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Extra cash to hunt down killers

By Deborah McAleese

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has vowed to give Chief Constable Hugh Orde extra financial assistance to track down the dissident republican killers of two soldiers and a police constable.

Last week, the PSNI was struggling to balance budgets following serious shortfalls as an outcome of the government's Comprehensive Spending Review and had been forced to propose slashing police over-time, introducing a complete recruitment freeze next year and rejecting all internal bids for funding.

However, in order to help the Chief Constable root out the killers and stamp out the heightened threat of terrorist attacks, the Prime Minister has agreed to extra financial support.

Yesterday, the Chief Constable held talks with Mr Brown about the resources he needs.

The PSNI had been left with an initial funding gap of over £100m for the current financial year and £74m for 2010/11.

This was reduced after the NIO and Policing Board agreed to set aside the pressures emerging from multi-million pound hearing loss claims and money was brought forward from next year’s budget.

However, a number of proposals still had to be made to balance the books, including a complete recruitment freeze next year — which would see a big reduction in police officer numbers — cutting police over-time by 8% this year and 20% next year and scrapping plans to introduce Police Community Support Officers.

The Northern Ireland Policing Board and the Police Federation held emergency meetings yesterday with the Chief Constable and Security Minister Paul Goggins to discuss the security threat and have been told that additional resources have been promised by the government.

It is understood the PSNI will also now be provided with a second helicopter.

Policing Board member Basil McCrea said extra resources will not mean a change in the current style of peace-time policing, but that the reprieve in budgetary constraints will allow the PSNI to “carry on with intelligence-led policing to support the entire community in an open and transparent way”.

The UUP MLA added: “The stance will be more of the same only, understandably, a little bit more cautious.

“We are not going to get everything back as there are still tough financial circumstances, but we will make sure the police operations are fully resourced.

“It looks like the pressure on overtime will be realised and I would be surprised if there was a freeze in recruitment — but we have a year to work that one out.

“This is not a knee-jerk reaction, but a recognition that our strategy is the right strategy — but it is expensive and needs financing.

“We must realise that resolving this problem in the short term requires additional money for forensics etc.”

Belfast Telegraph


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