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Editor's Viewpoint

Funding our police force a real priority

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There was a promise of more money for the force in the New Deal New Approach document which accompanied the return to Stormont of politicians after a three-year hiatus. To date the force has seen none of the promised funding

There was a promise of more money for the force in the New Deal New Approach document which accompanied the return to Stormont of politicians after a three-year hiatus. To date the force has seen none of the promised funding

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There was a promise of more money for the force in the New Deal New Approach document which accompanied the return to Stormont of politicians after a three-year hiatus. To date the force has seen none of the promised funding

The PSNI is a significant force, the third largest in the UK and covering the second largest operational area. Yet it can validly claim that it is far from being generously resourced.

Astonishingly in the last five years the force's budget has been cut in real terms by £50m at a time when police forces in England and Wales have had their budgets increased by £832m. Viewed over a decade and the budget cuts rise to a staggering £200m.

A Northern Ireland Audit Office report earlier this year said this short term attitude to funding the PSNI is merely storing up problems for the future, something which everyone in the province knows carries with it potential dangers.

Policing in Northern Ireland is different from other parts of the UK or in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland. There is a constant threat from dissident republicans. While these may be micro terror gangs with little popular support, they still pose a potentially deadly threat since police officers are their prime targets.

But reduced funding also impacts on every other aspect of policing in the province. The nature of crime has changed with criminal gangs with international links deeply involved in drug dealing. Domestic crime has also increased sharply.

However, the PSNI's ability to respond to the demands placed on it have been hampered by the need to reduce the number of officers. There are currently around 6,900 members of the force which the Chief Constable Simon Byrne wants to increase to 7,500, but is at a loss to find out where the funding will come from.

There was a promise of more money for the force in the New Deal New Approach document which accompanied the return to Stormont of politicians after a three-year hiatus. To date the force has seen none of the promised funding.

Certainly the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic has meant huge drains on the public purse in an attempt to shore up the economy, but police officers point out that policing was given a priority status in the New Deal New Approach but without the accompanying funding.

The pressure on officers can be gauged by the increased levels of sickness absence, the rising demand for services and concern over officers' well-being.

It is disgraceful that the force is having to use 180 temporary buildings while being asked to deliver modern policing tackling ever more complex crime and more sophisticated criminals, all the time being short-changed.

Belfast Telegraph


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