Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 17:38 UK

PSNI budget 'right down to wire'

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The acting chief constable of the PSNI has said the police budget was "right down to the wire in terms of what we can cut into".

Judith Gillespie was speaking at a meeting of the Policing Board in which government demands to slash £17m from the budget were discussed.

Chairman of the board, Barry Gilligan, said the cuts were "unacceptable".

He said he had requested a meeting with Security Minister Paul Goggins to discuss the issue.

Mr Gilligan told the board: "Resources have been a prominent feature of discussions at this board table over the past year and further efficiencies will be sought by the treasury.

"But the board again were unanimous that at this time a cut of £17m is not acceptable to this board and the members of this board."

The Policing Board was meeting for the first time since the departure of Sir Hugh Orde as chief constable.

Acting Chief Constable Judith Gillespie told the meeting: "If we don't have flexibility in our budget we are going to have great difficulty moving forward.

"If we don't have that flexibility there is no doubt that frontline services will suffer, so without that flexibility we are going nowhere."

Political members of the board also spoke out against the cuts.

'Wise up'

The DUP's Peter Weir said the government had to "wise up".

"If they are looking to make progress, making threats to slash police budgets further is not going to be in anyone's interests," he said

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said while the board was prepared to make savings where they were practical, it did not want to deprive the public of a professional service.

"We also have to make sure that the officers themselves have the necessary resources to carry out their duties," he said.

An internal PSNI report saying police are not providing an effective service and have lost sight of what's important to communities was also being discussed at the meeting.

The report said officers spend more than 60% of their time in stations doing paper work.

An incident at Meigh in south Armagh, when armed dissident republicans were seen operating an illegal checkpoint, was also on the agenda.

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