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Police services to be impacted as PSNI £60m short of funding


PSNI stock image

PSNI stock image

PSNI stock image

The PSNI is in “a dire situation” according to its chief operating officer, who has warned that services will be affected by a £60m shortfall.

Speaking to the BBC’s Nolan Show, Pamela McCreedy noted that there will be a net shortfall of 240 fewer officers available in each of the next three years, meaning 700 less by the end of year three.

"We currently have 7,000 officers. You can imagine by the end of year three, that you’re 700 officers less, that has to have an impact on your service delivery,” she said. 

"The PSNI has approximately 9,500 of a total workforce – 7,000 of those are police officers. To deal with the natural attrition of officers leaving, which is approximately 240 people a year, we need a recruitment campaign and regime that we can draw on to be able to replace those officers and keep our headcount.”

She explained that 133 new recruits have been fully ready to be trained since 2020, but due to a £60m budget shortfall, their training has been postoned.

The New Decade New Approach deal, which saw power-sharing return to Northern Ireland in 2020, makes reference to a promised extra 500 officers for the police force, but Ms McCreedy said that funding has not been secured over the past number of years to be able to increase to that number. 

"The finance side takes care of itself – people leave, so we crystalize that saving,” Ms McCreedy added.

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"The challenge within the organisation is that people will leave, but not necessarily in the areas of business that we want them to. We need to move people around the organisation and retrain them in new roles, which will impact on promotions.”

Ms McCreedy said that the areas of service the PSNI are wholly seeking to protect are local and neighbourhood policing teams, and contact management centres.

She commented that a particular focus of crime areas include violence against women and vulnerable groups, serious organised crime and illegal drug operations, but added that “potentially things like investigations will take longer, and that’s not good for victims”.

"I don’t anticipate this year that we’re going to say there’s going to be areas of service where we’re stopping, but if this budget impacts on us next year or the following year, we would have to look at what areas of service we can’t deliver.

“The budget that was drafted at the beginning of the year was giving an indication that we would be £226m short over those three years. The report from the fiscal council also noted that justice actually took the hardest hit in that budget build,” she said.

"We have a contingency planning envelope which essentially took our baseline from last year and rolled it forward. We got £40m less than we got last year, so that is definitely problematic for us.”

The UUP’s policing board representative, Mike Nesbitt, said that Ms McCreedy’s comments “should act as a major wake-up call which cannot be ignored”. 

"One of the major problems with the Police budget is that a significant portion - up to a fifth – comes from other pots of money, which does not help forward planning,” he continued.

“The police are constantly being asked to do more with less, and the police mission is ‘keeping people safe.’ This broadens the scope of their activity well beyond tackling crime and a conversation is required with other blue light services about the division of labour.

“What we need now is for the political parties to get round the table and negotiate a Programme for Government in advance of forming an Executive, where we can agree on a budget for the Police as part of a holistic approach. It is a matter of concern that the three –year budget that was allocated to the Department of Justice was one of the worst results from the bidding process. Questions must be asked of the Minister for Justice Naomi Long and her Department.”

In response, a Department of Justice spokesperson said: “The prioritisation of policing resources, including for recruitment, is ultimately an operational matter for the Chief Constable, who is accountable to the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

"Based on the assessment made of the impact of the 2022-25 draft budget for PSNI, the Chief Constable decided on a precautionary basis to defer the March 2022 PSNI recruitment intake and therefore the target of 7,100 officers by end of the 2021-22 was not achieved.

“The proposed draft Budget for 2022-25 is insufficient to increase police officer numbers to 7,100. Increasing police officer numbers towards the NDNA target of 7500 will not be possible unless further funding is made available.

“The Minister has repeatedly warned – both publically and to Executive colleagues - of the irreparable damage to the justice system, including around the police budget, since the publication of the draft Budget 2022-25.”

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