PSNI enquiry office closures indicative of a 'full-blown crisis' that requires direct intervention

The PSNI is in a “full-blown crisis” due to budget pressures, the Police Federation (PFNI) has said in response to the news that 11 station enquiry offices are to close.
Police Federation NI chairman Liam KellyPolice Federation NI chairman Liam Kelly
Police Federation NI chairman Liam Kelly

PFNI chairman Liam Kelly said the money saved by closing the enquiry offices at the stations – including Lisburn Road, Bangor, Banbridge and Dungannon – will still fall short of what is needed to balance the books.

“Severe cuts in service levels are the outworking for an organisation that faces a deficit of £130 million,” Mr Kelly said.

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“Something has to give if core policing services are to be maintained with the diminishing resources that are available.”

He added: “It is a total disgrace that insufficient priority is devoted to policing in Northern Ireland.

“Our Northern Ireland Executive must realise that reducing overall effectiveness and ability to respond to calls from the public with fewer officers is a backward and potentially dangerous step.

“Only direct intervention by ministers and the Government to sort out the mess that is the PSNI budget will halt the decline.

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“It’s a relief that there are no station closures involved, but that shouldn’t be taken to mean that all existing stations will remain open as the service grapples with this full-blown crisis.”

The move, that will see four police stations in Belfast affected, as well as stations across the region, has been blamed on financial and resource pressures.

The stations affected are Lisburn Road, Strandtown, Tennent Street and Woodbourne in Belfast, as well as Bangor, Banbridge, Magherafelt, Dungannon, Lisnaskea, Waterside and Newtownabbey.

The enquiry office closures are likely to take place within the three months, and are designed to make a significant financial saving as well as maximise the availability of officers for critical service provision within communities.

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Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the decision was “not taken lightly”.

“Last month the Chief Constable informed the Northern Ireland Policing Board that as a consequence of the current financial and resource pressures facing the Police Service, the decision has been taken to reduce the number of station inquiry offices from 28 to 17,” he said.

“This decision follows an extensive review which included analysis of the volume and type of demand in inquiry offices.

This review concluded that against the backdrop of wider resource challenges, the current service is neither sustainable nor effective.

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“This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we are conscious there may be an actual or perceived loss of accessibility, visibility and ability to respond to the needs of the community.

“However, the PSNI is facing unprecedented financial pressure and savings are necessary to deliver a sustainable and effective organisation.”

He added: “It is important to emphasise that these are not station closures.

“Police officers and staff will continue to serve the community from these locations.”