Justice – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 21st June 2011.
I can confirm that approximately 15% of the core budget of the Department of Justice has been allocated to community safety in the current financial year. That figure excludes funding allocated to arm’s-length bodies and agencies. In monetary terms, it means that just over £6·9 million has been allocated to community safety for this financial year. However, Members should note that, as well as allocating funding directly to community safety, my Department ensures that additional resources are available through the requirement to secure match funding. The net result is that significant funding has been allocated to community safety in the current year.
I thank the Minister for his answer. Given the success of many of the locally based community safety forums, such as the West Belfast Community Safety Forum, which works in partnership with organisations that have a responsibility for community safety, will the Minister give us an assurance that they will be resourced and financed in the way that they need to be to carry on and develop those initiatives?
I appreciate the point that Ms McCann has raised. I cannot give her an absolute guarantee that the West Belfast Community Safety Forum will be funded indefinitely. However, I can confirm that funding for the facilitator post has been extended until 31 March 2012, so that time is taken to assess the most appropriate model for delivering local engagement on community safety in west Belfast. Clearly, there are community safety issues on which we would like to spend significantly more money. However, the fact is that budgetary pressures on the Department do not always make that easy. I am concerned to ensure that money that is allocated to community safety from limited resources is used in the best possible way and to assess the good work that is being done both by formal community safety partnerships and by informal local groups such as the one that the Member highlighted.
Will the Minister ensure that the new policing and community safety partnerships act in accordance with the spirit of the Patten report, so that local neighbourhood policing is truly community policing?
Certainly. I am happy to endorse Mr Eastwood’s comment. It is certainly the Department’s intention to put forward proposals for the new amalgamated or extended policing and community safety partnerships so that the spirit that has gone through the DPPs since the Patten report will be carried forward. Some Committee members were concerned that the consultation document did not reflect that fully. It has, therefore, been revised to take account of views that have been expressed by Members of the House.
What is the Minister’s assessment of how well the various Departments’ interventions and initiatives on community safety are being joined up?
The Member asks a question that applies to every aspect of public expenditure. There is absolutely no doubt that we have seen good work done in many community safety partnerships to join up the responsibilities of different bodies. The way in which the new policing and community safety partnerships will function will bring a number of statutory bodies into a wider role while preserving what Mr Eastwood has just referred to: the existing pattern of DPPs in the policing committees of those partnerships. It seems absolutely clear that, if we are really to make communities safer, we need to look at the role of a number of Departments, not simply the Department of Justice and its agencies, to ensure that we get maximum benefit. I am certainly keen to work with other Departments to ensure that that benefit is maximised and to get the best possible results for the entire community.