If you haven’t already noticed the impact of the cuts, it won’t be long before you do...’
That is the stark warning today from Lancashire Police’s worried federation chief, as cuts to the force are set to hit a staggering £100m under the current Government.
The county’s police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw hit out at the Government’s austerity measures, which have already seen the county lose more than 700 officers since 2010.
Mr Grunshaw said the cuts to Lancashire Police’s budget look “likely to rise to £100m by 2021”.
And Rachel Baines, of the Lancashire Police Federation said a further 800 officers’ jobs would be put at risk if that were to happen, slashing the force’s budget by a third in just over a decade.
The warning comes as a new report criticised the Home Office for slashing funding without properly understanding the impact on front line policing.
“Across Lancashire, 83 per cent of what we deal with doesn’t generate a crime number – for example, searching days and days for a missing child. But it’s absolutely vital
It shows Lancashire Police, which gets almost three quarters of its funding from Whitehall, has been among the forces worst hit by spending cuts – despite rises in the council tax precept.
The National Audit Office, which published the report, warned falling crime figures account for less than a quarter of police work.
The public spending watchdog said the Home Office does not have enough information to know how much further it can cut funding without “degrading” services.
Rachel Baines, chairman of the Lancashire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said it is too easy to “get lost in crime figures”.
She said: “Across Lancashire, 83 per cent of what we deal with doesn’t generate a crime number – for example, searching days and days for a missing child. But it’s absolutely vital.”
She called for better understanding of the demand placed on the police – and what is expected of officers –as she warned there is “no way” the force can continue in its current form as the budget cuts get deeper.
She said: “I am not trying to scare-monger but some of the savings already identified will come into place by March or April next year.
“If you haven’t already noticed, I think you will start to notice a difference in police visibility by then.”
She said further cuts, leading to significant job losses, could see Lancashire Police offer a “response-only” service – only dealing with 999 calls –by 2021.
Mr Grunshaw said: “The Government is ploughing ahead with more cuts without fully understanding the demand placed on forces.
“In Lancashire we have lost 700 officers and 500 police staff so far as a direct result of the Government’s cuts and it is clear that they intend to carry on in this way without a full appreciation of the consequences.
“The demand for police services in Lancashire remains at an all-time high with up to 60 per cent of all calls to police not leading to a recorded crime but still require significant police input.”
His comments are at odds with those of policing minister Mike Penning, who said there is “no question” that police forces still have enough money to do their work.
In its report, the NAO said only a quarter of forces have a “sophisticated understanding of demand” and the lack of information means there is no comprehensive national picture of the pressure police are under.
Head of the NAO Amyas Morse said: “Although police forces have successfully reduced costs, without a thorough understanding of demand or the factors that bear on their costs it is difficult for them to transform services intelligently.”
Mr Grunshaw added: “Residents in Lancashire have been generous and supported small increases in the council tax precept, but this in no way mitigates for the huge reductions in budget we face as a result of the Government cuts which currently stand at £60m and look likely to rise to £100m by 2021.”