31/10/2008

Closures Loom As PSNI Cuts Bite

Fears over possible police station closures have been exacerbated today with news that even members of the police's own governance body, the Northern Ireland's Policing Board, expressing serious concern that the police budget is facing a huge shortfall.

They are worried about an estimated pressure of some £21m in the current financial year and the potential funding implications this will have for the budget next year.

At a recent meeting of the Board's Resources and Improvement Committee, members were briefed on the current funding position.

Committee Chair, Dolores Kelly MLA said: "This is without a doubt a serious matter and urgent action must be taken to sort this out," she said noting that earlier this year, the Board worked very closely with the PSNI to agree a budget on what had been made available from Government.

"At that time, savings of over £100m against the original bid had to be found, but given this new pressure, it is hard to see how the PSNI can stay within budget this year without some very difficult decisions having to be made."

In real terms of how this will impact services 'on the ground', concerns are already being expressed in one specific instance next week.

A meeting of a local community policing forum is to debate speculation about the permanent closure of a Co Antrim police station, which has already been placed on part-time opening hours.
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Major concerns surround the continuing provision of community policing at Glengormley Police Station - where the local specialist officers are based - should closure follow the cost-cutting measures.

Antrim Line Community Policing Forum is to meet with PSNI representatives and District Policing Partnership members to discuss a variety of local policing issues including helping to clarify continuing reports that the local station - which currently operates on a part-time basis - could be shut down, possibly by the end of the year.

The PSNI Area Commander, Chief Inspector Paula Hillman, indicated that "no decision" has been taken on the future of the base, but confirming that a "review of policing in the area is ongoing".

Chief Inspector Paula Hillman commented earlier this year: "No decision has been taken on the future of Glengormley Police Station but it is true to say that a review of policing in the area is ongoing in line with the new structure of the PSNI."

Speaking in advance of the Forum meeting (Glengormley Pavilion, Carnmoney Road, 7.30pm, Thursday 6th November), a spokesman said: "Community policing and 'beat' officers report for duty at Glengormley and we were assured too that not only was the Community Policing Unit to remain at the Antrim Road base, but also that probationary PSNI officers completing their college-based training at Glengormley would be made available for beat duties in and around Glengormley in addition to the fully qualified staff.

"Clearly, if the station closes and we lose all that, we are on a hiding to nothing," he said.

(BMcC)

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