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Rennie calls for immediate suspension of police control room closures

July 14, 2015 3:00 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP today called for the immediate suspension of Police Scotland's control room and service centre closure program until a review of police call handling is complete.

The HMICS probe was announced yesterday by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson after Lamara Bell, the second person involved in the M9 car crash, passed away. It is in addition to the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner's investigation into the incident.

Mr Rennie has previously raised problems at police control rooms at First Minister's Questions and has been contacted by serving officers and civilian staff with concerns over workload pressures and other issues.

Under Police Scotland plans, doors have already shut at Glenrothes, Dumfries, Stirling and Pitt Street (Glasgow) control rooms and service centres. Aberdeen and Inverness are also set to lose their control rooms in September and December 2015 respectively. In a letter received by the Scottish Liberal Democrats on 2 July the Chief Constable, Sir Stephen House, said "these timescales remained valid".

Commenting, Mr Rennie said:

"Following the tragic events in Stirling it is right that we look closely at the way that Police Scotland handle emergency calls. That is the least that the friends and family of John Yuill and Lamara Bell are entitled to expect.

"Since the control room closures began we have seen increasing reports of high workload pressures and stress in control room workers. Shortages of civilian staff have forced police officers to backfill and cover call centre shifts and people have faced extended waits to have their calls answered.

"These are very serious issues and there is a strong case for the immediate suspension of the ongoing control room closure program until we get to the bottom of the problems in the system.

"At FMQs in March, the First Minister promised that she would discuss these issues with the Chief Constable and the Justice Secretary. But it seems clear that the problems that were identified then have not been addressed.

"I am certain the HMICS review will establish what representations the First Minister and Justice Secretary made to Police Scotland and what steps were taken to improve call handling as a result."