Finding £73m savings from its budget by 2017/18 is probably the biggest challenge Lancashire Constabulary has faced in its 175-year history.
There have been more than 1,250 job losses, police stations have closed and divisions have merged. Despite these cuts, Lancashire police is still providing one of the best, if not the best police service in the country.
Notably, when other police forces around the country are found to be performing badly, they will often be advised to visit Lancashire to observe how they do things.
The recent Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s report into how police forces nationally deal with domestic violence, once again highlighted Lancashire as providing a service which stands head and shoulders above anywhere else in the country. Chief Constable Steve Finnigan has resisted the financial pressure to reduce resources within the Public Protection Units in fact quite the contrary he has increased resources.
The units are the dedicated teams which deal with domestic violence, rape, child abuse and other offending which affects the most vulnerable in society.
This investment is a clear attempt to prevent serious offences from being committed in the first place.
High-risk victims are given support and protection, and high-risk offenders are closely monitored and managed. At the same time Lancashire Police are also investing heavily in early intervention teams in another attempt to nip problems in the bud before offences are committed.
They are also making great efforts to ensure, where possible, queries from members of the public are dealt with at the ‘first point of contact’ rather than being passed from pillar to post. Furthermore, they are recruiting more special constables, cadets, volunteers and improving working in partnership with other agencies and bodies. An example of ground breaking work is the announcement two officers will be based at Royal Blackburn Hospital’s A & E Department. These officers will aim to reduce the 1,230 incidents each year which currently require police assistance.
Despite these efforts to manage the effects of the budget cuts, I am told the only remaining option to save money is to make cuts to front line staff.
My concern is that eventually Lancashire Police will reach a breaking point which will inevitably lead to a fall in the standard of service provided to the public.