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PSNI has deficit of £53m and is working in 180 portacabins

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Cash crisis: Simon Byrne speaking to the Assembly’s justice committee

Cash crisis: Simon Byrne speaking to the Assembly’s justice committee

Cash crisis: Simon Byrne speaking to the Assembly’s justice committee

The PSNI is using a total of 180 portacabins for day-to-day use - some of which are in poor condition - as the force continues to deal with a £53m deficit.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne has stated that the multi-million pound figure would just keep the PSNI "standing still" before the end of the current financial year.

The organisation requires more funding on top of the £53m to modernise the force, recruit new officers and deal with a backlog of issues relating to PSNI buildings and sites across Northern Ireland.

Mr Byrne was highlighting the issues during Thursday's Stormont justice committee meeting after first mentioning the financial difficulties at last week's sitting of the Policing Board.

Following his opening remarks regarding budgetary constraints facing the PSNI, Mr Byrne was asked to clarify what the £53m was needed for by DUP MLA Paul Givan.

The Chief Constable explained that due to the poor state of a number of PSNI premises around the country, the force is using 180 temporary buildings.

"We seem to own more portacabins than you can shake a stick at," he said.

Mr Byrne added that a specific site for any new PSNI headquarters had not yet been identified.

The PSNI's director of finance and support services Mark McNaughten said that £5m is needed to deal with the backlog of maintenance issues, while another £3m is necessary for rates alone "given the size of the police estate".

"It's just the tip of the iceberg to keep things moving," he added.

Mr Byrne explained that the Enniskillen Police Station building is 200 years old and it would be ideal to move the site to an area just outside the town.

However, any plans to move any stations or PSNI sites are at the "very early stages".

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said that the force has had to delay the decommissioning of some buildings with high security measures as the costs are simply too high.

However, plans to open a police museum in Northern Ireland are unaffected by budgetary constraints as money has been set aside separately, but the RUC memorial garden, located at the PSNI's headquarters, could be moved to any new site.

"I recognise this is an emotive issue," he said. "It could be moved to a possible new campus."

Meanwhile, it was revealed that 3,750 people have applied to join the PSNI during the ongoing recruitment campaign - with 40% of those applicants being women.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie asked how long it will take the PSNI to reach their target of 7,500 officers.

"I think it would take two to three years," replied the Chief Constable.

Mr Beattie also asked how police officers' morale was being affected after not receiving a 2.5% pay rise when compared to their counterparts in England and Wales, who received it seven months ago.

"People are feeling let down," said Mr Byrne.

"I think when they see cheques being written in England and Wales there is a real sense of disappointment."

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone was informed by Mr Byrne that the plans to increase the wages of police officers is currently with the Department of Finance.

Mr McGlone suggested that the Justice Committee writes to both the Department of Finance and the Department of Justice to see if it will "stimulate some activity".

Belfast Telegraph