In the 'New Decade, New Approach' document (NDNA) the British and Irish Governments set out a number of priorities for the Executive, including increasing police numbers to 7,500. However, the funding package accompanying NDNA falls well short of the amount needed to deliver all those priorities.
In terms of length of process, therefore, the key factor to increase police numbers to 7,500 will be the availability of Executive funding. I met the Justice Minister prior to setting the Budget in 2020-21. At that point the PSNI’s proposals to increase police numbers were still under development.
The Department of Justice has subsequently submitted a strategic outline business case seeking Department of Finance approval for the PSNI to proceed to the outline business case stage for an additional 600 officers, at a cost of £40 million per annum. Subject to the outcome of the appraisal process, it will be for Department of Justice to bid for any additional funding. The Executive will consider that in light of the funding available.
I thank the Minister for his response. It is disappointing that the money still has not been delivered to increase police numbers, as is in 'New Decade, New Approach'. Will the Minister give any indication or timeline for when he intends to come to the House with a more positive response, to say that the money has now been delivered to deliver on the commitment in 'New Decade, New Approach' to bring the police up to the quota that they are looking for?
If the money had been delivered by the Governments, as they proposed and promised, there would be no question over how the Executive have to meet these commitments.
I have no doubt that the Executive takes the NDNA commitments very seriously. There is a range of commitments but we have to get a process. We could not just agree on 11 January and then on 12 January start the recruitment of police officers. There is a process. I have engaged with the Department of Justice, which has indicated the outline business case and that it is preparing to move to a business case. That is a process that has to be gone through. Then, when that process reaches its conclusion and a proposition is brought to the Executive. Part of our return to this Chamber was to honour the commitments that we made in the 'New Decade, New Approach' document. It would be much better if the Government honoured their financial commitment, and then, as I said, there would not even need to be a conversation in the Executive as to how these things would be funded.