Tonight at Dundee City Council's Community Safety & Public Protection Committee the Labour Group called for a VAT exemption for Police Scotland and for the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and for a refund of the £140 million they have paid in VAT since 2012. The way in which the Scottish Government set up the centralised police and fire service made them eligible to pay VAT, this was pointed out to the Scottish Government at the time these bodies were set up.
At a recent meeting of Dundee City Council's Community Safety & Public Protection Committee the local commander of the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service was unable to give any guarantees about the future of any of their services in Dundee due to the extent of cuts they face. On Monday evening Dundee City Council decided to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the VAT charge levied on Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service. Labour is demanding that he exempt both Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service from VAT and reimburse the £140 million paid since 2012, we're looking for the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service to commit to protecting services in Dundee.
I am determined to protect police and fire services and jobs in Dundee. The Labour Group will work with other political groups, with trade unions and with the local community to protect crucial police and fire services in Dundee.
The Scottish Government got in wrong in the way in which these centralised services were set up. There is little to be gained in point scoring about this. We should accept that a mistake has been made and we should move on to find the best solution. The Labour Group is calling for both Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to be exempted from VAT and for the UK Treasury to reimburse them the £140 million which they have already taken from these hard-pressed services.
The Labour Group was shocked to hear that the local commander of the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service could not guarantee any services in Dundee due to expected budget cuts. We are calling on the UK Government to stop taking this level of funding out of these important services. We are also calling on the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service to commit to funding services in Dundee at a level which means that there will be no closures of services and that there will be no further diminution of services in Dundee.
I was pleased that there was quite strong cross-party support for the motion which I moved. It was disappointing that in the end the council's administration was unable to follow the logic of their own motion and demand support for police and fire services from the Scottish Government and from the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Board.
I will be writing to the Chancellor demanding that Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service are exempted from VAT and that the £140 million is reimbursed. I will also be writing to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, the Scottish POlice Authority and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Board seeking a reassurance about the future of police and fire services in Dundee. This is important to protect services and give local people the reassurance that they need.