New MEA PCSP in funding crisis as Department of Justice slashes budget

Gregg McKeen. INLT 21-396-PR
Gregg McKeen. INLT 21-396-PR
  • New PCSP is facing funding cut of 50 per cent
  • Budget set to run out by end of this month
  • Fears PCSP will be little more than a ‘talking shop’

Mid and East Antrim’s new PCSP is in danger of becoming a “talking shop” after the Department of Justice slashed its budget by 50 per cent.

The remark was made by TUV Councillor Brian Collins at a council meeting on September 7, during which it was revealed that the PCSP budget for this year had been cut from £340,026 to £170,000.

A council report also revealed that the reduced budget for 2015/16 would be “substantively spent” by the end of this month.

“If the budget allocation to the Mid and East Antrim PCSP remains at 50 per cent of the indicative annual budget the Mid and East Antrim PCSP will not be able to deliver the Transitional Strategy and Action Plan agreed by Council in March 2015,” it continued.

“Work is currently underway to scope this impact and this will be considered further at the next meeting of the PCSP in October.”

The new PCSP had its first meeting on August 31.

DUP Alderman Gregg McKeen, who has been appointed as the first Chairman of the new MEA PCSP, told councillors that the first PCSP meeting “seemed very positive.”

“There will be more localised policing,” he stated.

“My main concern is that the action plan from the three previous PCSPs depended on funds. The three PCSPs had a budget of over £400,000 which was cut to £340,000 and has now been cut to £170,000.

“A major concern moving forward is planning and the money will run out at the end of September. We have agreed to have a meeting with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to see if we can push for further funding and a way forward.”

DUP Councillor Paul Reid said that he was concerned that if no more money was available from the DOJ then “rate payer’s money will have to be used.”

“I have strong concerns that we should not be bailing out the Department of Justice,” he added.

TUV Councillor Brian Collins stated: “If we do not have the funding this becomes little more than a talking shop, and what good is that for people who are looking for projects to be carried out by the PCSP?”

Speaking after the council meeting, Alderman McKeen told the Times that in the absence of further funding from the DOJ, MEA PCSP would have to be “creative.” “There is still enough money to run the PCSP and cover staff costs,” he stated.

“If the budget is cut we will have to look at more areas for funding. With that money we would be able to run a lot more projects but it’s about being creative about where we can get funding and what projects we can do without spending large amounts of money.”

Alderman McKeen revealed that the PCSP could potentially seek council funding.

“There is the option to go to the council and ask for more money this year, if there was spare money or other projects that didn’t happen there is the possibility of reallocating money.”

When asked which projects could suffer due to the funding shortage, Alderman McKeen said: “Community groups in Larne dealing with legal highs, Popping Candy, things like that and there is still a massive problem with legal highs in Larne. Road safety campaigns like the one at the leisure centre featuring a mocked-up crash for Road Safety Week will suffer.”

After a meeting with the DOJ on September 11, Alderman McKeen confirmed that the department had made “no promise of future funding.”