He was commenting after the Chief Constable warned the Policing Board that an estimated £141m hole in this year’s budget could lead to a total freeze on officer recruitment and the closure of some PSNI stations.
Responding, the DUP South Antrim MLA said:
‘‘It is unacceptable that policing in Northern Ireland remains at risk of being paralysed by a failure to deliver appropriate funding for the PSNI. In the current financial year, the policing budget will again be squeezed considerably, leaving the Chief Constable with no option but to sustain the growing culture of cuts both to headcount and core services.
We need to be realistic about the cause of these problems. The huge pressures facing funding for policing would not simply vanish into thin air if an Executive and Assembly was restored today or tomorrow. Current funding for all aspects of our public services is not capable of meeting current demands.
The Barnett Formula does not work on the basis of need. This means things like pay awards for frontline staff, which are paid in other parts of the United Kingdom, can’t be matched here.
Over the past decade baseline budgets for our departments have been declining and policing and justice have often become the sacrificial lamb in order to protect spending in other areas.
That isn’t sustainable. Given the threat posed dissident republicans, the continued scourge of organised crime and rise in domestic and sexual offences, it is reprehensible that parts of the PSNI fleet are expected to sit idle in the coming months due to a lack of manpower and resources. With funding levels expected to plummet further, we need a complete reset of how Northern Ireland is financed by the Treasury in order to put the delivery of policing on a stable footing.
Contrary to what the Secretary of State says, none of this is in the gift of the Executive. The Government is keen to talk about levelling up but in truth on its watch Northern Ireland’s police numbers have dropped below 6,700 in stark contrast to England and Wales, where over 20,000 extra officers have been recruited since 2019. This is despite our Province’s policing environment being much more challenging.
It is clear that the existing funding arrangements are not delivering a fair deal for policing or public services in all regions of the UK. The only way to address this is for the Government to set about taking steps to review the Barnett Formula and to consider an uplift in support based on assessed need. This is just as important for policing as it is for health, education and the many other areas ravaged by the latest NIO budget.’’