Police chief in council merger call

David O'Connor
Image caption Supt O'Connor called for a debate about possible mergers of councils, health boards and sheriffdoms

A senior police officer has suggested local authorities and other public bodies could be merged using the model of the single Scottish police force.

Scotland's eight forces were merged into one single body earlier this year.

David O'Connor, Association of Scottish Police Superintendents president, said similar cost-saving measures should be considered for councils, health boards and sheriffdoms.

Local authority body Cosla said he was "missing the point".

Supt O'Connor told BBC radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We fully supported the reform of the eight police forces, and fully supported the move to one force.

"But part of the debate, as we recall some time ago, was that if eight police forces was too many - and we accepted and fully supported that point - then perhaps we need to look at other public sector organisations: the 32 local authorities, the 14 health boards, the six sheriffdoms, and others.

"We have moved into a single force in a very short space of time. But this whole journey of reform we believe needs to carry on, and if we're going to maximise the benefits we need to do that right across the public sector."

He said Police Scotland could not be expected to "bear the brunt of these costs alone".

His comments come ahead of the association's conference in Pitlochry this week.

Merging services

The creation of the single Police Scotland force, together with a similar merger of fire brigades, could save £1.7bn over the next 15 years.

Savings are calculated to come from merging services such as HR and procurement, and reducing duplicate staff.

On his appointment, the new Chief Constable Stephen House suggested up to 3,000 civilian jobs could be shed. He later stated the number would be somewhere between zero and 3,000.

Supt O'Connor said that the move had been "tough", but argued that merging local services would not lead to a loss of accountability.

"In terms of police reform, we've got 14 divisions now and local policing has carried on, and we have local engagement and scrutiny at a local level," he said.

"I believe, and we believe, that local authorities and other parts of the public sector could look at other ways that these services continue."

A Cosla spokesman responded to Supt O'Connor's comments by saying: "He misses the point, as we work together as community planning partners, and Finance Secretary John Swinney has already said there will be no local government re-organisation."

Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said the Scottish government had made clear that there would be no reorganisation of local government in the foreseeable future.

"Over the past few years we have been working together with our partners to make our public services simpler, better co-ordinated and focused on preventing long term pressure on our services and public finances," he said.

"While we continue to improve our services over the years ahead we will do so in a way that works with the people of Scotland, putting citizens and communities at the centre."

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