Lancashire Police has been handed a ‘welcome reprieve’ from savage Government austerity measures.
The force will lose almost £1m in funding – unless the police and crime commissioner (PCC) approves a two per cent council tax precept rise – under plans revealed by the Home Office yesterday.
It marks a major U-turn after the Chancellor originally warned bosses to prepare for cuts of 25 to 40 per cent.
PCC for Lancashire Clive Grunshaw said the ‘significantly reduced’ cuts to Government funding – which makes up 75 per cent of the budget – were down to public pressure.
He said: “A few months ago we were facing the absolute decimation of our force here in Lancashire.
“We are still facing a reduction in our funding of just less than £1m this year, but this is a much less than we were expecting a few months ago.
“While we know austerity isn’t over yet, it is a welcome reprieve and will allow us time to focus on local police and crime priorities instead of where we need to cut.”
Chief constable Steve Finnigan previously warned the force faced ‘annihilation’ after being told to expect cuts of up to £86m.
Widely expected cuts to policing – scrapped by George Osborne in last month’s spending review – and the botched funding formula review, which was shelved after the Home Office admitted it used the wrong data, threatened to wipe more than £45m from the budget. Instead, Government funding to Lancashire Police will fall by almost £1m to £192m for 2016/17.
Home Office figures showing the force’s overall budget will rise by £600,000 to £259.5m are based on the assumption that Mr Grunshaw makes use of his power to increase the precept by two per cent – just over £3 a year for a band D property.
Rachel Baines, chairman of the Lancashire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “I’m sure this news will come as a great relief to officers and staff who have undergone years of change, which has resulted in hundreds of job losses. It will also be a relief to the communities of Lancashire who can be reassured that officers can continue to protect the communities of Lancashire.”
The force’s budget has been cut by £63m since 2010, resulting in the loss of 1,200 jobs.
Policing minister Mike Penning said policing has been ‘radically’ reformed since 2010, with officers put ‘back on the streets where the public expect them to be’.
He added: “For 2016/17, direct resource funding for each PCC, including precept, will be protected at flat cash levels, assuming that precept income is increased to the maximum amount available.”
Mr Grunshaw said he will consider the results of a consultation with residents before making a decision over increasing the precept.