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Lancashire Police cuts could 'break the force'
LANCASHIRE Police is in danger of reaching a ‘tipping point’, the county’s commissioner has warned.
The stark announcement came as the constabulary outlined the challenge it was facing to save £73million by 2017.
Chief Constable Steve Finnigan said the force had already saved £40million and that there were measures in place to find a further £20 million.
However the remaining £13million would be ‘difficult’ to achieve.
He said Lancashire Police was facing its ‘greatest challenge and most radical changes’ in the past 30 years and that it was ‘inevitable’ officer and police staff jobs would be lost.
The police boss also added that the region would see some ‘spikes’ in certain types of crime, with shoplifting and sexual offences already on the rise.
The Police Federation warned the situation could ‘break the business’.
Lancashire police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: “£73million is a figure that I believe takes so much away. We are in danger of reaching a tipping point.
“I am also very concerned about the government continuing to shift the goalposts.
“The government is still requiring Lancashire Police to find a further £13million of savings by 2013.
“We are going to have to have a look firstly at every aspect of policing.
“We are facing real changes and these are real changes we have to work through together.”
Some of the savings will come from a wholesale restructure of the force, which involves merging Eastern and Pennine divisions from April 2014 to reduce management costs.
It will be run by Chief Superintendent Chris Bithell.
Resources will also be re-prioritised, meaning all specialist roads policing, armed response and dog patrol officers will be based back in divisions to allow them to form part of the wider police response.
Overall, the predicted staffing reductions from 2009 to 2017/18 are around 700 police officers and 550 police staff, which includes around 74 police community support officers.
In a bid to find more savings, the way in which custody processes are managed will change to a centrally-governed function.
However, Blackburn and Burnley will both keep their custody suites.
Police officers will no longer visit every victim of crime, instead calls will be screened from a central control room in Preston, with some cases being dealt with solely over the phone.
The public protection and cyber crime units, which will now be managed centrally, will however grow.
Mr Finnigan said: “We all know everybody has to do their bit in terms of bringing down the nation’s debt, but it is the scale and pace that is frightening.
“We have navigated through the challenge well so far and have identified nearly £40million and not broken the business and to find this money we have had to take very difficult decisions.
“We are about £13million short of what we need to realise.
“We have bought ourselves a few years’ grace to find that and find it we will, but I do not for one moment underestimate how difficult that will be.
“What has been really important throughout this review is that we minimise the impact on frontline and visible policing, but with nearly 700 police officers fewer, we cannot leave those areas untouched.
“We are facing our greatest challenge and most radical changes in over 30 years and yet we want to reassure all our communities that, despite these cuts, we will continue to deliver the high quality policing services that this constabulary is known for.”
Rachel Baines, from the Police Federation, said the cuts were very ‘worrying’ and would result in there not being enough frontline officers.
She said: “Our concerns are first and foremost about public safety.
“The fact that we have not got enough officers to deliver the safe service that we have been delivering over the past years is quite worrying. Crime rates will also start to rise.
“Our further concern is that if the government comes and asks for more money in its next spending review, it will break our business.
“We will not be able get to the crime. Officers are absolutely stretched to capacity and cuts have not started to bite properly yet.”
Graham Jones, MP for Hyndburn, said the cuts were ‘devastating’.
He said: “There are 14 boroughs in Lancashire and to lose 700 police officers is 50 per borough.
“I am deeply concerned that crime is going to start rising and the public will not go on protected. It is very, very scary.”
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said he would be prepared to discuss the situation in parliament.
He said: “I think Lancashire Police has done extremely well to do what they have done and I have the highest regard for them.”
Where the £60m cuts have been made (another £13 still have to be found)
- £73million of savings needed – 25 per cent of the £301million budget in 2009/10 when the first cuts of £42million were annnounced
- £60million already found, £13million left to save
- Already a further reduction of 165 police officers has been made taking the total cuts to 700
- Another loss of 275 police staff posts have been made taking the total cuts to 550
- A reduction of five chief superintendents, one assistant chief constable as well as superintendent, chief inspector, inspector and sergeant roles across the force
- Six divisional units reduced to three. Blackburn and Burnley join forces
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