JUST days after the chief constable of Police Scotland admits to Borders councillors his force is “seriously underfunded” figures reveal that crime is soaring in the region.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone addressed Scottish Borders Council during its meeting last Thursday.

He discussed the central merger of policing in Scotland, the threats posed to the Scottish public, and the funding of his organisation. 

At Thursday's meeting, the chief constable told the chamber: “We have come through a period of really quite intense reform and during that time of reform: did we get everything right?

"No we didn’t.

"Could we have consulted more? Could we have engaged more? I’m certain that we could have and we go back to 2012 and 2013 and I was part of that, I’m not criticising anybody other than a bit of self reflection myself.

“But if you look around the UK as a whole I do think that the creation of a single service in Scotland always stands out as a piece of reform of public sector where in my judgement, the financial challenges that we had were intense, they were immediate.

“We’ve actually lost almost £200 million annually from a decreasing budget from 2012 to 2015.

“We’ve taken that out of the budget, not because we wanted to, but because that is the allocation that came to policing through Scottish Government and what budget was clearly allocated to them. 

“We’ve managed to take significant savings as required, from the police budget, and at the same time retain our capabilities and retain our officer strength.”

Figures published this week show that crime is continuing to rise across the Borders.

In the three months leading up to the end of September, there were 116 sexual crimes recorded in the region - up from the 78 incidents July, August and September last year.

Recorded crimes of dishonesty are up from 2018's 643 to 799.

And instances of fire-raising and malicious mischief has also increased from 429 to 443, drugs crimes up from 276 to 285, and offences relating to motoring increased from 856 to 988.

Scottish Borders Council launched the first community action team (CAT) in April last year in collaboration with Police Scotland to tackle anti-social behaviour and drug related crime.

During 2018/19, the first CAT team issued 884 parking tickets, clocked up 335 hours of foot patrols, conducted 217 drug searches and carried out 101 static road checks on vehicles.

A second team was launched in September.

The two teams are set to cost the local authority £550,000 a year.

Concern has been expressed about the local authority footing the bill for policing.

Chief Constable Livingstone replied: “The deployment of community action teams is a philosophical point that I agree with.

"I do think, and I would like it to be retained, that if local elected members wish to provide additional funding for policing, then I would welcome that, but it has to be additional. 

“I think you as a council, and I think communities have to see, that this is something that is additional to the core funding that comes from the Scottish Government.”

The Scottish Government has defended its funding of policing across Scotland and the Borders.

A spokesperson said: “Despite the constraints on Scotland’s public services as a result of a decade of UK austerity, total funding for the Scottish Police Authority in 2019-20 is increasing by £42.3 million, meaning the annual policing budget is now over £1.2 billion 

“Police Scotland’s annual budget has increased by more than £80 million since 2016-17 and we have significantly more police officers than at any time before 2007.

“Recorded crime across the Scottish Borders is almost 10 percent lower than a decade ago.

“In its consideration of the Police and Fire Reform Act (Scotland) 2012, the Justice Committee recognised significant achievements since the creation of a single service, including the creation of national capabilities and significant improvements in how rape and sexual crimes are investigated.”