Smith fears $4m slash’ in police spending
An Opposition MP fears that the police budget could be cut by $4 million.
Ben Smith, the Shadow Minister of National Security, asked yesterday if the island could afford to “slash” spending on law enforcement.
He said: “I am greatly concerned by reports reaching me that the police budget is to be cut by $4 million.
“We have increased the role of the police with sobriety check points and, thanks to excellent police work, 2019 did not register a murder.”
But Mr Smith added: “The police have been stretched thin covering the varied crimes in Bermuda. They want to increase visibility and do community policing.
“Is that all now going to be jeopardised or will officers be expected to do more with less and suffer from burnout, which will have consequences for their health and wellbeing?
“I fear also that as people feel financial stress due to the state of our economy they may turn to crime.”
The One Bermuda Alliance member claimed: “We seem to be able to afford to pay for two unnecessary ministers, we have a so-called government communications budget of $2.5 million and we can afford ‘consultants’ on $100,000 a year.
“Shouldn’t those costs be cut? Can we, as a society, afford to slash the police budget this way?”
Mr Smith added: “I call on the minister to give reassurances that the police budget will not be cut this way.”
The 2019-20 Budget Book showed that an estimated $65.8 million was earmarked for policing this financial year.
That was the same as both the original and revised figures for 2018-19 and about $3.6 million more than the $62.2 million spent in 2017-18.
The Department of Communications budget was listed as an estimated $3.15 million for 2019-20.
It included spending for the government television station, “creative services”, portals management as well as administration and support.
Mr Smith said: “I am also concerned that with the dispute between the Prison Officers Association and Government having been resolved, there will now have to be a resolution for the police who have the same insurance set up as the POA.”
Chief Justice Narinder Hargun ruled last month that a Labour Dispute Tribunal acted beyond its powers in August 2019 when it said that prison officers would have to start to pay the employee portion of the Government Employee Health Insurance contributions.
The Supreme Court made an order to quash the orders as well as pay awards made by the tribunal.
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, said on January 21, almost two weeks after the ruling, that the matters continued “to be assessed and reviewed by the ministry and relevant parties”.
A Government spokeswoman said today: “The Budget is being finalised and will be unveiled on Budget Day.”
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a response from the Government.
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