Police watchdog told to take action to become ‘efficient and effective’

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Scotland’s police watchdog must “refocus and refresh” to ensure effectiveness and efficiency, a review has found.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson requested the review of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) in June, the same month former chair Andrew Flanagan stepped down amid concerns about governance and transparency.

The review found the SPA’s model for holding the police to account is “fundamentally sound” but the authority’s “grand challenge” is ensuring it operates efficiently and effectively.

Western Isles Council chief executive Malcolm Burr and SPA deputy chair Nicola Marchant, who carried out the review, set out 17 recommendations for the authority including holding board meetings concerning policing policy and national progress in public as a “matter of principle”.

The SPA executive was also asked to put in place necessary support processes for the board including “effective and efficient working practices”.

Further recommendations are that senior Police Scotland management responsible for assisting the SPA in scrutiny should report to the authority and for new inductions for board members.

The report also recommends for the SPA to “refresh and re-establish” strategic communication with local authorities, Police Scotland, staff associations and unions, and to consider reconvening and creating liaison groups involving them.

In a joint statement, Mr Burr and Ms Marchant said: “Aside from the legal requirements, there are many differing models for ensuring accountability and effective scrutiny of policing.

“Our view is that the model provided by the SPA is fundamentally sound and the grand challenge we have identified and seek to address in this report is ensuring that this model operates effectively and efficiently, as was originally intended.

“In essence, our findings are that it is timely for the SPA to refocus and refresh itself to ensure that it is operating in an effective and efficient manner and fulfilling its role, as defined in the founding legislation.”

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson welcomed the report (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson welcomed the report (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Since taking post in December, the new chair of the Scottish Police Authority has committed to strengthen processes and governance within the organisation and has already made improvements, and I know that together with the interim chief officer they will give this report due consideration.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “This report is welcome as far as it goes but it represents a missed opportunity for real reform.

“This was a comparatively narrow examination of the SPA board’s capacity, support and approach but the problems are so much deeper.

“The report didn’t look at the roles of all the other key players, not least the Justice Secretary, chief officers, Parliament and local councils.”

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “This review has uncovered a catalogue of poor management procedures, lack of communication, lack of community involvement and poor quality leadership.

“Sadly the review also states that this SNP mess has not been cleared up yet.”

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