Speaking at the Northern Ireland Policing Board meeting today, Thursday 6th July, Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “I am grateful to the Board for their decision to make the Police Service budget situation the focus of this month’s accountability meeting. This is an opportunity for us to place on record the scale of the financial challenge we face and to share our concerns about the implications for the communities we serve.
“We have already made clear to the Board and the public the scale of our financial challenge. The budget for 2023-24 has been reduced by 1.7%. Combined with rising costs and pay requirements, we are facing a substantial funding gap of some £107m.
“We are now implementing a range of drastic cuts, including reductions in recruitment, overtime and the full range of non-pay support costs.
“Despite these actions we still face an unaddressed gap of £38m. It is difficult to see how further savings can actually be delivered this year. This is an unprecedented situation. We are unlikely to be able to cuts costs any further or faster.
“We have already paused recruitment. As a result the Police Service will shrink drastically over the next three years. Last year, police officer numbers reduced by 309 to 6,669 in March 2023. This is the lowest number of police officers since the formation of the Service in 2001.
“We expect numbers to continue falling at roughly the rate of one officer a day. By April 2025 we are likely to see police officer numbers to below 6,000 and police staff to 2,193.
“This is stark contrast to the New Decade New Approach commitment to growing officer numbers to 7,500.
“Very soon the public are going to see the impact of these cuts. The Police Service will be smaller, it will be less visible, less accessible and less responsive. The shape of policing is being determined by budget and not need.
“Our response to calls will take longer and we will not have the capacity to investigate crime to the same level. All at a time of growing demand. Serious crime and road deaths are increasing and the terrorist threat level has recently been raised to Severe.
“There is currently no financial resilience to respond to extraordinary events or public disorder. I am therefore becoming increasing concerned that our ability to deal with any long term or wide spread public disorder risks being significantly reduced.
“Without urgent intervention, the impact of these cuts on communities across Northern Ireland will be felt deeply and for the long term .Some of these decisions will take years to reverse.
“I am grateful to all the officers and staff within our organisation for their continued hard work resilience and dedication to our service.
“Without sustainable funding the Police Service of Northern Ireland will become unrecognisable from the representative and community centred Service envisioned by Patten which the people of Northern Ireland deserve and need.”