PSNI's Bid For Cost-Cutting Civilians Fails

A proposal to use armed civilian guards has been vetoed by the North's Policing Board - but as the PSNI faces massive financial cuts of more than £1m a week - such a move could have saved the PSNI a much-needed £5m a year.

Things are so bad that Northern Chief Constable Matt Baggott has warned that redundancies will be inevitable if the cuts to the policing budget are as heavy as feared.

He also said that tight police finances have also meant that recruitment to the force has had to be frozen.

Mr Baggott has been looking at a number of cost-cutting exercises that would not impact on frontline services.

He told Policing Board members that to employ private security firms to take over certain non-contentious policing jobs - such as guarding VIPs - would free up officers to fight crime and save millions of pounds.

The board, however, rejected the proposal yesterday with a spokesperson commenting: "Members of the NI Policing Board received a briefing from PSNI on a proposal to introduce Armed Civilian Guards. Following discussion Member's agreed, by majority view, not to support the proposal."

The PSNI has been asked by the Department of Justice to calculate the potential impact of a 5% and 8% cut to its running costs following last month's Budget by Chancellor George Osborne.

If the cuts are imposed on the four-year budget, the PSNI will lose between £147m and £224m - potentially more than £1m a week.

Frontline officers are still very much committed, with attacks by petrol bombers in Craigavon last night, and two officers injured after being knocked down by a lorry during an anti-smuggling operation in Meigh, and just days after a 300lb was left outside Aughnacloy Police Station.

Jobs may even have to go, although Mr Baggott said all other potential efficiencies would be exhausted before jobs were lost, but he warned that redundancies would be inevitable if the cuts were severe.

"Before we get into the people issues we've a long way to go in seeing how we can become more efficient," he said.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Justice stressed that no decisions on cuts had yet been made, but, following the refusal to use civilian guards, the recruitment of new police officers has been abandoned - on a temporary basis.

The PSNI has also suspended the recruitment of civilian staff, and frozen internal promotions.

The decisions will be reviewed in the autumn when the police will know details of the budget cuts they are expected to make as part of Government-imposed cutbacks.


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