"Frustration" at delays in setting PSNI budget

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By Michael McHugh

The Policing Board has voiced "frustration" at delays in setting the PSNI's budget for next year.

The force confirmed it has not yet received final clarity on its funding position for 2019/20 during a monthly meeting of its oversight body in Belfast.

A total of £16.5 million has been earmarked to cover the cost of Brexit and the PSNI said it was keen to ensure this was additional money to day-to-day spending.

The force needs to recruit hundreds of members just to replace those who are leaving.

Board chairwoman Anne Connolly said: "Board members share the frustration of the Chief Constable on the PSNI's inability to undertake meaningful strategic financial planning when the notification of the budgetary settlement for the next year has still not been received.

"Given the sheer size, scale and complexity of the policing budget, this has significant implications for the PSNI, as does the residual issue of it not being able to carry forward strategic financial reserves.

"In addition, the board performs an important role in terms of approving the PSNI budget and this delay hampers board members' ability to exercise due diligence in effectively scrutinising the PSNI's opening budget position."

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley last month published Stormont's budget for next year in the absence of ministers.

Chief Constable George Hamilton has said he plans to recruit an extra 308 officers and staff by April next year after receiving £16.5 million from the Treasury for Brexit preparedness.

He confirmed there was no clarity on the wider policing budget.

"This is a significant concern for the organisation and has the potential to impair decisions about the allocation of resources, areas of cost reduction and service levels.

"Depending on the final settlement, it could directly impact confidence in policing and frontline services in keeping people safe."

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