Members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board have agreed that the budgetary position for policing is untenable and will result in long term damage to policing and confidence in policing as the public feel the impact of reductions in officer and staff numbers in the service being delivered. At a meeting dedicated to consideration of the PSNI Resourcing Plan for the 23 /24 period, the Board agreed, following a detailed presentation by the Chief Constable, that policing had been put in an impossible position in trying to balance the books.
Policing Board Vice Chair, Edgar Jardine said:
“We have noted the planned reductions in police officers and police staff and other cuts being made to reduce what was an initial deficit of £107m to the residual gap of £38m. We were already concerned about the effect of these reductions on the ability of PSNI to invest in neighbourhood policing, but this has been amplified by the detailed outworkings on impact and the choices around areas of police service delivery that will have to be made. Choices that will impact now and into the future.
In recent days and weeks we have heard from health, we have heard from education, we have heard from infrastructure on the decisions they have taken about what they are and what they are not going to be able to do. Many of these decisions will have an impact on policing. Telling the policing story is not always simple due to the complexities of the organisation and the extensive range of legislative duties which fall to the PSNI. And so, as a Board, we believe that the policing picture needs to be painted so that the consequences are heard and understood.
The finality of the financial position is now with us in the plan presented and a gap of £38m that cannot be bridged. It is crystal clear that the pressures facing the service are untenable. As a Board we also know that the demands of the job, the level of police officer assaults, and the trauma witnessed in every day duties are also testing the resilience of the organisation. We have already made representations to the Department of Justice, the Northern Ireland Office and the Secretary of State to reflect our concerns about the Budget position.
While we will continue to scrutinise on a monthly basis PSNI spend against the £816m budget, having gone through the PSNI resource plan in detail we will be writing to the Permanent Secretary and Accounting Officer to express the grave concern the Board has that, despite the significant and far-reaching cuts already put forward by the Chief Constable, there remains a gap in the police budget and a long term consequence for policing from making such drastic reductions.
As a Board we are acutely aware of the significant budgetary issues facing the Northern Ireland block, and the implications of this for other public service providers dependant on public sector funding and their work with the PSNI. Whilst the Secretary of State has indicated that the budget allocation is a devolved matter, the safety and security of our community is a matter for Government. And the Chief Constable has already written to the Secretary of State articulating the risks to NI society.
As a Board we will also be writing directly to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to request that additional monies are made available from Treasury so that a sufficient level of funding for policing Northern Ireland in 2023-24 is provided so that we do not lose the traction of the last 5 years’ investment in neighbourhood policing, and the investment made in the PSNI since its establishment. The SoS has a responsibility to address the commitment given in the New Decade New Approach Agreement to investing in the service and increasing numbers to the 7,500 promised.
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Notes to Editors
- Resourcing Plan 23/24: The PSNI received a 1.7% cut in budget compared to the previous year (22/23) which equates to around £12m. Additionally there have been inflationary pressures in relation to pay, services and contracts which are unfunded.