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Police and Fire Reform Bill

17/01/2012

Single police and fire and rescue services in Scotland will bring local services to the heart of communities, the Justice Secretary said today.

There will be designated local senior officers at the centre of a new, strong relationship between councils and the services, and a statutory duty to provide adequate local police and fire services.

Local authorities will approve plans for their area and many more councillors will have a say than under the current arrangements.

The services will be independent, with no operational control by Ministers, but subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

Kenny MacAskill was speaking at an event in Galashiels to mark the publication of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill which will establish the Police Service of Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Key aspects of the Bill include:

  • Regular, formal opportunities for the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise policing and fire and rescue services
  • Establishing the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service board to hold the Chief Constable and Chief Officer to account
  • Establishing 'the Police Service of Scotland', comprising a Chief Constable, other officers and police staff. The Chief Constable and other senior officers will be appointed by the SPA. All constables and police staff will transfer to the new service
  • Transferring the current functions of fire and rescue authorities to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. All staff employed by the current eight fire and rescue authorities will transfer to the new service
  • A statutory duty for the Police Service of Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to provide adequate local services
  • A designated local policing commander and local senior fire officer for each local authority area, responsible for involving the local authority in determining priorities and objectives for policing and fire and rescue services in the local area
  • A local plan for policing and a local plan for fire and rescue services for each local authority area, agreed between the relevant local commander or local senior officer and the local authority, setting out priorities, objectives and arrangements for local service delivery
  • Complaint reviews and investigation of serious incidents and criminal offences involving the police to be handled by one independent body, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
  • The creation of an Inspectorate of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:

“Scotland enjoys world-class police and fire and rescue services – they are the lifeblood of every single community they serve. We know crime is now at a 35 year low, helped by 1,000 extra officers on the streets, while fire deaths are going down year-on-year.

“The stark reality is that budget cuts from Westminster will devastate our excellent frontline services if we don’t act now. This Government will not be complacent, we will not compromise on public safety and we will make sure that every community is served and served well.

“The reasons for reform are clear. We need to make a virtue of necessity. Make no mistake – this is the only way to make sure that we don’t lose the major improvements made to police and fire and rescue services in recent years.

“We have devised the strongest possible plans for the future of police and fire services in Scotland which reduce duplication, not the quality of vital services, and deliver estimated efficiency savings of £1.7 billion over 15 years. Today’s publication of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill follows two consultations and many months of sustained, regular engagement with police, fire and rescue services, boards, authorities and other interested parties.

“There will be a stronger connection between communities and their local police and fire and rescue services, with designated local senior officers and a statutory duty on both services to provide proper local provision. Local authorities will approve plans for their area and, rather than a handful of councillors attending a regional board, many more councillors will have a say in what happens in their area. I expect to see the Local Commander and Local Senior officer coming before the council to explain and answer questions about police and fire services in the area.

“Our services will be independent, with no operational control from Ministers but subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. And our new services will be nothing without the skills and talents of the workforce. Staff will transfer to the new services on the same terms and conditions.

“I am delighted to launch the Bill in Galashiels. The Scottish Borders Council is working with police and fire and rescue services on the new local arrangements ahead of their formal introduction. There has been strong interest from local authorities, police forces and fire and rescue services in trialling these new arrangements. A number have said they want to become involved  – and one project, in Grampian, has already been formally submitted to us. I welcome this enthusiasm as a the mark of the way forward.

“I would encourage all parties to get behind this legislation to secure the future of our police and fire and rescue services.”

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