The Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) claims devolution has failed not just the security force but the people it serves.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, examining the implementation of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement (GFA), heard the PFNI had “lost faith in a system of government that operates in such a dysfunctional manner”.
The Stormont Assembly has not sat since the May elections when the largely Nationalist Sinn Fein became the ruling party for the first time.
Opposition Democratic Unionist Party refused to share power with SF over its stance on the Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
The PFNI submission said: “We acknowledge that countless lives have been saved because of the GFA and that must be the uppermost consideration.
“However, from a purely PFNI perspective on day-to-day governance, [devolution] has failed to deliver on the promise of the GFA. It has, therefore, failed its people. Stop-start politics have hampered devolution and led to missed opportunities to deliver good government.”
The PFNI claims unapproved annual pay awards and withholding incremental pay progression to hard-pressed officers was its evidence of failure.
The body said: “(it is)…bogged down in tedious, time-consuming bureaucratic box-ticking”, which results in excessive delay in resolving the pay awards.
“This is exacerbated by also withholding incremental pay progression without justification.
“The PFNI finds this an intolerable situation. The process is far from user-friendly and needs to be urgently overhauled. It is not fit-for-purpose and takes no account of individual needs at a time of rising inflation and a deepening cost-of-living crisis. It is a process that is driven by excessive bureaucracy for no good or obvious reason.”
The PFNI put forward a three-point proposal to deal with officer pay. It called for an immediate ratification of last summer’s pay recommendation which should have appeared in payslips in September.
It also made the case for reduced bureaucracy to cut down on current unacceptable delays and, in future, the full implementation of pay awards at the appointed start date.
The PFNI said: “On officer numbers alone, the structures set up under the GFA have failed to deliver for policing and, by extension, the entire community.”
As a “vital” public sector organisation, the PFNI says policing has been allowed to become the “Cinderella” service. It adds: “It is of particular concern that not enough attention is paid to the welfare and wellbeing of officers.
“…Devolved institutions have created layers of unnecessary ‘red tape’ which hamper delivery in a timely and business-like manner and lead to dissatisfaction and frustration. The Northern Ireland Executive – the administration generally – has done more to erode confidence in local government by its failure to take decisions and act expeditiously.”
PFNI chair, Liam Kelly, said: “Our officers are incensed over the way devolution treats them. Ministers, when we had them, dragged their feet. On top of that, promises on numbers and resources have been broken. If devolution is restored, our hope is that it will start becoming more business-like and professional.”