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Stormont: Fresh poll could cost PSNI more than £600,000

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Another assembly election could cost the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) more than £600,000 to police, the chief constable has said.

Simon Byrne said the last assembly election cost the PSNI £672,750 to resource.

In his monthly report to the Policing Board, he said a fresh election would “incur similar costs”.

It is understood costs would be separate from the £6.5m figure cited by the NI Electoral Office.

During elections the PSNI’s responsibilities include carrying out checks on count venues beforehand, overseeing security for ballot boxes and having officers in place at count centres.

In the chief constable’s report, he stated that £328,943 of the funding spent on May’s election was for overtime claimed by staff.

He added: “We would anticipate that any further election called later this year would incur similar costs, dependant on the exact nature of the arrangements for count centres.”

In the same report, the chief constable warned that current in-year pressures facing the PSNI’s budget already sit at “approximately £90m”.

Simon Byrne

Pacemaker

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland has called on the secretary of state to intervene to deal with budgetary pressures faced by the PSNI in the absence of devolved ministers.

Liam Kelly, the federations chairman, said: “Action is urgently required to avert a breakdown in services and if our devolved ministers aren’t up for the job, then I’m calling on the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, to take control of the situation and engage in much-needed damage limitation.”

It is now one week since the deadline to restore an executive at Stormont was missed.

Mr Heaton-Harris is under a legal duty to call a fresh election within a 12-week period.

He has said he will call an election, but he has not set a date for a vote yet.

‘Election would be unhelpful’

On Wednesday, Northern Ireland Office Minister Steve Baker said a date for another Stormont election would be confirmed soon.

But leaders of the Stormont parties have said an election would not solve the impasse, with the Irish government also saying it would be “unhelpful”.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) could instead delay the requirement by passing legislation at Westminster.

Devolved government in Northern Ireland has not functioned properly since February.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has blocked the restoration of power-sharing in its protest against the post-Brexit trading arrangement known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The DUP has said it will not re-enter government until the protocol is changed and has urged Number 10 to have “a razor-like focus” in getting a solution with the EU.

  • A simple guide to the Northern Ireland Protocol

Other parties have said as Stormont has no role in the protocol negotiations, the DUP should return to an executive.

The secretary of state will need to pass a budget for Northern Ireland at Westminster, if the deadlock continues.

Parties have also urged Mr Heaton-Harris to provide senior civil servants within Stormont departments with additional powers to ensure some decisions can still be taken.

If an election is to happen before Christmas, the Northern Ireland secretary will need to announce a decision by Tuesday 8 November.

The last date that an election could happen within the current legislation would be 19 January.

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