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STUC 2014 Dundee

Lack of openness on police and fire VAT leaves taxpayers with £30 million burden

George McIrvine
George McIrvine

The FBU and UNISON highlighted that the creation of a centralised Police and Fire Service has meant the Scottish taxpayer footing a bill of approximately £30 million pounds through the loss of VAT exemption – a burden that is unnecessary and unfair and impacts dramatically on both community and emergency worker safety.

The STUC will now call on the Scottish Government to take this up with the Westminster Government.

George McIrvine, of the UNISON Police Staff Scotland Branch, seconding an FBU motion, told congress that UNISON had raised this issue with the Scottish Government some two years ago and had argued that a single police force could have been established as a Local Government Joint Board and retain their VAT exemption.

“But of course that would have meant less direct ministerial influence and control over Scottish Police,” said George, adding that it would, however, have strengthened greater local democratic accountability, now sadly lacking in the new Police Service.

“At the time in 2012, some of the Scottish Government’s explanations raised suspicions that they knew about this issue of VAT exemption before the Police and Fire Reform Bill was published.”

UNISON then submitted a Freedom of Information request for the correspondence in relation to the Police and fire VAT.

“Surprise, surprise Congress, the Scottish Government refused this on the 'catch all' grounds that this was only advice to ministers. They even refused to confirm that such papers even existed.

However, UNISON got the documents on appeal, said George, and the key point was that HMRC had made it crystal clear that a National Force would not qualify for VAT exemption.

“This was never included in the consultation, and consultees were not given the full picture of the consequences of the centralisation of police and fire.

“Not the standard of openness we are entitled to expect from any government. More a case of burying bad headline news that doesn’t support the Scottish Governments centralisation agenda” slammed George.

“The Scottish taxpayer, and indeed police and fire support staff, are now paying the hefty price.”


Date 15 April 2014

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