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£100m cut will drive policing priorities

Two of Northern Ireland's most senior police officers are trying to remain upbeat about the new "leaner" PSNI but concede community, youth and restorative justice projects they want to support will suffer.

Speaking at PSNI Headquarters at Knock Road, ACC Stephen Martin and Chief Supt Nigel Grimshaw said the "substantial changes" they are announcing admist a continuing "very severe threat" are due to "severe financial pressures".

ACC Stephen Martin said changes to the management structure will allow the service to have "better command and control of the policing resources and build better relationships and partnerships with councils and other people they engage with".

"But this is done with a backdrop of very severe financial restrictions," he added.

"Our in-year cuts are £51.4m and when you consider at the start of the year we already had taken out our final contribution of the four-year comprehensive spending review targets, we have about £100m less for policing in Northern Ireland this year than we had just last year.

"Those are eye-watering figures and whilst our vision, and the new Chief Constable's vision, for policing is very clearly about preventing crime, detecting offenders and protecting people, and that will be our ethos, going forward the challenges are significant."

ACC Martin said budget constraints were "driving a lot of our decision-making at the minute".

He spoke of how cuts will leave the police with greatly reduced preventative capability and some of the 84 neighbourhood policing teams across Northern Ireland will be closed while others are reduced so the PSNI can concentrate on high crime and socially deprived areas.

On the cost of policing parading related protests in north Belfast (£40,000 per day), Chief Supt Grimshaw said: "Unfortunately in issues like that which are contested by different communities and groups we have to step into the middle of that and that is what we will continue to do."

Referring to the budget cuts, he added: "We work with a range of community groups and other partner agencies, including youth service, restorative justice, in fact in times past we have been able to help fund some of those things. Those will gradually diminish."

Belfast Telegraph