Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland published its final report on call handling on 10 November. I have been assured by Police Scotland that a detailed action plan is currently being developed and will be presented to the Scottish Police Authority audit and risk committee for scrutiny later this month.
Significant steps are being taken to provide further assurance before any decision is made to proceed with the remaining phases of the change programme in Aberdeen, Inverness and Dundee. An independent expert review will be commissioned by the SPA before decisions are made about proceeding with the remaining phases of the change programme. Police Scotland will establish a reference group of senior independent change and call-handling professionals, who will provide on-going oversight and advice as the restructure is progressed. In addition, later this month, HMICS will begin a programme of unannounced visits to call centres until the programme is completed, and its findings will be reported back to Police Scotland, the SPA and the Scottish Government.
I understand that Police Scotland was allocated an additional £1.4 million by the Scottish Government to enable it to better handle the challenges that it faced over call handling. Can the Cabinet Secretary please let us know what impact that additional funding was able to secure and what benefit it brought to police call-handling operations and procedures?
At the time of my statement to the Parliament on the interim report from HMICS on call handling, I made £1.4 million immediately available to Police Scotland, which has helped to support and accelerate the recruitment of staff to improve resilience within the call-handling system. Specifically, in the north, Police Scotland has recruited a further 16 staff between the centres in Aberdeen and Inverness on a temporary basis. In Dundee, a total of 12 successful candidates have been recruited permanently, with 10 starting next month, and an additional 38 staff are being recruited at the Bilston Glen and Govan service centres, where the numbers now stand at 383. The additional funds have supported Police Scotland to enhance information technology support at its call-handling centres in order to deal with any IT issues that may arise during the course of activity.
I welcome parts of the cabinet secretary’s answer, and I will be interested to know from him how many of the 16 additional staff whom he mentioned have been recruited to the control room and service centre in Aberdeen, what their length of contract is and how much of the £1.4 million has been devoted to that end.
Those are specific matters for Police Scotland, which is responsible for the recruitment of staff. Sixteen of those staff members have been recruited between Aberdeen and Inverness. I will ask Police Scotland to provide the member with an exact breakdown of the provision in the Aberdeen control room.
As the member will be aware from having raised the issue with me in the chamber on a number of occasions, we are seeking to ensure that there continues to be resilience in the way in which the call-handling centre in Aberdeen operates as the change process moves forward. As I have outlined to the member in the past, there are now significant safeguards in place before any further changes can occur to the call-handling system such as the moving of the Aberdeen call-handling system to Bilston Glen. Those measures have been put in place to ensure that there is a consistent approach in how Police Scotland handles the matter and that the public continue to receive a high-quality service from Police Scotland.
Can the cabinet secretary clarify how local intelligence that is reported through the 101 number and the centralised call service centres is communicated to local front-line police officers, such as the named ward officers who are allocated to council wards in the Forth Valley division? That new initiative represents an excellent example of local policing.
I am very familiar with the approach that is being taken in Forth Valley division, on which the new local commander is keen to see progress. Once intelligence is brought to the attention of 101, it is assessed in terms of its priority, then sent on to the local command area, where it is prioritised in the local system to determine how officers should respond to it. As Margaret Mitchell is aware, it is extremely important to ensure that information that is provided at the local level is provided in a timely way to allow the police to assess how to respond to matters. Work is going on in Police Scotland to ensure that that happens as effectively as possible.