This is how many police, firefighters and ambulance staff there currently are in Lancashire keeping people safe - compared to 10 years ago

People in Lancashire are being kept safe by fewer emergency service workers than they were a decade ago, figures have suggested. Deputy news editor Michael Holmes reports.

By Michael Holmes & Colin Ainscough
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 1:48 pm

Fewer emergency workers are keeping the people of Lancashire safe than a decade ago, figures suggested.

While the country is still responding to the coronavirus pandemic, police, fire and ambulance staff unions are calling for more funding to protect frontline services.

Home Office and NHS Digital figures showed the equivalent of 5,946 full-time emergency workers were employed by organisations covering Lancashire this year – nine per cent fewer than in 2011.

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Emergency services in Lytham Road, South Shore, during a fire at Elite Linen in nearby Ball Street, on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 Picture: Michael Holmes for The Gazette

Among them were the 2,672 frontline police officers in Lancashire Constabulary’s ranks as of March 31, according to the Home Office data.

That was eight per cent fewer than at the same point in 2011, when there were 2,904 FTE officers, though figures prior to 2015 are estimates.

Across England, the number of officers has dropped by five per cent in the last decade – while recorded crime was rising year-on-year in the years before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Different Home Office figures showed that across Lancashire, the number of crimes recorded by police increased by 39 per cent, from 102,503 in 2010-11, to 142,589 in 2019-20.

The figure fell to 120,435 in 2020-21, when crime levels nationally were significantly impacted by coronavirus lockdowns.

The Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents officers, said the Government’s promise of 20,000 new police officers by the end of 2023 does not go far enough.

A spokesman said: “An increase in the number of police officers is desperately needed, particularly given that the population in England and Wales has grown by four million in the last decade.

“In addition, the time officers spend dealing with non-crime issues, helping vulnerable people and those in mental health crises, has also increased.”

Meanwhile, the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service had the equivalent of 900 full-time firefighters responding to emergencies as of the end of March – 236 fewer than in 2011.

Around 9,500 firefighters were lost across England over the same period – a 23 per cent drop – with every fire and rescue service experiencing reductions.

While the number of incidents attended overall has steadily been declining nationally, the response time to fires has increased.

The Fire Brigades Union, which represents firefighters, said anyone working in the public sector frontline would agree that “austerity is not over”.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said the sector had been calling for new funding for years.

He added: “For fire and rescue, every pound cut from our budget means a greater likelihood of smaller crew numbers, fire stations shutting, and the loss of resources such as fire engines.

“In turn this all means longer response times to incidents, and a greater risk to lives, property, heritage and the environment.”

Decreases were also seen for the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust, which saw its ambulance staff numbers fall six per cent from 2,524 in September 2011, to 2,374 as of July this year.

But the NHS Digital figures show the number of ambulance staff operating in trusts across England dropped by three per cent in 10 years.

Unison, which represents ambulance workers, said fewer staff means lengthy waits for ambulances.

Colm Porter, the union’s national ambulance officer, said: “Staff end up working across wider areas, their shifts persistently overrun, stress increases and burnout is common.

“Queuing ambulances outside hospitals and long patient delays have become the norm.”

The Government said it had “consistently” given emergency services the resources they need to keep people safe.

A spokesman added: “We have recruited more than half of the promised 20,000 additional police officers, invested £2.3 billion this year to support the work of firefighters and NHS England have given ambulance trusts an extra £55 million to boost staff numbers ahead of winter.”