PSNI seriously under-funded, says North’s police union chief
Combating terror not served well by best accounting practices, conference told
Police Federation for Northern Ireland Mark Lindsay told the federation’s annual conference in Belfast: “You cannot savage the bottom line and expect performance and delivery to remain unaffected.”
The PSNI is caught in a “vortex” of cuts, reorganisation, new work patterns and “deeply despised” pension reform that is leading to a “worrying” reduction in service, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland Mark Lindsay has warned.
Mr Lindsay told the 43rd annual conference of the federation, the PSNI’s representative body, that the police service was being seriously under-funded, affecting services and operations including tackling dissident republicans.
“You cannot savage the bottom line and expect performance and delivery to remain unaffected,” he said at the conference in the La Mon Hotel in east Belfast.
“The job of combating terrorism, and keeping officers safe, will not be served well by an adherence to best accounting practices,” he added.
Mr Lindsay said that in the past year there were 74 shooting incidents, 39 bombings and 58 “paramilitary-style” attacks. “This level of terrorist-related activity tells us that, vicious, murderous bands of dissidents, pose an everyday threat to our friends, colleagues and communities,” he said.
Tribute to Garda
Mr Lindsay paid tribute to the Garda for helping to curb the dissident threat.
He said police must remain vigilant against dissidents “as we continue with a decade of centenaries, which are highly emotive and could potentially fuel an upsurge in activity”.
“Our ability to curtail and degrade terrorists and dissidents cannot be eroded by ‘balance sheet’ politics. Every resource should be devoted to the task, with no short cuts or skimping,” he warned.
More generally, Mr Lindsay said that fewer officers, restricted opening times at inquiry offices, less cash and a reduced number of police stations, would have “dire consequences” for the PSNI’s overall level of service.
“We will continue to do our best for people in their hour of need - that’s in our police DNA. But far from being more responsive to the needs of the community, we will see a worrying reduction in service,” he said.
Mr Lindsay told the Alliance Minister of Justice David Ford, who was in the audience, that in the current “blame culture”, police were “too busy trying to keep ourselves right, rather than doing the things that really matter”.
He added: “A few weeks ago we were told that recorded crime has risen by 2.3 per cent, or 287 recorded crimes per day. Violent crime was up 5.7 per cent.
“The clear-up rate was less than one in three. I’m no prophet of doom, but we all know the situation is set to worsen.”
He said continuing cutbacks would mean “longer waiting times for police intervention... if at all; reduced visibility on the street... if at all; fewer time-consuming and, yes, costly, proactive operations... if at all; greatly impaired investigative performance”.
‘Less public confidence’
“This will inevitably lead to less public confidence in what we do, and compromise our ability to deliver the police service our communities deserve,” Mr Lindsay said.
He added that in the past year there were 740 assaults on police officers of the PSNI, which has 6,800 officers. In addition, a small number were forced to move home because of terrorist threats.
He said such officers were also losing out financially and should be properly compensated.
The Minister for Justice told the conference that while recognising the current financial challenges, he would continue to protect frontline policing services “as far as possible”.
“My job, as Justice Minister, is to present the best possible case for funding for the entire justice system and then make the necessary, difficult decisions around the allocation of available resources.
Be assured that I will always work to achieve the best possible funding package for our police service,” Mr Ford said.