SPA told to ‘refocus and refresh’

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) still presents a valid governance model but is beset by legacy challenges, an internal review has concluded.

Mar 5, 2018
By Kevin Hearty

The SPA needs to refresh itself to become more effective and efficient to restore its original aims, according to a report by Deputy Chair Nicola Marchant and Western Isles Council Chief Executive Malcolm Burr.

The organisation is struggling to collaborate and share information, and needs to foster a new culture of re-engagement with local partners.

The review, requested the same month former chair Andrew Flanagan stepped down over concerns the SPA lacked transparency, also called on the SPA to improve its future-planning and secure solid leadership with improved management skills.

Critics have accused the inspection of overlooking “much deeper” problems within the SPA.

In a joint statement, Mr Burr and Ms Marchant said: “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.”

The report, published on Friday (March 2), was commissioned by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson last June to examine how the SPA executive can restore itself to the intended model held up at its creation.

It laid out 17 recommendations for the organisation, including ensuring board meetings on policy and national progress are held in public.

The review recognised that the SPA’s efforts to engage with partners have been stymied by external challenges.

However, its focus on operational and internal matters have prevented it from properly reaching out to partner organisations.

This was particularly true of local government, and has left stakeholders feeling that their voices are not being heard prior to board decisions.

The SPA executive was also found to lack effective processes to assist information flows between itself and Police Scotland.

Among its recommendations, the report asked the SPA to refresh its stakeholder engagement strategy and re-establish communication channels with police and local authorities.

It also proposed joint workshops with Police Scotland to spot challenges in opportunities in each other’s business processes and working practices.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said the review is 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 much deeper,” he added.

“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.”

Mr Matheson said: “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.”

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