THE new Scottish Police Authority is expected to achieve £1.4 billion in savings over 15 years.
Plans include an initial 10% reduction in the £56 million annual budget for maintaining buildings. To ensure both operational and financial efficiencies, decisions on the location of regional headquarters and local stations must be taken strategically.
That poses a problem for the current Strathclyde Police Authority. It has long planned to replace the force headquarters at Pitt Street in Glasgow with a new building in the east of the city. But a decision on a site at Dalmarnock at the centre of the Commonwealth Games complex was shelved because Strathclyde Police will cease to exist when the new single force comes into being in April next year. Delaying the decision is likely to cost the taxpayer an additional £7.5 million.
The current police authority is exempt from paying VAT but the new force will have to pay the 20% tax. In addition, £1m has already been spent on preparation work which would be lost if the scheme were abandoned.
The Pitt Street HQ is expensive to maintain. A purpose-built replacement would save £1.35m a year in running costs and provide better facilities. These factors mean that, sooner rather than later, the new force will need an alternative regional HQ in the West of Scotland.
The transfer of a major police office to Dalmarnock would play a significant part in ensuring the Commonwealth Games in 2014 provided a lasting economic gain for the east end of Glasgow. It would attract other businesses and result in new shops, cafes and, crucially, the jobs which have been missing from previous regeneration schemes.
Nevertheless, Dalmarnock is not the only alternative to Pitt Street. Another serious option would be Gartcosh in North Lanarkshire, where the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and Serious Organised Crime Agency along with parts of the Crown Office, Procurator Fiscal Service, and HM Revenue and Customs will operate a combined campus. If there are arguments in favour of the Strathclyde force's replacement having its HQ in Gartcosh, they should be fully interrogated. Although the new Scottish force will initially be run from Tulliallan, the centrally-located police college, there is considerable vying for a future HQ. That must also be taken into account in assessing what happens in Glasgow but incurring £7.5 million of unnecessary costs would be a disastrous start for the new service.
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