Police chief George Hamilton warns of £40m budget cut in Northern Ireland
Policing in Northern Ireland will become less visible and unable to provide the service people expect, it has been claimed after the Chief Constable confirmed more cuts to the PSNI's funding.
George Hamilton said he is planning for budget cuts of up to 6% - around £40.5m - first revealed in the Belfast Telegraph last week.
Greater investment in technology and more "agile" working practices will be among measures under consideration for next year, Mr Hamilton said.
The force is currently facing pressure from overtime costs and the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers here, has warned of a looming crisis.
Chairman Mark Lindsay said: "We are fully aware of fiscal pressures on public service. However, society needs to be aware that further cuts will have knock-on effects that will be visible.
"Policing plays an important role in resolving local issues, but further cuts will lead to less visible policing and police officers being unable to respond in the manner communities expect. We already have an agile work force who go the extra mile on a daily basis. Their goodwill is often forgotten when workforce modernisation is mentioned."
Funding for running the PSNI this year is worth £749m, including additional money to deal with the dissident republican threat.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) recently highlighted that almost 1,500 officers (20%) are eligible for retirement in the next three years and questioned how the lost skills would be replaced.
The report also noted a heavy reliance on overtime and the high levels of long-term sickness.
Policing Board member Nelson McCausland commented last night: "At this point, the Chief Constable does not know what the final budget will be and how much money will be allocated to policing by the Department of Justice.
He added: "Members of the Policing Board will be keen to hear from him at the next Board meeting on Thursday - and they will want to question him about the potential implications of various levels of cuts. Thursday will be our first opportunity to hear from the Chief Constable - and our first opportunity to get some clarity from him around how he proposes to deliver an efficient and adequate service that provides effective policing."
Mr Hamilton said: "We are currently at the start of a budget planning process where we have been invited to scenario plan for up to a 6% cut.
"Part of that exercise will give me the opportunity to outline the risks and opportunities of any future reductions to police funding and already the PSNI have identified potential implications of further cuts.
"Ultimately, budget cuts are political decisions."