By Alan Rodgers
THE CHIEF Constable of the PSNI has said the £60 million squeeze on the service’s budget could result in longer crime investigations in the local area.
Chief Constable Simon Byrne was speaking to the ‘Herald on a visit to Enniskillen, where he was accompanied by recently-appointed local District Comander, Mervyn Seffen.
He said an estimate into how much of the £60 million savings required by the PSNI in the next year will impact Fermanagh was still being worked out, and would be decided in conjunction with the Policing Board and local Policing and Community Partnerships.
However, Chief Constable Byrne said some crime investigations may take longer, and appeared to bemoan the lack of certainty around budgets due to the failure to agree a Stormont Executive.
“The draft budget which wasn’t agreed in the Spring was a baseline,” he said.
“Effectively, we are living hand-to-mouth and every three months we get money. So it’s a bit like ‘maxing out’ your credit card. But that allocation is already less than we need.
“Obviously, we’re keen as everyone else to see a Government reformed, and then there is clarity about what is the final budget settlement and then we can make further plans.
“But in the short-term, we’ve got to live within our means, which at the moment means less police officers, less police staff and a change to how policing will look and feel over time.
“I think the importance for me, personally, is that you’ve seen over the past few years, real gains in investing in neighbourhood policing, and we don’t want to see that walk out the door again. But that will mean tough choices on other types of policing.
“What will that mean – inevitably, is that we will have to prioritise and some types of crime investigation may well take longer.”
The Chief Constable referenced the policy in place for budgets in England and Wales, and said the Policing Board here would have a significant role in ‘advocating’ on behalf of the PSNI for resources.
“If I could, we would want more than an annual budget – we’d want more money, because proportionally there has been big investment in England and Wales, and we haven’t seen that here. Equally, if I was running an organisation in another part of the UK, you can move the money around more easily,” he added.
“Here, you have to land your money on a pinhead. So, if you make savings you can’t carry them forward into the next year to reinvest, and equally if you’ve had a tough year, you can’t have a bit of a buffer if you have significant policing operations and reinvest.
“We do need a more strategic conversation about the modernisation of public finance, and let’s hope when the Government reforms we can get a chance to do that.”
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