Strategic Council Lead for Police and Fire renews call for clarity over Inverness Control Room
Cllr Mathew Reiss, former Chief Inspector with Northern Constabulary, was appointed as the Highland Council’s Strategic Lead for Police and Fire at the Highland Council meeting today, 29 June.
Cllr Reiss said: “The Council has long had an excellent working relationship with local police officers in the Highlands. I would like to extend a warm welcome to Chief Supt George MacDonald in his new role as Divisional Commander and we are already confident that he understands the differing styles of rural policing and the importance community partnerships, particularly as his roots are in North Highland.”
Cllr Reiss went on to say: “Over the past few years there has been a steady erosion of local services and jobs in the North, as part of a creeping centralisation to the central belt. It is clear that there has been a considerable amount of public concern over recent control room closures and a lack of transparency in both Police Scotland and the SPA.
“We have today agreed a motion, calling on the Scottish Government and the SPA to re-examine decision-making and how we have got to the position we are now in. Back in 2014 there was a crystal clear promise made to centralise the National Database Enquiry Unit in Inverness as a ‘single source to service the force for database enquiry services’. There was also a reference to the case for increasing local staffing, with no reduction in the quality of jobs.”
He went on to say: “It has now become apparent in recent weeks that we have reason to doubt this commitment. We now understand that Police Scotland have a different model or options, which we have been refused sight of to date, and these appear to include basing some or the majority of the NDEU in Govan. The Highland Council has had to read between the lines of ambiguous papers and probe for information, whereas it is the role of the SPA to properly scrutinise the matter.
“There has been a complete lack of clarity, transparency and consultation over this matter until we raised the issue with the SPA and HMICS. Even after the Leader met with senior Police Scotland officers just last week at her request, the detail remains unclear on the future of the NDEU function and jobs in Inverness.
“A number of questions require a straightforward answer: How many jobs will be retained in Inverness and how long into the future? The continued uncertainty is very unsettling for staff and their families. We are now aware of another period of changes within the Force and we would like assurances over local policing in the Highlands, including the facility in Inverness and the future of the current Divisional HQ at Old Perth Road. I would welcome honest consultation over any changes in the Highlands.
“The public understand financial pressures and the need for change, but public confidence is based on trust, reliability and good communication.”
Leader of the Council, Margaret Davidson added: “The meeting last week was long overdue, and we are still not clear about the number of jobs left for Highland if the control room is taken from us. We will need to see that number and ensure it matches the promises both from Police Scotland and local politicians.
“I am assured that a great deal of work has been done to improve safety measures within Control Room technology. However, our preferred outcome remains to retain the Control Room in the Highlands and the jobs, local knowledge and experience that go with it.”
Chair of Audit and Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Richard Laird supported the motion saying: “I am furious to see the backtracking that is taking place on promises made. We were told that the Highland voice would be heard in all these decisions being made and I see this nowhere.”
The following motion to Council by Cllr Matthew Reiss, Cllr Hugh Morrison and Leader of the Council Margaret Davidson was agreed:
Motion: “Highland Council calls on the Scottish Government and the Scottish Police Authority to clarify the previous commitment to retain all the current jobs in the Inverness Police Control Room, given the uncertainty caused by the recent Scottish Police Authority papers. Additionally, we again urge the Scottish Government and the SPA to reconsider the decision to close the Inverness Control Room given the persistent reports of problems arising from the recent closure of the SFRS Control Room in Inverness.”