Police chief blasts budget error as ‘incompetency’

Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw

Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw

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The Home Office has admitted it used the wrong numbers when it worked out how much money Lancashire Police will lose next year.

Instead of losing £24.5m next year, the force is now set to face a shortfall of £8m.

Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw last night blasted the “mind-blowing, breath-taking, staggering incompetency” of the Government following the embarrassing admission.

Despite repeated queries from several commissioners over the accuracy of figures circulated four weeks ago, the error only came to light in an email sent on Thursday.

Mr Grunshaw said: “It is incompetency on a monumental scale that something as important as the funding of police forces can be handled so badly.

“Now we are losing £8m rather than £24.5m but we still have the comprehensive spending review to come.

“It means we are now in not quite as big a hole as we were in before.”

The spending review later this month will set the amount of funding police forces receive. Chancellor George Osborne has already warned chiefs to expect cuts of 25 to 40 per cent.

The Home Office’s planned shake-up of the funding formula determines how the cash is divided between forces.

Ministers proposed using four factors to decide each force’s share of the money. But instead of the planned “urban adversity” measure, Whitehall staff used the similar but out-dated “hard-pressed” classification in their calculations.

The revelation came in an email to the chief executive of the office of the PCC for Devon and Cornwall, which was sent the day before the consultation period ended.

In it, Mary Calam, director general for crime and policing said the mistake would be corrected when determining the final allocations.

The shock admission comes after Mr Grunshsw and six other commissioners threatened to take legal action over the “flawed” consultation process and the Government’s figures were questioned by a leading Lancashire academic, who said the process was “not adequate”.

Revised projections, based on the correct figures, show Lancashire’s funding – based on police budgets staying at their current level – would fall from £180.7m to £172.7m.

Instead of facing cuts of up to £87m when the spending review is factored in, it leaves Lancashire facing a budget black hole of between £52m and £77m.

Policing Minister Mike Penning said: “If we want policing in this country to be the best it can be, then we must reform further, and that includes putting police funding on a long-term, sustainable footing.

“The current model for allocating police funding, is complex, opaque and out of date. That is why we have consulted on principles for reform of funding arrangements for the police, ensuring they are fair, robust and transparent.”

Lancashire police did not comment.