Lancashire Police cuts force’s ‘greatest challenge in 30 years’, chief constable says

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Lancashire’s top cop has described his force’s financial challenge as its greatest in 30 years as it was revealed the constabulary must make £73 million of savings if it is to meet the Government’s austerity measures.

Along with police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw, chief constable Steve Finnigan today outlined the scale of the pressures facing the county over the next four years.

Mr Grunshaw said: “We have already saved £40 million and this latest raft of changes in operational and support services will take the savings to just over £60 million which still leaves a gap of around £13 million to be found – anything beyond this will be extremely difficult to find.

“It is really important that people in Lancashire have a clear understanding of what the police have to do to balance the budget.”

The changes in operational and support services have identified £20 million in savings which will come from a wholesale restructure of the force, which involves reducing the number of territorial divisions from six to three, reviewing the specialist crime and operations divisions as well as a reduction in overall support services.

Through restructuring, the force said management costs will be reduced significantly and work was ongoing to reprioritise where resources will be based and what they are expected to do.

All specialist roads policing, armed response and dog patrol officers will be based back in divisions and form part of the wider police response to incidents.

The way in which custody processes are managed will change to a centrally-governed function in a bid to provide greater resilience across the county.

And the number of police officer posts will reduce by 165 and police staff posts by 275 in the fresh round of savings.

Overall, the predicted reductions from 2009 to 2017/18 are in the region of 700 police officers and 550 police staff.

Mr Finnigan said: “We have navigated through the challenge well so far and have identified nearly £40 million and not broken the business and to find this money we have had to take very difficult decisions.

“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.”

Mr Grunshaw added: “I want to reassure the people in Lancashire that to keep them safe, especially those who are most vulnerable, remains our utmost priority.

“I would like to ask for residents’ patience during the implementation of these changes and pay tribute to the constabulary’s officers and staff for the way they have continued to deliver really high standards with fewer resources in these difficult times.”

The changes will be implemented on a sequenced basis between 2014 and 2017/18 with the new force ‘footprint’ being in place by April 2014.