Police face budget shortfall

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 09:34 22/06/2012

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Stark new figures reveal police face a $15 million hole in their budget as pay negotiations drag on.

Talks got underway between force top brass and the Police Association yesterday, with officers facing a pay freeze.

Labour MP Phil Goff has obtained figures that reveal a rise in inflation will cost police an extra $24 million.

Police received just $8.89 million more in government funding this year and almost 80 per cent of that was carried over from last year's budget - so the force must find an extra $15 million to cover the rising costs of inflation.

Figures also reveal Auckland districts have lost 108 full time officers in the last year. Overall there are 80 more officers than last year.

Goff questioned police minister Anne Tolley and police commissioner Peter Marshall at Parliament's law and order select committee but they refused to compromise the negotiations by answering questions on wages.

Marshall later rejected the figures.

But Goff was quoting from an earlier written response from police to the select committee. MPs had asked about the expected increase in inflation costs facing the police.

The reply noted the Consumer Price Index increased by 1.6 per cent for the year to March 2012 "which would amount to around $24 million if applied to total police costs of $1.486 billion in 2012/13."

Goff again tackled Tolley during Parliament's question time. She told him: "I'm not going to argue figures with you, what I'm saying to you is that the police budget has not changed...I do not accept that there has been a cut to the police budget."

Goff later said: "She dodged her way around it. If she had of said it is essentially the same in dollar terms but that means there are big inflationary costs we will have to do more with less, that would have been an answer."

He added: "This is a cut in real terms."

Police would need to close stations to plug the hole, he said. "That's why they have been shuffling around, talking about in my own electorate [Mt Roskill] closing the police station, taking one of the two cars away and why in the wage negotiations they are trying to screw them down to nothing."

Marshall had offered assurances that officers' current pay would not be cut. But he refused to rule out a pay freeze. He also said there were no plans to close stations.

Police announced last month that 126 non-sworn posts would be be cut but Marshall confirmed that due to unfilled vacancies only 20 people would lose their jobs.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor confirmed talks were still on-going.

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