21 January 2007

Fury Over £3m Rent-A-Cop Bill - Sunday Mail

by Brian Lironi, Political Editor, Sunday Mail

COUNCIL tax payers are stumping up £3million extra to pay the wages of more than 200 police officers in Scotland.

Local authorities are spending the cash each year on 220 additional officers -bolstering the forces paid for by the Executive.

Rank and file police and opposition politicians yesterday said the number of police paid for by councils proves there is a shortage of officers on the beat.

And they warn that soon only communities who can afford to pay will get the police officers they need.

The SNP's Stewart Stevenson, who is on Holyrood's justice committee, said: "Hard working families are paying their taxes and then have to pay more rent or additional charges, to get basic police cover. It is not on."

Joe Grant, General Secretary of the Police Federation, said: "For us, it is disturbing that the police appear to have regularised a double funding system. The obvious risk from that is it will only be those who can afford to pay who get the police officers they need.

"We need to be sure being safe in your home doesn't rely on the size of your chequebook."

Strathclyde has the most council-paid officers with 101, Lothian and Borders has 81 and Tayside has 20.

Some are only partly funded by the local council or housing association.

Last night, a spokeswoman for justice minister Cathy Jamieson said: "Thanks to investment by this Executive, we now have a record 16,000-plus officers in Scotland -some 1500 more than in 1999.

"If other local agencies decide it is in the interest of local priorities to bolster these record resources with additional support, we will gladly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their fight against crime."

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