A Fleetwood community watchdog leader is deeply alarmed by savage Government cuts to the county police budget – just when the town has been hit by rising crime.
Ivor Bould, the chairman of Fleetwood’s Neighbourhood Watch Committee, says the massive reductions in cash, personnel and resources means the town will be even more vulnerable to further crime rises.
Mr Bould was speaking just weeks after it was revealed cases of shoplifting in Fleetwood have risen by 28 per cent this year compared to last, while purse snatching is also up. Cases of theft-related crime have also risen across Wyre, thought to be partly connected to benefit changes.
Since then it has been announced that Lancashire Police must save another £33m, taking the cuts total up to a massive £73m after an earlier round of £40m cuts.
The police force will have to lose 165 officers and axe 275 police staff to meet its new budget.
Additionally, it has been revealed that the number of police divisions will be reduced from six to three, meaning police on the Fylde coast will now have to share resources with the former Northern Division which covers Fleetwood, as well as Lancaster and Morecambe.
Mr Bould said: “We know times are tough but how can these sort of cuts be justified? The cuts to benefit and the economic climate seem to be having an impact on crime, so now is the worst possible time to start cutting police budgets. It can only mean there will be less officers to cover our streets and react to incidents of crime. Crime figures are up, police budgets are down, it’s a recipe for disaster and is very worrying.”
Lancashire Chief Constable Steve Finnigan voiced his own concerns about the possible impact of the cutbacks, saying: “These cuts have been made too deeply and too quickly. Services are being squeezed at both ends. We have tried to look at sustainability. Many forces have had a complete erosion of neighbourhood policing, but not in Lancashire. Our community beat managers are the jewel in our crown. But this could change us from a proactive police force to a reactive service.”