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Cash crisis could halt NI recruits joining up, says Chief

Recruitment in Northern Ireland could be halted by a cash crisis.

Recruitment for Northern Ireland officers will be halted unless cash is found to fund the new hires, their Chief has warned.

CC Simon Byrne said the force need to sign up 400 student officers to keep numbers resilient. They had the applicants as 5,311 had applied, but no certainty about budgets.

The Chief Constable said: “The level of applications this year is encouraging. It demonstrates that policing is a career of choice in Northern Ireland.

“We are planning to recruit 400 additional police officers in the coming year. This is necessary to maintain officer numbers at 7,100. This is dependent on securing sufficient funding in the new Budget. Without this, planned recruitment throughout the year will not be possible and police officer numbers will fall,” he said.

“The impact will be felt on service delivery, resilience and modernisation.”

It’s just the latest demand for politicians to sort out the force’s finances.

Last month the Police Federation for Northern Ireland called on the Justice Minister to undertake an urgent review into how police pay is progressed.

The force has lurched through the last decade having been dealt huge cuts during the austerity era and the shutdown of the NI Assembly which meant investment and funding decisions were halted.

A deal was agreed between Westminster and NI parties to re-open the devolved government which included a commitment to fund police to meet the Patten report recommendations.

But members of the government have baulked at the costs and the NI Justice department has failed to make progress with NI’s finance department.

And the recruitment data also contained another disappointment. Despite a significant campaign, the force again failed to get close to the 50:50 target to represent both communities.

Of the 5,311, the majority were Protestant - 66.5% - and 30% were Catholic.

Frontline leaders warned the lack of clarity would not help and that they would still lack capacity even with the 400 recruits.

Mark Lindsay MBE, Chair, Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said: “The Chief Constable’s comments are worrying. The new Budget must reflect the need to continue on a path of recruitment to fill posts left vacant by retiring officers and to expand the officer workforce. 

"Even with the additional 400, we will still be four hundred officers short of a peacetime requirement and it would be unconscionable if finances were frozen in some arbitrary book balancing exercise.”

Mr Lindsay said the years of under-funding had already impacted on his members. 

He added: "The consequences of starving the Service of the financial resources it needs are far-reaching. The public will not get the service it has a right to expect, and politicians would need to be mindful of that fact if they sign off on a Budget that represents a backward step for policing.

“We’ve had to do more with less for too long and it’s about time our decision-makers realised that officers are not robots but human beings who deserve a proper work-life balance and the resources they need to do the job.”

A Department of Justice Spokesperson responded: “Under New Decade, New Approach (NDNA), there was a commitment to increase police numbers to 7,500. We have made progress towards meeting that commitment, securing in-year funding in 2021-22 to reach 7,100 officers.

“The Executive has not yet agreed a draft budget for 2022-2025 which will go out for public consultation in due course.”

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