Police Federation for Northern Ireland conference hears call to end ‘penny-pinching betrayal of policing’

Chairman of organisation claims PSNI in deepest resourcing crisis since its inception

The chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland has called on the Government and the Stormont Executive to end their “shameful, penny-pinching betrayal of policing”.

Liam Kelly, in his address to the federation’s annual conference in Co Antrim, said the PSNI is in the deepest resourcing crisis since its inception and warned that officer numbers will slide towards 6,000 unless there is urgent intervention.

Mr Kelly said there is an £80 million deficit in the PSNI budget, which means the organisation will have to “drastically pare back services”.

The Stormont Assembly voted this week to back this year’s budget, although Justice Minister Naomi Long has previously warned that the allocation given to her department will have a detrimental impact on services.

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Mr Kelly said: “We will not stop until we convince the Government and the Executive to end their shameful, penny-pinching betrayal of policing in Northern Ireland and, more specifically, the men and women of the PSNI who put themselves in harm’s way every day for the benefit of our society.”

He added: “There is an abject failure to properly fund and resource policing.

“We felt we earned the right to expect something better from our newly restored devolved institutions. That was misplaced confidence on our part.

“Not even having the ability to stand still is a recipe for disaster for the service.

“Right now, we are in the deepest resourcing crisis since the formation of the PSNI in 2001.”

Mr Kelly said Stormont ministers must take the fight for a meaningful budget to Westminster.

He said: “The drip-drip erosion has to end. Too few ‘folks on the hill’ have our back the way they really should.

“We want them to go to the next level ... to say that we are being decimated numerically and that the money that’s allocated is insufficient. This is a battle that must be waged in Whitehall and Westminster.”

Mr Kelly told the conference in Templepatrick that departures from the PSNI mean the force will slide towards 6,000 officers by either the end of this year or the end of the current financial year.

He said: “This will make our ability to respond effectively nigh on impossible, and without positive intervention the crisis in policing will continue to get worse.

“One officer per 320 of the population is wholly inadequate to meet the multiplicity of challenges that are out there. Great damage is being done and it is dangerous and irresponsible.

“We are being asked to do the impossible. Regrettably, it’s taking a heavy toll on our colleagues who are working flat-out in the most trying of circumstances. Our paymasters are sleepwalking into trouble.”

Mr Kelly also raised concerns over a rise in the number of assaults on officers. He said 3,346 assaults had been notified in 2022/23.

“Incredibly it is probably worse as there is still an element of underreporting of assaults by colleagues,” he said. “The statistics need to reflect the reality so we can shine a light on the true extent of this problem.”

He welcomed the commitment by Justice Minister Ms Long to prioritise new sentencing guidelines to deal with those who assault police and emergency service colleagues.

He added: “We must have stronger penalties and meaningful custodial sentences to deter would-be attackers.” – PA