Chief Constable Steve Finnigan has spoken of his “absolute delight” after Lancashire Police overcame crippling cuts of £60m to be hailed one of the best performing forces in England and Wales.
The county’s top cop has sent a personal message of thanks to all his trimmed down team of officers and staff for achieving outstanding results in the most detailed assessment ever carried out into the nation’s policing.
But, in an interview with the Evening Post, Mr Finnigan also expressed worries that, with a further £20m of economies still to be found by 2017, the force may yet face a “tipping point” where it could no longer cope.
“We know we have still got tough times ahead,” he said. “But I’m very proud of what our staff have done. It’s great credit to them all and I’m absolutely delighted they are being recognised in this way.”
Lancashire Constabulary has lost 700 officers and 500 staff to achieve a 25 per cent cut in its budget. But there are real concerns that further economies being demanded by central government could push policing in the county over the edge.
“My big concern going forward is the sustainability of our cherished model of policing,” said the chief. “Is there a tipping point where we are asked to deliver the same level of cuts that we have had to deliver in the last four years? Some say that’s likely to happen and, if it does, then something will break.
“We are good here in Lancashire in our mission or purpose, which is to keep people safe from harm, especially the most vulnerable in our communities. This report says very loudly we are very good at this.
“But we will never become complacent about it. The leaner we are the more difficult it is to take out more. We know we are going to lose more people - we will have to.”
Mr Finnigan insisted politicians and “other key stakeholders” should not get complacent either just because the force had stepped up to the plate and continued to deliver, despite the austerity measures. And he admitted was not surprised by the way his officers and staff had responded to the drastic cutbacks.
“I think it is in the DNA of this organisation. In all humility we expect to be up there with the best - they are the standards we set ourselves.
“We have consistently delivered top level performance in all areas. We were the top force in 2007 and also in 2003/04. Most forces will never be able to point to that level of success.”
In the assessment carried out by HM Inspector of Constabulary, Lancashire received three grades of outstanding and four of good. There were no areas where the force was felt to be in urgent need of improvement.
Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: “Congratulations must go to Steve Finnigan and everyone connected with Lancashire Constabulary.
“The force is clearly bucking the national trend with its levels of performance and residents should be reassured by that. I am aware how hard staff and officers have had to work to achieve this in the face of significant budget cuts. I am conscious that with £20m still to come out of the budget there is the potential for that to have a significant impact.”