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Chief Constable Simon Byrne: PSNI facing £53m budget deficit

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PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne

The PSNI is “wrestling” with a £53million deficit ahead of the end of the current financial year, according to the Chief Constable.

Simon Byrne revealed the figure at Thursday’s Policing Board meeting when he was asked by DUP MLA Mervyn Storey about the current state of the PSNI’s finances.

The budget constraints could possibly threaten the force’s current recruitment drive as Mr Byrne admitted that is the “only line” under the PSNI’s control.

It was only on Tuesday that police launched their new campaign to recruit 600 officers at its training college, Garnerville, in east Belfast.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Byrne said it is his duty to balance the budget by the end of March but he cannot do so without the necessary support.

Ultimately we can’t resolve this, the only line we can address is in our people which ironically means a threat to recruitment in police officers or police staff Chief Constable Simon Byrne

If he does not get that support the “effects could be quite dramatic”.

“There are a series of individual cost pressures that sound like a lot of money when you round them up but line by line we are limited in the effects we can do to mitigate that,” he told the Policing Board.

“For example, we have had to review the cost of ballistic body armour, which is a reflection of the security environment here and even today with a further reckless planned attack by dissident republicans [regarding the bomb that was discovered in Lurgan on Tuesday].

“I have a duty to provide officers with that sort of equipment but at the moment the contract is halfway through so I don’t want to stop doing that because of the health and safety.”

The police chief explained that the PSNI is preparing a “contingency” to try and reduce costs if necessary but the majority of the money saving plans are “marginal”.

“Ultimately we can’t resolve this, the only line we can address is in our people which ironically means a threat to recruitment in police officers or police staff,” added Mr Byrne.

Commenting on Tuesday’s recruitment campaign, the Chief Constable hopes that 600 people can be employed to keep pace with projected retirements.

In order to make the campaign as effective as possible, Mr Byrne said a number of measures have been taken to attract people to the roles – including reducing the age of those who can apply.

“We have streamlined the application process to try and make it quicker from the point of initial submission into the website,” he explained.

“We have simplified the requirements so we have five GCSE passes or equivalent and we have taken the maths requirement out which can have a disproportionate affect on people.

“We have also pushed back the start age that you can apply to join. You can apply to join at 17 and you’ll be 18 by the time you’re through the process.”

Speaking after Thursday’s meeting, Mr Storey said that while he can be critical of the PSNI, police must be given the necessary resources to do the job.

“You can’t ask teachers or nurses to do their jobs without the resources and you certainly can’t ask police officers,” said the North Antrim MLA.

“The police service will not be left at the bottom of the pile as far as I’m concerned.”

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