Belfast Telegraph

1,000 civilian police staff face axe in Northern Ireland

By Noel McAdam

Around 1,000 civilian staff in the PSNI may have to be laid off as a result of Stormont spending cuts.

Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said the consequences of the £47m shortfall in the Department of Justice were "horrendous" for policing.

Apart from the civilian lay-offs, it would also mean an end to all police recruitment and all historical inquiries being "parked".

His warning came at question time in the Assembly when he urged Finance Minister Simon Hamilton to meet the Chief Constable George Hamilton.

Mr Hamilton, who agreed to the meeting, responded: "I don't want to see any cuts in the police budget beyond what it necessary."

His comments came a day after Justice Minister David Ford warned the risk to public safety could be increased, along with reduced monitoring of offenders.

Mr Craig, the DUP group leader on the board, said: "Last week I called for an emergency meeting with PSNI management. The chief constable has indicated the PSNI is facing more than £80m of cuts.

"The safety of the public should be a priority for everyone, but there can be no doubt that the public will feel the impact of such huge cuts to policing here.'

The remarks came as the finance minister warned the Assembly that at present all government departments in Northern Ireland have no budget for the next financial year.

And he said he hoped to have a budget for the additional year the Assembly has been given before the next election in place by the start of the new year.

Questioned by the SDLP's Fearghal McKinney over the amount of preparatory work for the new budget, Mr Hamilton said he had tabled a paper with ministers which had pointed up the difficulties.

"Like so much in this place that wasn't run by the Executive, it became bogged down in the issue of welfare reform and the long and the short of it is that we are in an incredibly challenging position," he said.

Mr Hamilton said while the imminent October monitoring round was "incredibly pressing, we should not lose sight of the fact that we do not have a budget in place for next year".

He added that he hoped to put in place a draft budget by the end of this month.

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