Northern Ireland

George Hamilton says cuts to affect interface policing

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Media captionGeorge Hamilton said policing interface areas were an additional cost to the PSNI

Northern Ireland's chief constable has said budget restraints will impact negatively on the force's ability to police interface areas.

George Hamilton was speaking after cuts of more than £50m to the PSNI budget were announced.

He has been told to plan for possible further cuts of up to 15% next year.

Mr Hamilton said the cost of policing the Twaddell Avenue protest camp in north Belfast is £40,000 per night.

Speaking on the BBC's The View, the chief constable said: "Every night across Belfast we have to deploy between 150 and 200 officers just to manage interfaces and the tensions that arise through conflict within loyalism and interface issues," he said.

"That is additional cost, a lot of it spent on overtime and those are the sort of challenges we're facing and we're going to have to find a different way of absorbing that risk."

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Hamilton said the budget cuts were forcing his organisation into a virtually impossible position.

He said they would "fundamentally change how and where policing is delivered".

Mr Hamilton told the Policing Board on Thursday that the police had to save £51.4m in the next six months.

"Since I have been appointed (less than 100 days ago), I have been asked to deliver a 1.5% budget cut, then to plan for 3%, 4%, and 5% cuts, and then two weeks ago cuts of 7% in year were imposed," he said.

"Aside from the scale of these cuts, the constantly changing picture makes planning how to make the savings unfeasible.

"Charged with responsibility for the protection of our community, I feel my organisation is being forced into a virtually impossible position."

Speaking on The View, he said the PSNI would be forced to become more of a reactive, rather than preventative, police service.

"We want to prevent harm happening to people rather than respond once it has happened," he said.

"We want to be able to reassure people, we want to do preventative policing - it's far better if we can prevent crime and harm happening than simply sweeping up the mess after the event.

"But we're going to be forced into a demand-led model here, we're just simply going to have to be more reactive."

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