£88m deficit prompts PSNI funding worries

FEARS have been expressed over the funding of the PSNI after a multi-million pound shortfall in its budget led to the abandonment of a scheme to tackle low-level crime.

The PSNI said it was shelving the planned creation of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) – civilians who would have some police powers, including detaining people for up to 30 minutes.

But the PCSO plan – controversial with some who said it would create ‘plastic policemen’ – has been axed by the Policing Board on the recommendation of the PSNI because of an 88.8 million shortfall in the police budget.

The PSNI said it would also be reducing police overtime because of the funding shortfall.

“There is a shortfall of 88.8 million revenue – the day-to-day cost of policing – between what the PSNI considered an appropriate and necessary level of funding to continue to drive forward change and improvements in policing and the allocation,” a PSNI spokeswoman said.

“There is also a shortfall in capital funding. Despite the fact that there is a shortfall over the next three years the police service will continue to work with communities and their representatives to provide the best possible policing service.

“However, such are the demands facing the PSNI that some difficult choices have had to be made.

“Some policing projects will be affected including the recruitment of the Police Community Support Officers which will not progress this year. There will also be a reduction in police overtime.”

Newtownabbey District Policing Partnership chairman Tom Campbell said that shelving the PCSO idea, coupled with the reduction of police overtime, could create a “crisis situation”.

The Alliance councillor said: “This is a matter of massive concern for the whole community.

“We have been told that the provision of these PCSOs were vital but now we are not getting them at all.

“This devastating blow could create a crisis situation in policing and the reduction of police overtime hours will compound these problems even further.

“Anti-social behaviour can make local people’s lives hell. This lack of progress on staffing will hurt efforts to combat this massive problem.”