Police cuts appeal to Home Secretary

Home Secretary Theresa May during her speech to delegates at the Conservative Party annual  conference in the International Convention Centre, Birmingham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday September 30, 2014. See PA TORY stories. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Home Secretary Theresa May during her speech to delegates at the Conservative Party annual conference in the International Convention Centre, Birmingham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday September 30, 2014. See PA TORY stories. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

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The Home Secretary will be asked to review police funding in Lancashire after claims that cutbacks are damaging public confidence.

County Hall is to send a letter to Theresa May urging her to look again at Government funding cuts which have led to major problems with manning police station front counters and the non-emergency 101 call line.

Mrs May will be told staffing levels are now so stretched that some stations are having to close their doors to the public during normal office hours because they don’t have the manpower to cover.

And callers ringing the 101 line to report incidents such as anti-social behaviour are facing lengthy waits because there are too few operators.

“A lack of staff at Hutton (headquarters) has meant the communications centre hasn’t been working as well as it should,” conceded Coun David Borrow, deputy Labour leader, who suggested the authority should write to Mrs May a line to alert her to the staffing worries in the county’s police service.

“I have had contact with the Police and Crime Commissioner and the figures in terms of how long people have to wait to get a phone answered have got a little better, but it is clearly not adequate,” he said.

“I think we should ask the Home Secretary to review the funding of Lancashire Constabulary to see if we are getting the appropriate amount of funding so our police service can work as well as possible.”

The Gazette has previously reported that the budget cuts, which have forced Lancashire Police to make savings of £60m – with a further £20m still to find – have left the force at breaking point. Since its peak in 2009, the number of police officers in the county has fallen by around 700 and further job losses are expected.

Senior sources have already warned future cuts are a direct threat to frontline services in Lancashire.

The force has repeatedly insisted it will work to preserve its neighbourhood policing, which is popular with residents,but admitted further changes will be needed as it has to find further savings over the four years.

Coun David Whipp said urgent action was needed “to make sure that call answering is restored from the atrocious levels of service there have been and that we get those police stations open at the advertised times.”

Coun Whipp suggested the authority needed to “put down a marker” about the importance of neighbourhood policing in Lancashire.

He said it had been the foundation stone of public confidence in the county’s police service.

And he added that the response times for calls to the 101 line and the unplanned desk closures were “causing consternation and consequently undermining public confidence.”

Lancashire Police declined to comment on the matter when approached by The Gazette.

A force spokesman said they would not be commenting as it is the county council that is raising the issue with the Home Secretary.