Police budget deficit of €150m blamed on poor financial discipline

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The national police force is facing a looming €150m hole in its budget unless its cavalier attitude to spending is reined in, its financial watchdog has warned.

Police claim the deficit has been caused by unforeseen extra costs in areas such as cyber security, staff, clearing away drug labs and drug dumps, but a task force that started work in June said the force ‘lacks financial discipline’, a report quoted by the AD said.

The task force has already identified 300 areas for possible savings, ranging from selling vehicles and boats which are hardly used to cutting unnecessary costs at shooting ranges and postponing the purchase of new uniforms.

‘Looking after the budget is not in the police DNA. Operations have priority and have to be effective (not efficient),’ the task force said.

Police chiefs have since stopped recruiting new staff, put new purchases on hold and are in talks with the justice ministry about further cutbacks.

One of the matters under discussion will be the unpaid deployment of police officers for things like the transporting fireworks, which comes to €3m a year, and clearing drug labs, which costs€5m. The implementation of the ban on laughing gas was postponed by the justice ministry because there was no money to police it.

The cutbacks come at a very bad time as calls for police to take a tougher stance on organised crime are increasing following the murder of crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, chair of police union NPB Jan Struijs told the paper.

‘Safety has a cost but it now has to come cheap,’ he said. ‘It’s time we tell the people in this country what we can no longer afford to do. For the next five years police will be short-staffed because people will leave and no new recruits will join.’

The task force is expected to produce a report next month into not only spending, but other problems faced by the force as well, such as the high number of officers on extended sick leave.

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