SNP in police and fire accountability plea

The Leader of Aberdeenshire’s SNP Councillors has expressed his fears for local police and fire accountability, after plans were unveiled which would effectively strip the North and South of Aberdeenshire of any influence over how the services operate.

Shadow Leader of the Council Cllr Hamish Vernal made the call in response to proposals placed before Aberdeenshire Council, which if approved would see the authority’s Policy and Resources Committee take on the local role of scrutinising the delivery of local policing and fire cover.

Scotland’s eight regional police forces, in common with their corresponding fire services, are to merge to form a single national police and a single national fire service from April 2013. Although Scotland-wide boards will have strategic responsibility over the services, Scotland’s 32 local authorities have been given a free hand in deciding what local accountability measures they wish to put in place.

The current 14-strong make up of Aberdeenshire’s Policy and Resources Committee contains six councillors from the Garioch area, three from Formartine and two from Marr. However, if the proposal to take on oversight of local police and fire services is approved, people living in the Kincardine and Mearns, Banff and Banff & Buchan areas would be represented by only a single councillor each, giving rise to concerns over how effectively the arrangement would work in practice.

In order to redress the geographical imbalance, SNP Councillors have proposed that a stand alone Public Safety Committee of 18 councillors be established, which would draw on 3 members from each of the six Area Committees. As well as overseeing local police and fire services, the new committee would also take responsibility for community safety and emergency planning.