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PSNI policed lockdown for £22.9m, auditor reveals

The cost of policing lockdown in Northern Ireland was just £22.9m, an official audit report has revealed.

The cost of policing in Northern Ireland during the pandemic was less than the cash pumped into two closed airports, official figures have revealed.

A report into the public sector costs from the COVID-19 pandemic revealed additional costs for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was just £22.9m.

The details were revealed in the second report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office into the financial impact of lockdown for public services in the province.

The report revealed extra funding had gone into reducing pressures in maintaining critical services, increased costs from contractors and an increase in the level of untaken annual leave as a result of the pandemic.

The extra health costs alone were estimated at £1.06bn.

In perspective, Belfast International and Belfast City Airports got £10m from September 2020 to March 2021, conditional on the airports not returning to profitability during the period.

With the pandemic not over, the auditor warned more costs were certain: “The Executive’s strategic priorities remain the health and wellbeing of citizens, societal and community well-being, economic wellbeing and revitalising the economy.”

The leader of frontline officers said the remarkable result had been achieved by staff adapting rapidly despite being down on required numbers and having to deal with issues such as dilapidated buildings.

Mark Lindsay, Chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, told Police Oracle: “The minimal cost in policing and enforcing the pandemic has been down to the flexibility of police officers in adapting their work practices and showing a willingness to work for the greater public good.

“This has come at great personal risk to them and their families and it is regrettable that their commitment to supporting society’s efforts was not replicated by the government in having officers vaccinated as a priority.”

The PFNI added the performance that had delivered the low cost had not been recognised in wages.

Mr Lindsay said: “To add insult to injury, the government have also imposed a public sector pay freeze, which given the minimal cost of policing the pandemic is a national disgrace.”

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