Election 2014

24 Nov 2011

No cuts to police budget, says National

6:34 pm on 24 November 2011

The National Party says there have been no cuts to this year's $1.4 billion police budget and dismissed Labour Party claims that police recruitment will be trimmed back to cut costs.

Labour leader Phil Goff made the claim in a Television New Zealand debate on Wednesday night and told Morning Report on Thursday that the reason given for the recruitment deferral was the need to make savings in the police budget.

However, National's law and order spokesperson Judith Collins says Phil Goff is "very desperate" and "completely wrong."

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She told Morning Report there are so few people leaving the police at the moment that the January intake of recruits is not needed, and it is not a freeze of recruitment.

"Because the attrition rate is so low now, so few people are leaving police, morale is so high and the fact that in the last four months of this year 300 extra recruits have gone through the college and graduated," she says.

Ms Collins said the first intake next year will be in March instead, and there would be no reduction in front line police numbers under a National government.

Phil Goff stood by his claims, saying his source is reliable and well informed.

"I understand further there'll be no February intake, and I understand that the discussions were around - until the time that it was revealed last night on television - about deferring further intakes.

"I hope now the pressure will come on police to find their savings in areas other than front line police officers."

Cost savings

National Party leader John Key also said police had not been instructed to slash their budgets but his party expects value for money.

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"They are looking to have cost savings, because generally their budget goes up every year, and so like every government department and every agency of government we're in difficult economic times, there's not a lot of cash to go around, we need to be careful with what we spend."

The police, meanwhile, say no decision has been made on the number of recuits for next year, nor could they say whether a review of officer numbers was likely.

In a statement, police said they were still planning their recruitment for next year but confirmed that low attrition numbers mean the first intake of 2012 will be delayed.

They say by the end of October there were almost 8800 officers and National's Judith Collins says that figure should reach just over 8900 by the end of this year.

She says it is expected that police national headquarters and the districts will help find funds for front line policing.

Ms Collins says it is up to Police Commissioner Peter Marshall to manage his budget and if he chooses to divert resources from administration to the front line she supports that.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said Ms Collins' explanation is reassuring and will come as a relief to police.

He said there would be a problem if recruitment was deferred for a whole year, rather than just the first intake.