-term savings for the public purse.
The stark reality facing the police force has prompted calls for a reevaluation of priorities, raising concerns about the potential impact on the community. Questions have been raised about the fate of critical issues, such as incidents of rape, sexual assault, and efforts to reduce drug harm, in the face of budget constraints.
Assurances have been sought that these critical issues would not be compromised, regardless of budget constraints. The response has been that even with fewer officers, the force would still be concentrating on those “high harm, high risk, high vulnerability” areas.
Explaining the tough decisions that lie ahead, police officials emphasized that they would be compelled to choose which “lower hanging fruit” to address, seeking public input on what types of incidents might be deemed acceptable for a reduced police response. Examples provided included lower-level vandalisms, damage to cars, and minor road traffic offenses where no injuries occurred.
As the December 19th decision date for the spending review approaches, the fate of policing in Edinburgh hangs in the balance. The potential ramifications of funding cuts extend beyond the immediate concerns of the police force, raising questions about public safety and the community’s tolerance for a scaled-back police presence in certain areas. The coming weeks will reveal the outcome of the budget decision and shed light on the future landscape of law enforcement in the Scottish capital without mentioning specific individuals.