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PSNI will face 'operational stress' from cuts, politicians warn

The PSNI is being put under “operational stress” due to political failures, local leaders have warned.

Northern Ireland’s force cannot manage current demand at existing strength and won’t sustain officer reductions, politicians have warned.

As a budget crisis looms –driven by the suspension of Stormont – the Justice minister has led warnings that its proposed budget is inadequate.

Naomi Long said funding plans for the PSNI are "insufficient to maintain, let alone increase" officer numbers.

It means the force will not meet a pledge made in the original Patten report that led to its creation or the agreement that re-opened Stormont – the New Decade New Approach which set a target of 7,500 officers.

The force is being given an interim funding settlement because the Assembly has again been suspended due to the NI protocol.

The allocation for 2022-23 is £760m - £59m below PSNI’s funding bid and almost £40m less than the costs that were incurred last year.

Ms Long echoed a warning last month by the force’s federation that officer numbers would be cut.

She said: "The contingency planning envelope for PSNI did not contain specific funding for police numbers and is insufficient to maintain, let alone increase, police numbers.”

 The minister echoed comments made by PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne that jobs would be lost.

"I have raised concerns regarding the police budget with the Finance Minister and Executive colleagues on several occasions since the publication of the draft budget 2022-25,” she said.

"The 2022/23 financial position for the department looks extremely challenging at this stage and that, if confirmed that would require difficult decisions to be made.”

In a rare moment of unity, political leaders from across the sectarian divide voiced concern.

Alan Chambers of the UUP said the NI departments needed to meet to avert the crisis.

"Recently, the PSNI has had an extremely difficult time due to Covid-19 and with the rise of political tensions, now is the time to commit to assisting the PSNI to ensure that their duties can be performed and most importantly to protect the welfare of its officers," he said.

Policing board member Sinead LcLaughlin warned the force was in no shape to take officer cuts.

“We cannot afford to stand still, never mind see a cut in officer numbers. It has been clear for some time that we need to increase the number of police officers in order to keep people safe and adapt to the changing policing environment,” she said.

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