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23 June 2015, 11:31
Police Scotland could save up to £18 million a year by closing police stations, cells and staff offices - but such a move could have an impact on personnel and local communities, a report has found.
An estate strategy to be presented to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) tomorrow sets out plans to "consolidate the floor space occupied by Police Scotland and rationalise the assets held by the SPA without compromising our visibility and accessibility to communities".
Police Scotland owns 710 assets including 460 operational properties, ranging from 19th-century buildings to new, purpose-built premises, and over three-quarters are over 35 years old.
Just over 70% of the properties surveyed are in "good or reasonable condition" indicating "opportunities to improve and modernise through refurbishing or replacing parts of the portfolio'', the report by Police Scotland director of corporate services Susan Mitchell said.
The report states: "Police Scotland recognises the integral importance of its buildings to the delivery of a high quality policing service.
"Visibility and accessibility are a cornerstone of service delivery, but increasingly this could be delivered in other ways than by police officers operating from a traditional police station."
The largest 40 properties make up over 50% of the total estate by space and account for about 25% of the occupancy costs.
"This provides considerable opportunity to review use and implement more modern, flexible working practices,'' the report said.
Police Scotland also owns residential properties which are being sold off to occupying police officers or on the open market, and it is currently building flats for officers in the Highland and Islands and Aberdeen.
The report states: "Changes arising from implementation of the estate strategy may have an impact on staff in the longer term.
"Rationalisation of the estate may be a catalyst for change in the way that functions operate. This may result in a review of staff roles and locations.
"An equalities impact assessment has been carried out during the development of the estate strategy and this will be repeated for each future location specific business case.
"This will further assess the impact on specific staff in the areas affected and will involve consultation with relevant stakeholders (eg staff associations and staff members)."
Police Scotland has acknowledged there may be "legal and reputational implications" arising from the decision, saying any changes "will require close engagement with communities to reassure them of the continuing provision of an enhanced service that continues to be visible and accessible''.
There may also be a "wider social impact" resulting from the movement of police personnel from a specific area, it said.
Control room closures have already been established and "are now being implemented in order to consolidate the number of locations from which services can be delivered without diminishing its quality''.
Police Scotland is also considering "consolidating and enhancing" custody centres.
Non-operational services such as HR, payroll and business support "predominantly employ standard office spaces and have limited need to occupy specific premises'', and present ``a significant opportunity to rationalise functions'', the report states.
"Although much of the estate is still well placed to meet current demand, some of it is not," it said.
"Some buildings fail to meet expected standards, many lack the flexibility expected of modern workplaces, and some are disproportionately expensive to occupy and maintain."
The report concludes: "Implementation of the strategy will reduce unnecessary spend on inefficient and outdated accommodation, without diminishing the footprint of local policing.
"Investment in modern, efficient working accommodation will facilitate new working practices that the organisation is seeking to employ, such as flexible working across the estate, remote working and ICT-enabled mobility.
"More effective use of accommodation may not result in Police Scotland being located in less premises, but it should reduce floor space occupied by 10% to 25%.
"It is estimated that this could generate annual revenue savings of between £5 million and £18 million.