Belfast Telegraph

MLA says plan to cut number of police officers is 'madness'

By Allan Preston

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie has said plans to cut PSNI numbers by 238 over the next two years are "little short of madness".

Mr Beattie was speaking in support of the Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay who said this week that the proposed cuts were a "frightening prospect".

"For months now I've been highlighting the problems caused by manning levels in the PSNI and the impact that repeated budget cuts are having on the ability of the police to protect and serve the community," said Mr Beattie.

"All politicians must sit up and listen. A crisis has been allowed to develop in police funding and for the sake of everyone it must be resolved.

"The Ulster Unionist Party believes that if the PSNI is going to be able to undertake the roles which society wants it to, then it must be properly resourced.

"Given that we as a society are still plagued with a serious terrorist threat in addition to 'ordinary' crime, it is quite frankly little short of madness to reduce numbers and cut budgets."

He continued: "That this is happening at a time when the Army has been brought onto the streets of London to assist the Metropolitan Police is a supreme irony. Let me be quite clear. I do not want to see the Army routinely back on the streets of Northern Ireland, but I do want to see the PSNI provided with the manpower and financial resources needed to combat crime and protect the people of Northern Ireland."

Mr Beattie said that within two years numbers will fall to 6,600 which is well below the 7,000 figure recommended in a 2014 review and 1,000 below that suggested by the Patten report.

"Furthermore, there is to be a £20m cut to the PSNI budget. The Chief Constable has said that since he took the job he has had to make cuts of £108m to his budget. This is little short of madness," he said.

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said he was seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable "to see what, if anything, can be done to head off what undoubtedly will be a crisis in policing in Northern Ireland".

Mr Lindsay has since warned that the PSNI was now at the point "where it is no longer possible to absorb budget cuts without impacting directly on police officer numbers".

Speaking at a Policing Board seminar in Belfast, Mr Lindsay said since 2004 the PSNI has cut its budget by a total of £386m.

"This is the reality of the public finance situation. While I would like to have 7,000 police officers, it 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."

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