City police control room closure confirmed

HALF of Scotland's police control rooms, including the one in Pitt Street, Glasgow, will close over the next two years after radical centralisation plans were approved by the new single force.

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Despite protests from unions and opposition politicians, the Scottish Police Authority has agreed to shut centres in the former Strathclyde Police headquarters in the city centre, as well as in Stirling, Glenrothes, Dumfries and Aberdeen.

The authority approved the plans at a public board meeting in the Trades Hall, in Glasgow.

Senior officers, led by Chief Constable Sir Stephen House, had previously said five remaining hubs would deliver a better service for less money than the current 10 control rooms using different IT systems.

Sir Stephen and his colleagues believed there was a "risk" in trying to shore up the old network it inherited from eight legacy forces, especially as the youngest computer system was already nine years old.

So they are to concentrate on new digital hubs at Govan, Motherwell, Dundee, Bilston Glen, near Edinburgh, and a special national command centre in Inverness. Asked about fears that local knowledge would be lost in such centralisation, Sir Stephen told the meeting: "The concern is one of perception, not reality."

Nearly 1500 civilians and officers work at the 10 control centres and nine contact centres - some of which handle only non- urgent calls - spread over 11 sites, including a service centre in Bucksburn, Aberdeen, which is also to shut.

Right now, the Govan, Pitt Street and Motherwell centres handle all 999 and 101 non-emergency calls from the old Strathclyde force area.

Sir Stephen used the Clydeside units as examples of how specialist centralised centres could provide good service over very large areas.

Requests by some 300 workers to quit are on hold. However, police admit there was a mismatch between v olunteers and the sites they had targeted for closure.

Dumfries will be the first control room to shut, in April.

However, worker Kirsteen Patterson stressed the importance of local know-ledge to the Scottish Police Authority.

She said: "I would not want to be in dire need of the police and the person on the other end of the phone not know where I was."

Sir Stephen admitted it would be hard for the 34 Dumfries staff to find new police jobs, although there will be no compulsory redundancies.

Talks have begun with other local agencies to find jobs for the staff.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Board also approved closures to control rooms, including those in Inverness and Aberdeen. The Association of Scottish Police Superintendents earlier called for blue lights services to share control rooms to ensure a presence in every region.

Board member Graham Houston said everybody who backed a single force knew control rooms would shut when it came about.

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