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Public safety in spotlight as Surrey signs off on budget with RCMP hiring freeze

Surrey residents concerned about safety following budget approval
WATCH: Surrey residents concerned about safety following budget approval

The City of Surrey has officially approved its controversial new budget, one that does not include funding for new police officers.

After campaigning on public safety initiatives and building community centres to keep youth out of gangs, the Mayor Doug McCallum-led council voted five-four to approve the financial plan that will freeze hiring at the RCMP and scrap plans for new recreational centres.

Surrey is pressing ahead with a plan to create its own municipal police force, which the mayor says could be ready within two years.

READ MORE: Surrey Council passes controversial budget amid dissent from Mayor McCallum’s own party

In the meantime, McCallum said Surrey RCMP Officer in Charge (OIC) Dwayne McDonald has told him he can keep the city safe with the detachment’s current contingent of 835 members.

“I am really pleased. I’m really excited that we passed the budget and it has every one of our commitments that we promised in the last election,” said McCallum.

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“I feel very comfortable and the majority of council feels comfortable that the RCMP will certainly continue to make Surrey safe.”

Following the vote, McCallum was asked if he would reverse the decision, should public safety be put at risk.

WATCH: New Surrey mayor facing opposition from his own party

New Surrey mayor facing opposition from his own party
New Surrey mayor facing opposition from his own party

“It’s the police chief, or in our case, the officer in charge,” McCallum said. “That’s his decision.”

However, McDonald maintains his detachment would benefit from additional boots on the ground.

“As I have stated before, the Surrey RCMP could use a significant increase in police … in order to keep pace with the city’s growth and meet legitimate public expectations,” the OIC said in a statement.

READ MORE: B.C. RCMP bosses talk challenges faced in 2018, including future of Surrey policing

Despite that position, McCallum maintains he’s been assured by the city’s top cop that the RCMP has the resources it needs.

“He feels comfortable that he will be able to make Surrey or keep Surrey safe with his current compliment of officers,” McCallum said.

Casting a decisive vote in support of the budget was newly elected Coun. Doug Elford, who has called repeatedly in the past for “more boots on the ground.”

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Global News was unable to reach Elford for comment on his apparent change of position.

The budget approval comes after a heated council meeting Monday night in which four councillors — including three from the mayor’s own party — voted against the budget.