‘Great harm will take time to fix’ - Lindsay
The Chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, Mark Lindsay, says losing £200M from the PSNI budget has delivered great harm and will take time to fix.
Mr Lindsay was reacting to the Northern Ireland Audit Office Report, entitled ‘Reducing Costs in the PSNI’, which painted a picture of falling numbers, slashed budgets, increased absences, worsening crime rates and a more than doubling of officers on restricted duties.
Mr Lindsay said: “Where there are fewer officers and hundreds of millions of pounds less to maintain the service, something had to give.
“That is why absences rose from eight to fourteen days over a nine-year period. Doing more with less comes at a heavy price. For many officers, excessive work patterns and long shifts with poorly structured leave and rest days played havoc with their lives and the lives of their families.
“Slavishly following Priority Based Resourcing (PBR) left serious gaps and caused enormous damage. Against that fact, it is all the more remarkable that officer morale didn’t go into meltdown.
“The problem was worsened because the PSNI couldn’t build up any resilience. Unlike other forces in the UK, the rules in Northern Ireland prevented the organisation holding financial reserves which could have cushioned against the worst effects of cutback and downsizing.
“Mistakes were made, and they have been acknowledged by the PSNI, and now we have to develop new ways of doing things which place officer wellbeing and resilience at the heart of the strategy. Great harm has been inflicted and it will take time and commitment to repair the damage.
“We’re beginning to see a turnaround with a long-overdue increase in officer numbers. Hundreds more are required to get us to the 7,500 which was a peacetime minimum, which was a commitment in ‘New Decade, New Approach’. The PSNI desperately needs investment in estate and equipment to begin to deliver on longer-term savings.
“The Audit Office charts a course for the organisation and it is heartening that some of the recommendations are already being implemented. That said, the budget cannot stand still when demand for services is on the increase. It will be up to the Department of Justice, and the Executive, to properly resource the PSNI to deliver for officers and the general public they serve.”