Morale among police officers in Lancashire is at “crisis” level according to the police officers’ trade union.
Staff shortages and poor pay have left almost 40 per cent of bobbies in the county feeling anxious and under-valued, revealed Police Federation chairman Rachel Hanley.
“It’s a real crisis,” she said. “I don’t think it’s too much to ask to be paid fairly for the dangerous job that we do.”
A new survey carried out by the Federation has shown 38 per cent of Lancashire officers worry about money every day and believe morale across the force is low.
Some have even been forced to seek help from foodbanks just to get by, while others are struggling to afford petrol just to get to work.
The results come at a time when the Government has just announced starting salaries for young apprentice officers will be £18,000 a year – a figure Ms Hanley branded as “derisory.”
“It’s a shocking amount and it’s not going to cover basic costs,” she said.
“It’s disgraceful when you think they are going to be professional people with so much responsibility and will witness and deal with traumatic incidents.
“At that rate we are potentially training people up only for them to leave.”
Almost 800 police officers and a further 140 community support officers have been lost to Lancashire Constabulary since 2009 due to government austerity measures.
The Police Federation says the thin blue line has been left at breaking point, with officers feeling unable to fully protect the public because of a lack of resources.
The results of the survey are “hardly surprising” given the pressures officers are under and the low pay they receive for doing the job, according to Ms Hanley.
“We really need some investment in policing and that includes wages for officers as well,” she said.
“There are some who are having to access support services within the constabulary, accessing foodbanks and struggling to pay for petrol to get to work.
“We offer surgery appointments with financial advisers and we have a Know Your Rights campaign.
“I think some have a reluctance to claim what they are entitled to – they think it’s seen as being a bit greedy.
“But they are entitled to it and they should be claiming it.”
Low morale, she added, is being exacerbated by cuts in officer numbers.
“It’s about pay and pensions, but it’s also to do with the fact that there aren’t enough officers to do what they want us to do as well.
“Officers want to protect the public. But they are hamstrung in doing that because they haven’t got the resources available to do what they want to do.”
Federation officials fear recruitment of new officers will be hampered by the low starting salaries on offer.
Even though filling vacancies within Lancashire has remained buoyant, a large number of long-serving officers have decided to leave, draining the force of invaluable experience.
“We opened a voluntary exit window a few years back and were only one of a handful of forces to do that,” said Rachel.
“That saw 200 officers leave with a package that gave them a little bit of security. It was driven by austerity and a lot of good people were lost in that process.”
The latest official figures show how police office numbers in Lancashire have fallen by around a fifth since 2009.
The number of full-time equivalent officers reached it lowest point – 2,850 – last year before rebounding to 2,969 in March this year.
PCSO numbers are down from 437 in 2009 to 297 this year.
Lancashire Police did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.
'Give us the tools to do our job'
Police on the frontline in Lancashire are demanding more access to Taser guns and bodycams in the fight against crime.
Officers should have the kit available for every shift in a bid to cut the numbers of assaults on police, says the county’s Police Federation.
A total of 418 attacks on officers were logged in Lancashire last year - a figure which the union insists could be slashed if all frontline police carried Taser guns and wore video cameras.
“The biggest deterrent is actually seeing a police officer [on the streets] and that’s one of the things that we’re lacking at the moment,” said chairman Rachel Hanley.
“We’ve been pushing locally for more Taser and we’ve said to our Chief Constable that if an officer wants to carry Taser they should be allowed to carry it and that we should be trained.
“The senior team are quite agreeable to that in the force, which is good news to hear. But it’s an expensive process. It’s not just the purchase of the weapons, it’s the extraction rate from the frontline, the training and the cost of the cartridges and everything else.
“But I certainly think if officers were able to carry Taser that’s certainly a positive step forward if they’ve got more tools to do the job.”
It’s a similar story with body-worn video, she added.
“We want the capability for officers to be able to access the kit,” she said.
“We haven’t got to that stage yet where it’s available to all officers but it’s certainly something we’re pushing our senior officer team on and certainly something they are agreeable to.
“Finances is one of the big blockers for this, but I don’t think it’s a lack of will.”