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End of Matt Baggott's revolution: Neighbourhood policing falls victim to force's massive budget cuts

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PSNI sickness absence costing £25m per year

PSNI sickness absence costing £25m per year

PSNI sickness absence costing £25m per year

Neighbourhood policing across Northern Ireland will be reduced as the PSNI deals with severe financial restrictions.

Revealing "substantial changes" to how the service will operate in response to £51.4m budget cuts, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin told the Belfast Telegraph neighbourhood policing teams across Northern Ireland will be cut back in the coming months.

Earlier this month Chief Constable George Hamilton said publicly the PSNI would be "unrecognisable" after the cuts process takes hold.

Neighbourhood policing, which involves officers working in local communities, was championed by former Chief Constable Matt Baggott and was viewed by many as the future of policing.

There are more than 725 officers of all ranks working in 84 neighbourhood policing teams in Northern Ireland, including 10 in Belfast.

Community policing is the main victim of a smaller budget in the PSNI which has to prioritise security threats and risk to life.

Yesterday, ACC Martin explained that urban and rural region district policing has now been amalgamated so instead of three ACCs he will be responsible for "all response neighbourhood implications".

And as of Monday the two policing districts in Belfast – 'A' covering north and west and 'B' covering south and east – will be combined, with Chef Supt Nigel Grimshaw having sole responsibility for the city in place of the four commanders currently in place.

ACC Martin said the adjustments "reflects the continuing drive to be more efficient".

The PSNI will be making a number of other changes:

  • The police estate will be trimmed. The overall PSNI estate is now about a third of what it was at the height of the Troubles. There are currently 16 custody suites. This number will be cut.
  • Neighbourhood policing will be cut in some areas and reduced in others. The changes won't all be immediate.
  • The PSNI vehicle fleet will be cut. Police will be reducing the type and the number of vehicles they have.
  • Officers' involvement in youth service and restorative justice projects will be reduced. Cash for community events police would have previously helped fund "will gradually diminish".
  • Schools regularly approach the police about work experience. Some of these requests will be refused as resources will have to be pushed elsewhere.
  • ACC Martin said money being spent on policing protests in north Belfast could be better spent on tackling burglary, anti-social behaviour and race crimes.

    And he urged politicians to try their best to "resolve issues we pick up symptoms of", including problems around protests, parades, flags and the past.

    Last night the Institute for Conflict Research said the cuts "will undermine progress made" and Alliance Party Justice spokesman Stewart Dickson said it was shameful police were being forced to suspend the good work they have been doing.

    "It's sadly the inevitable consequence of where we are with the political and financial impasse," he said.

    "That is the reason the police are having to do what they are having to do.

    "It is a disgrace that political parties are refusing to engage in cogent discussion on the budget.

    "In terms of practicalities the police's first priority is community safety and protecting lives.

    "We have to trust the model the police have produced will continue to protect lives and the community. It is quite clear many of the things we expect from a modern, progressive policing service to deliver will now be put on the backburner or set aside.

    "The projects the police will be cutting back on have been developed over a number of years by people like Matt Baggott and his predecessors and they are in my view an important element of building community confidence in policing."

    Belfast Telegraph