MSPs slam control room closures

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Local MSPs have slammed the closure of police and fire and rescue control rooms in Dumfries at the Scottish parliament.

Alex Fergusson and Elaine Murray both blasted the Scottish government for the way in which local people have been treated.

Speaking in a debate at Holyrood, Mr Fergusson said: “One of my main concerns over the restructuring of Scotland’s police forces into a single force was that a centralised police force was bound to try to develop a centralised infrastructure.

“But never in my wildest dreams did I believe that a change such as is being forced on Dumfries with the closure of both the police and fire control rooms would be inflicted without any prior consultation or even talks with the local workforce.

“It almost beggars belief that the Scottish SNP government, which prides itself in supporting local communities, can allow this high-handed behaviour by Police Scotland to go unchallenged. There has been no prior consultation on the various options that did exist – this is a fait accompli.

“This is no way to run a police force, and it is no way to run a country.”

Dr Murray also hit out in her speech during the debate in Holyrood on Wednesday.

Dr Murray said: “In Dumfries and Galloway, 34 civilian staff in the Dumfries police control room and 15 staff in the Dumfries fire and rescue emergency centre face an uncertain future.

“They are well-trained, experienced and dedicated workers, the vast majority female with many years of service, whose local knowledge and professionalism have provided help and reassurance and on many occasions saved lives.

“I have spoken personally to one member of police staff who wanted the package, the rest who have applied have told me they did so because they felt they had no choice. This is compulsory redundancy in all but name.

“Commuting to Glasgow or Motherwell in the case of police staff, or to Johnstone in the case of fire control staff, is not a viable option. Relocation, for workers with families and partners with jobs in Dumfries and Galloway, is also not an option for most staff.

“Staff were also told that there would be full consultation with Dumfries and Galloway Council before any proposals were put forward.

“This turned out to be a conversation between David Hume and the chief executive and convener of the police and fire sub-committee prior to the SPA meeting on January 30, hardly a fulfilment of the statutory duty to participate in community planning.

“There has also been a degree of misinformation about fire and rescue emergency control staff. They are classified as firefighters (control) but they do not, and never have, ridden fire appliances, and therefore their opportunities for redeployment are limited.

“They could retrain for fire safety, but there is no indication of how many community safety posts might be made available, or what the mix of uniformed and support staff posts will be. Control staff therefore may be expected to apply for administrative posts at considerably lower salaries than they currently rightly command.

“There has been also no meaningful consultation with staff, police and fire officers, or local people on these closures. There has been no serious consideration regarding bringing the control rooms together, or whether police and fire control could sit with other control rooms provided by the health board or the council. None of these possibilities has been explored. There clearly has been little interest in retaining the expertise of these staff.

“Local people are worried that safety will be compromised when control functions are centralised. We are told the IT systems will pinpoint the location of callers, but can we be sure? Does this depend on the caller knowing the postcode of the incident? Or on there being a strong enough GPS signal in the area – because many parts of my constituency don’t have good GPS and mobile phone signals.

“Our local staff know the area, landmarks are familiar to them. What happens if staff in the central control rooms are unfamiliar with local names and landmarks? Will they have to phone police officers in the area to check with them where exactly callers are referring to?”