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DUP North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey has called on the Minister of Justice to urgently address concern that the draft PSNI budget for 2021/22 could lead to a reduction of 300 full-time officers in Northern Ireland.

Commenting, Mr Storey said:

‘‘Just over a year ago all Executive parties signed up to New Decade New Approach which committed to increasing police numbers to 7,500. The Chief Constable subsequently brought forward a successful business case underpinning the need for these extra officers.

It is deeply regrettable, however, that the Ministers of Justice and Finance have repeatedly failed to make funding for this commitment a key priority. This comes at a heavy price as we now face a perverse situation whereby police officer numbers could actually be reduced by 300 from the start of the new financial year because of budgetary pressures.

At a time of increased operational pressures such a loss of resource and manpower would be simply counterintuitive. We have heard time and time again from Minister Long the reasons why she can’t support the police service. Now that effective and visible neighbourhood policing is at risk, it is high time she focused on solutions.’’

South Antrim DUP MLA Trevor Clarke added:

‘‘The ‘flat cash’ draft 2021/22 budget allocation to the PSNI is simply not feasible in the climate currently facing policing in Northern Ireland.

If the Chief Constable’s assessment is correct, this would leave the PSNI with about 900 fewer officers than the NDNA commitment. It is wholly unacceptable, having promoted the restoration of the institutions to enhance public services, that the Minister of Justice should preside over this state of affairs.

The end of the current financial year is fast approaching and there is a real onus on the Minister to listen carefully to these concerns and make the case for a more realistic approach to next year’s policing budget.’’

West Tyrone DUP MLA Tom Buchanan concluded:

''It is clear that the current budget proposals would have a serious adverse impact on the fight against crime, impacting not just investigations but a range of other functions. There would also be direct implications for the PSNI's plans to transform police estates and invest in new technology.

It is vital that these issues are addressed by the ongoing consultation and that a fairer settlement is reached.''