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£20m budget cuts to cost PSNI more than 200 officers

The PSNI is to lose 238 officers over the next two years due to severe budget cuts.

Chief Constable George Hamilton said the service is facing a £20 million cut in funds this year.

This is the equivalent of the annual cost of all the region's Neighbourhood Policing Teams.

Mr Hamilton warned that the police service is now at the point "where it is no longer possible to absorb budget cuts without impacting directly on police officer numbers."

Over the next year, officer numbers will drop by 138 to 6,700.

In the following year, resilience levels will fall to 6,600, Mr Hamilton said.

In 2014, a review of strength levels concluded that a minimum of 7,000 officers were needed for a resilient PSNI.

Speaking at a Policing Board seminar in Belfast, Mr Hamilton said: "Since becoming Chief Constable, I have had to make £108 million in cuts to my budget.

"In fact, since 2004, PSNI has implemented cuts of totalling some £386 million.

"This is the reality of the public finance situation.

"While I would like to have 7,000 police officers, it's is simply not possible.

"But that doesn't mean that we can't keep people safe. What it does mean is that policing will continue to change."

He also warned that the severe dissident republican threat places a substantial financial burden on the delivery of policing in Northern Ireland.

"There have been four serious attempts to murder police officers in 2017 alone," he added.

In light of the budget pressures, Mr Hamilton said the cost of legacy investigations will have to be reviewed.

"I would encourage our politicians to continue to work to bring a resolution to this momentous challenge, not just for policing, but for all of those who continue to suffer the pain of the past every day," he added.

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