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PSNI officers 'low hanging fruit' in budget cuts say leaders

Northern Ireland’s frontline leader has claimed jobs will go after budget cuts.

Job cuts mean just 85 student officers will be recruited by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, its Federation has warned.

It is set to tell the Justice Minister that the decision means operations will be “catastrophically impacted”.

The Fed’s annual conference will hear warnings similar to those made by both the other UK leaders of frontline officers that the cost-of-living crisis will hit members hard.

In his last speech as leader of the PFNI, Mark Lindsey will warn fuel is already being rationed for patrol cars in a bid to balance the books.

He will directly challenge Justice Minister Naomi Long over the decision to cut the policing budget by about £280m over the next three years despite warnings from the force’s Chief Simon Byrne.

Mr Lindsey will say: “Are we low-hanging fruit? The easy option to cut without much of an outcry? Why is policing given such low priority?”

Mr Lindsay will tell delegates: “The indicative allocation for 22-23 is £760m – that’s £59m below what’s required, and almost £40m less than the costs that were incurred last year. 

“The £59m gap has to be closed. And that means cuts. Cuts in officer and staff numbers. Policing and policing services will be catastrophically impacted by any reduction in the Budget.”

And that means officer numbers will fall to 6,773 with recruitment held at just 85 students this year – despite the agreement that re-opened the Assembly to meet the Patten Review recommendation to increase the number of officers.

He will say: “Right now, we are staring a bleak future with challenges that will test our mettle as never before.”

“Frankly, our community, and policing, deserve better.”

It comes at a crucial point with tensions high over the Brexit protocol which has stalled the Assembly re-convening. And Sinn Fein is now the largest party.

Pressure on resources would also impact on public attitudes. New figures from the Northern Ireland Policing Board revealed 92% of respondents said feel safe in their community.

It is a stark contrast to south of the border where a modernisation programme is adding to the duty roster.

By comparison, there will be 800 new Garda recruits and 400 Garda staff – plus investment in training, transport, capital projects, ICT and equipment.

The budget plans have alarmed Assembly members: the Justice committee warned cutting initiatives that divert young people away from the criminal justice system would lead to “significant costs in the longer term and therefore prove to be a false economy”.

But the concern has yet to translate into action while the Assembly is again closed.

Part of the problem is that a battle over funding hadn’t been resolved before power-sharing collapsed. Even a backdated pay deal hasn’t reached officers.

Justice Minister Naomi Long has herself admitted that “we haven't been able to use money which is currently sitting with the Department of Finance”.

She said: “We don’t have a functioning devolution” and added the “cycle of crisis and collapse” was not “sustainable”.

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