550 police officer posts to go in cuts

Hard times: Lancashire's chief constable Steve Finnigan talking about how the force is going to save �42m
Hard times: Lancashire's chief constable Steve Finnigan talking about how the force is going to save �42m
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The axe will fall on 550 Lancashire police officer posts – many in Chorley and South Ribble – as part of almost £42m worth of cuts.

A total of 800 police staff will be lost over the next four years, less than the 1,000 originally expected. But Chief Constable Steve Finnigan said ‘frontline” policing was no longer safe, due to the government cutbacks.

And he warned officers would be attending 35,000 fewer incidents per year. Of the 550 officers, 160 will be “frontline” and another 250 police staff will need to go.

It will see the loss of 22 community beat managers, seven geographical inspectors, seven sergeant co-ordinators, and three neighbourhood policing sergeants. Twelve will go from Southern division, which covers Leyland and Chorley. But there was good news for PSCOs, who will not be sacrificed, although there are currently 41 vacancies across the county.

The chief constable said: “We’re talking money here, but we’re also talking people, and it’s a big impact on people.”

The force will axe £6m from its ‘response policing’ budget, losing 102 out of 1,096 PC jobs and 18 supervisors in the process. In addition, 250 ‘back office’ police staff will go, taking the total to 800. And the £5.8m community safety and partnerships budget will be hacked back by 33 per cent (£1.98m).

Describing it as the ‘biggest change’ the police force had seen, Mr Finnigan said: “We’re now at the stage where we can’t leave the front line untouched.”

Staffing levels have already been reduced by a recruitment freeze imposed in September 2009. It means 282 police officer posts have already gone, along with 151 police staff. With less staff, chief superintendent Clive Tattum said officers would be attending fewer incidents.

He said: “As well as showing that we can potentially resolve around 35,000 calls at the first point of contact, the review has also highlighted that we are grading a large number of calls for service incorrectly which means we are sending officers to around 20,000 incidents each year which do not necessarily warrant an officer to attend immediately.”

But there was good news for PCSOs who will not be sacrificed, although there are currently 41 vacancies across the county.

Mr Finnigan said £15.9m of the cuts would be from back office, £12.7m from middle office and £9.7 from the front line but would be spread over four years rather than a “big bang”.

He said: “I am under no illusion that these reductions are painful and our staff have shown some fantastic resilience throughout this very difficult process. We are making progress and the public can be reassured that we are leaving no stone unturned in our non-frontline services to take money out where we can.”

He said the budget had already been reduced by £16m over the past two years and pointed out that all crime was down 11.9 per cent last year.

So far, there have been 15 compulsory redundancies and a further 27 voluntary redundancies are in progress. A total of 67 police staff have been redeployed.

Malcolm Doherty, chairman of the Lancashire Police Authority, was concerned about morale and said: “I think that’s the biggest concern for us now.”