‘It would have been funny if not so serious’

Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw (right) has welcomed the decision not to cut police budgets
Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw (right) has welcomed the decision not to cut police budgets

A Home Office blunder that could have cost Lancashire Police £16.5m a year has been blasted as ‘deplorable’ by a group of MPs.

A planned shake-up of how Government money is split between different forces was set to slash police funding in the county by £24.5m – until the glaring error was exposed.

Kieth Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee

Kieth Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee

The controversial funding review was shelved last month after it emerged the Home Office was using the wrong data. Under the updated model, Lancashire Police would still have lost £8m.

The Home Affairs Select Committee, which heard evidence from the county’s chief constable Steve Finnigan, said the mistake would have been ‘amusing if it were not so serious’.

Its report into the botched review added that the error – highlighted after police commissioners, including Lancashire’s Clive Grunshaw, said the numbers did not add up – had made the Home Office look ‘foolish’.

It added: “It is deplorable that Home Office officials made errors in calculating the funding allocations for police force areas.”

Mr Grunshaw said the report backed up his claims that the process was ‘disrespectful and shambolic’ and called for police commissioners and chief constables to be involved next time around.

He added: “We need a new review that involves experts from across the policing arena and keeps meddling Home Office officials at arms length. I and many of my colleagues have no confidence in their ability to undertake this review without our input and expert help.”

The MPs’ report highlighted several shortcomings in the proposed funding formula and said it was ‘reprehensible’ the Home Office did not immediately apologise once the error was brought to light.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said it was ‘farcical’ how easily the mistake, missed by the Home Office, was spotted by police commissioners.

He criticised the process for shutting out police and commissioners, adding: “It would be charitable to call it a shambles.”

Policing minister Mike Penning said: “I have been clear that the error made in data showing the indicative impact of our proposed model on forces was wholly unacceptable. I have apologised to Parliament and to police and crime commissioners and forces for it.

“The Government notes the committee’s report and will respond formally in due course.”