Speaking about the impact of the Police Service’s stark budgetary situation Chief Constable Simon Byrne said: “Today, Thursday 26th January, Chief Operating Officer Pamela McCreedy and Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton updated the Policing Board on our response to the profoundly challenging budgetary situation facing the Police Service. At the same time I briefed officers and staff.
“We have previously made clear that we will have a funding shortfall of around £80 million by March this year and envisage bigger shortfalls in the years to come. As a result, the Police Service is going to shrink over the next three years. By March there will be 309 fewer Police Officers and 115 fewer staff, a reduction of nearly 6%. We will then have 6,699 full time officers. This is 800 officers fewer that the commitment made in the New Decade New Approach Agreement and the lowest officer numbers since the Police Service of Northern Ireland was formed.
“This reduction comes at a time when our population is growing, when workloads are increasing, becoming more complex and crime is rising. Police are already making difficult choices every day to minimise the risk to the public and to reduce the harm these reductions pose.
As we made these decisions we have sought to:
- Protect our core emergency incident response and statutory functions;
- Continue Neighbourhood Policing
- Protect areas of significant risk such as Public Protection which incorporates domestic abuse, sexual crime and child abuse;
- Understand the impact upon the welfare and wellbeing of our officers and staff.
“The message we delivered today is a bleak one. Inevitably with less police there will be less policing.
“In spite of this, as a Police Service, our core work will not change. The public can continue to have confidence that we will still answer 999 calls quickly, we will continue to patrol our neighbourhoods, we will continue investigate high harm crime and bring offenders to justice.
“The Police Service is a “can do”, practical organisation. I want to acknowledge and thank our people for their resilience, flexibility and commitment. They are used to solving difficult problems and meeting challenges head on. We will innovate and work in smarter ways to ensure that our resources are put to the most effective use for the community we serve. We will continue to invest in technology and be ruthless in cutting out bureaucracy.
“As far as possible we have minimised the impact on service delivery in 2022, but through 2023 these reductions will have real and noticeable impacts. These will be felt in communities across Northern Ireland. Our assessment is:
- Non-emergency calls to the Police Service may take longer to answer and at times the public may have to wait longer for officers to attend non-emergency incidents.
- Our capacity to investigate crime may be reduced and slowed. Fewer officers investigating a rising number of crimes may mean slower investigations and in some cases a less satisfactory service to victims.
- We will have to prioritise investigations. There will be knock on delays for the criminal justice system
- Our Neighbourhood Policing function is shrinking.
- There will be a reduced proactive presence on our roads despite rising road deaths.
- We will actively review access to, and closure of, police stations across Northern Ireland.
- Our ability to respond to sustained protest and public disorder may be reduced.
- The public sector in Northern Ireland is under huge pressure and in order to protect our core functions our ability to support other public sector colleagues may also reduce.
“While there will be no redundancies, all parts of the Police Service are going to see significant change in the coming months as we restructure to minimise the risk to service delivery in priority areas. Working alongside our Staff Associations and Trade Unions the Service Executive Team will do all we can to support officers and staff in the coming months. Officer and staff welfare and wellbeing will remain a priority.
“It is not our intention to cause alarm. However, we want to be clear with the public and our staff about the type of Service they can expect to see in the coming years.
“We will continue to serve the people of Northern Ireland with professionalism and remain committed to delivering a visible and impartial human rights based policing service. We will continue to protect the public in Northern Ireland to the very best of our ability.”
Breakdown of figures
As a result of the first round of budgetary cuts, by March 2023 reductions will include:
- 75 fewer neighbourhood police officers.
- 96 fewer detectives investigating murder, terrorism, drugs and organised crime.
- 97 fewer officers in our Operational Support Department. This includes Roads Policing and specialist search / public order teams of the Tactical Support Groups (TSGs).
- 115 fewer police staff across a range of roles.
Reduction of police station opening hours or closure will be subject to public consultation.
Over £30 million of non-pay reductions this year will have significant impact, including:
- A reduced vehicle fleet. Damaged or broken police vehicles will wait longer for service or repair.
- Deferred building and maintenance work on a crumbling estate.
Other modernisation plans – digital and estate - will be deferred.