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Ford in frontline policing pledge despite £260m cut

Justice Minister David Ford has insisted that Chief Constable Matt Baggott will still be able to protect frontline policing despite a proposed £260m cut to the PSNI budget over the next four years.

The Assembly justice committee has been told that among Mr Ford’s top priorities are the protection of frontline policing and additional funding for the PSNI to deal with the terrorism threat.

The Justice Department’s director of delivery, Anthony Harbinson, said that in the financial year 2014/15, when the PSNI is to be asked to make its biggest annual cut — £86m — the force will receive a funding boost of £38m to deal with “police pressures”.

“This is in line with the minister’s intention to fund as many as possible of the PSNI pressures and reduce their savings target to enable them to allocate as much resource as possible to the frontline,” said Mr Harbinson.

Mr Baggott has privately raised concerns with Mr Ford over the proposed cuts to the PSNI’s budget.

The Chief Constable and the minister have been in correspondence with the UK Treasury in an urgent attempt to secure additional emergency funding of £200m to combat the threat from dissident republicans. The Justice Department’s draft budget from the Executive includes an additional £45m to help alleviate security pressures faced by the PSNI.

Justice committee members have also been told that the crisis-hit Prison Service is to receive a funding boost of almost £70m over the next four years.

Within the next few months £13m is to be injected into the Prison Service budget to fund an ‘invest to save’ programme.

Mr Harbinson said this will lead to more savings in future years.

He added, however, that details of the modernisation programme were still being developed.

An additional £54m is to be allocated over the next four years for the redevelopment of the prison estate, which will include the commencement of work on a new women’s facility and the redevelopment of Magilligan Prison.

Last month the Prison Service was told it must make savings of just over £65m out of its £500m budget over the next four years as part of the draft Budget 2010.

The minister also intends to make funding available to rebuild forensic science accommodation at a cost of £12m and progress work on the new police training college, which will also train prison officers and firefighters, at a cost of £138m.

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