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DUP North Antrim MLA and Policing Board representative Mervyn Storey has warned that the draft PSNI budget for 2021 is ‘unsustainable’ and could seriously endanger efforts to tackle crime and prevent harm across Northern Ireland.

Commenting after raising the issue of policing resources with the Chief Constable on Thursday, Mr Storey said:

“Last January all parties in the Executive signed up to strengthening and supporting policing, including by increasing the number of officers to 7,500. Shamefully, that pledge has fallen by the wayside.

Rather than bolstering resources, the draft budget presided over by the Ministers of Justice and Finance would create a deficit of £23m and see a net reduction of around 300 officers, leaving the PSNI with a headcount of 6,700 by 2022.

The Chief Constable has quite rightly highlighted that this is not in keeping with the letter or spirit of New Decade New Approach. Sensible steps have been taken to protect neighbourhood policing, but he has warned that these real term cuts will have a deep impact on which services can be delivered. Today he warned that policing would ‘look and feel differently.’

The current position is unworkable and unsustainable, especially at a time when officers are grappling with serious Covid pressures and extra resources have been deployed to deal with the discontent created by the NI Protocol. I have requested that the NI Policing Board write formally to the Justice Minister to reiterate its opposition to the budget as it stands. There is an urgent need to grasp and resolve the practical concerns raised.

It is simply not a credible excuse to blame the wider financial climate. Over the last ten years, the Department of Justice has been at the forefront of a 20% reduction in the PSNI budget. It is wrong that we keep short-changing our police service. The Minister must demonstrate a desire to stand up for policing and put the wellbeing of our communities first.”