Lancashire’s top police officer has described the cuts to his force as “frightening”.
Chief Constable Steve Finnigan and Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw were united in their verdict yesterday, as they outlined plans to try and meet £73m of savings by 2017/18.
The measures include losing 165 police officer and 275 police staff posts, taking the eventual predicted losses from 2009 to 1,250 people.
Clive Grunshaw said: “These are difficult cuts to have to announce. They have come too quickly and cut too deeply.
“It’s a step I believe that takes so much away from Lancashire Police. We are in danger of reaching a tipping point.
“I also have concerns about the Government constantly shifting the goalposts.”
Mr Grunshaw said he wanted to be “honest, open and transparent” about the decisions they needed to make and asked residents for “patience during this transitional period”.
Originally the force had to save £42m by 2014/15 - around 20 per cent of a £301m budget.
Mr Finnigan said “not without pain” they had saved £40m, taking measures such as closing police stations.
But that figure has increased to £63m by 2015/16, and in the next couple of weeks they will sign off £20m of cuts.
The force have estimated the total amount they need to save will come to £73m - and they remain £13m short.
He said: “There is no doubt that Lancashire Constabulary is facing it’s greatest challenge and the most radical changes it’s ever seen in over 30 years.
“We’ve got an absolute determination to continue to deliver great policing services to the good folk of Lancashire and I want them to have good faith in us that we will do that.”
Around 83 per cent of the force budget is spent on employees. They have already lost 500 officers and 233 staff.
Bosses could not confirm at this stage which posts will be lost and where, either through staff taking voluntary redundancy or not being replaced.
The plan to find £20m of savings includes:
• Reducing the number of territorial divisions from six to three
• Central Division, which includes Preston, will merge with Southern Division, which includes Leyland and Chorley, to form a new Southern Division. There will be a new Western Division, including the old Northern Division, and a new Eastern Division, including the old Pennine Division. This will happen by April next year
• Reducing the number of assistant chief constables from six to five and chief superintendents from 10 to five
• Reducing the number of chief inspector, inspector and sergeant ranks, and corresponding police staff grades
• Disbanding H Division, consisting of Firearms, Motorway Unit, Road Policing, Dogs and Mounted Units, and basing their members within the three new divisions from April, to help save £1.5m
• Changing officers’ shift systems to better allocate “resources to risk”
• Reducing contact manager call centres from six to one before Christmas
• Closing Leyland Custody Suite and sending prisoners to Preston or Skelmersdale
A further £4m will be saved through changes to support services and reducing Criminal Justice units, which work with the Crown Prosecution Service, into one unit.
A further £3m of savings has been identified in “non-pay” areas such as maintenance and training.
At the moment the force does not intend to close any more police stations or front counters and the chief constable vowed neighbourhood policing would not be affected.
He said: “Neighbourhood policing is still the jewel in the crown in Lancashire.”
Lancashire Police plan to increase Special Constables from 424 to 650, community volunteers from 280 to 580, and recruit 450 police cadets by December 2014.
Mr Finnigan said despite the cuts, public satisfaction levels were at 88.1 per cent and public confidence levels were at 88.6 per cent.
However, he said his concern was the sustainability of the “cherished model of policing that we have got in this country” if more cuts were requested.
He said: “The danger is going from a proactive model of policing to a reactive model.”
Lancashire Police Federation fears cuts in officer numbers will lead to an increase in crime.
Chairman Rachel Baines said: “The level of the cuts is now really starting to show - 700 officers less is a shocking number which takes us back 30 years.
“Officers’ main concern is public safety.
“How can they continue to deliver the level of service that they do now?
“The pressures on the front line are already immense and our concern is that a further reduction in officer numbers will equate to an increase in crime.
“The government needs to take another look at the cuts to policing and decide whether it really is safe to keep cutting back?”
But a Home Office spokesman said: “Crime is down by more than 10 per cent since the last election and has fallen by six per cent in Lancashire since last year alone.
Our reforms are working. Getting the economy back on track has meant a challenging funding settlement for police, but forces like Lancashire have shown an impressive ability to make savings while still cutting crime.”