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PSNI seeking £24m more to increase ranks to 7,100

Cuts mean target of 7,500 officers may never be met, warns Long


PSNI officers patrol the Holyland in Belfast

PSNI officers patrol the Holyland in Belfast

PSNI officers patrol the Holyland in Belfast

The PSNI needs £24m to increase police numbers to 7,100.

It comes after the force warned officer numbers could fall by 250 this year, while around 133 newly trained recruits can’t be deployed due to budget pressures.

In 2021/22 the PSNI received additional funding from Stormont to increase numbers from the current 7,000 to 7,100, moving it closer to the 7,500 target set out in 2020’s New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) deal.

Based on its assessment of the force’s planned three-year budget, Chief Constable Simon Byrne decided as a precaution to defer a March 2022 recruitment intake.

Justice Minister Naomi Long said this week: “The most recent assessment of the additional funding required by the PSNI in the current financial year to reach 7,100 police officers is estimated at £24.3m.

“However, it is unlikely that 7,100 could be achieved in the current financial year due to the slowing-down of recruitment.

“Should additional funding become available in the 2022/23 financial year, the PSNI will focus on increasing officer numbers back towards the previously planned level of 7,100, if considered affordable in the longer term.”

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She said the NDNA target of 7,500 “cannot be achieved in the current financial year due to the slowing-down of recruitment. Furthermore, unless further funding is made available in future year budgets, the NDNA target of 7,500 officers will not be met”.

Ulster Unionist MLA Alan Chambers hit out at the situation, which he said actually represented a reduction in PSNI numbers going forward.

“Whilst recruitment can be suspended, the number of officers due to retire is ongoing. Obviously this means a drip feed reduction in officer numbers,” he pointed out.

“The figure of 7,500 officers as published in NDNA was always going to be too ambitious a target in the 2025 timeframe, in my opinion. That figure should have been met years ago. Even with the current lack of an Executive I don’t believe the budget would have been available to push on to achieve the 7,500 figure.

“The irony is that a number of other issues in the New Decade document are proceeding at a pace, with money not appearing to be an issue. It is disappointing the figure of 7,100 may not even be met in 2022/23.

“I have also asked a [written Assembly question] around the reported figure of 133 fully trained new officers that can’t currently be deployed. Are they being paid? If so, why can they not be deployed in some meaningful capacity?

“I think that the Minister for Justice will have to work a bit harder to fight the corner of the PSNI. Public expectation of policing is high.”

Last week PSNI chief operating officer Pamela McCreedy warned, due to budget pressures, police numbers could fall to around 6,768 by next March.

She said this could result in services being impacted.

“Potentially, things like investigations will take longer and that’s not good for victims or people wanting responses to their investigations,” she told the BBC.

“I don’t anticipate this year that we’re going to be saying there are areas of service that we are stopping.”

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