Belfast Telegraph

Police cuts laid bare: Chief Constable George Hamilton reveals fears for PSNI in secret report

By John Porter

The Chief Constable has laid out in stark terms the devastating consequences of cuts to the PSNI's budget with both present day and historical investigations hit and potential job losses.

George Hamilton, who took up the post as chief at the end of June, outlined the worst case scenario should he be forced to make cuts in documents seen by UTV.

In the confidential document sent to the Department of Justice and the Secretary of State, Mr Hamilton said that if his budget is cut, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) would be wound up and neighbourhood policing would be "unsustainable".

Recruitment of both civilians and police officers would end, and there would be potential job losses.

Northern Ireland's most senior police officer said that if his annual budget was cut by 5% – £37m – in the current financial year, live investigations would be affected and civilian and temporary workers would be axed.

If his budget is cut by 4% – or £29m – civilian staff would have to go, police operations could be hit and the HET would only carry out an administrative function.

And if the budget was to be cut by 3% – or £22m – training would be affected, patrols reduced and the HET and other legacy cases hampered.

Budget forecasts also indicate that in the 2015/16 financial year the PSNI would have to trim another £55m off its budget.

The Chief Constable said if that was to happen the HET would be wound up, and there would be no recruitment of civilians or police officers and staff would be laid off.

The revelations come just over a week after Mr Hamilton warned the Policing Board that the ability of the PSNI would be restricted if severe budget cuts were pushed through.

While the service has a budget of £1.2bn, three-quarters of it is tied up in pay and pensions.

Mr Hamilton told the Policing Board that potentially cutting £88m of his budget would mean reducing the amount of resources used to investigate the past in order to concentrate on present day crime.

Policing Board member and DUP MLA Jonathan Craig said the police were facing "possibly their biggest challenge since the Patten reforms".

"This will be incredibly difficult, from a management perspective, for the Chief Constable to handle," he said.

Fellow Policing Board member SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly added: "I fear that we make some of the cuts in the wrong places. I fear public confidence in policing delivery and morale with the police service will reach a critical point."

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