Policing in Lancashire needs more funding to be able to tackle crime and the worst effects of social deprivation, a leading Labour MP has said.
Labour's Shadow Police Minister Louise Haigh was visiting the county to meet Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw and community groups to hear about the issues affecting the area and to talk about funding in the era of austerity.
She also spent time in Blackpool talking to police officers and meeting community leaders and MPs at Layton Methodist Church to talk about problems affecting coastal communities.
She said: "We are here to highlight the impact of Tory cuts over the past years which has seen the loss of 850 officers, 300 PCSOs and the impact that has had on the community."
She said the number of arrests had fallen due to the cuts and investigations had been badly hampered.
"We are here to listen to the community and take that back down to Government and to feed what we have learned into Labour's policy making.
"I have been talking to local businesses and organisations working in the community about the issues affecting coastal communities like Blackpool. Blackpool has its specific issues but many are ones that coastal communities have to deal with countrywide.
"There are high levels of deprivation here in Blackpool which present their own problems and we also have the so-called County Lines - children being trafficked by drug gangs from cities such as Manchester or Liverpool, being exploited and used to run drugs into Lancashire which is a significant problem for police.
"We have always had what used to be called travelling criminality, but now it has become a much more developed business model fro criminal gangs. We have the county lines, we have cuckooing, where drug addicts in towns have their homes taken over and used for dealing drugs and it is challenge for police forces to deal with."
"I think that the Lancashire force is very progressive. It is keen to look at people in the whole rather than just pursuing a lock 'em up approach which they know simply does not work. There is an approach of helping people to move on form their criminal lifestyles, being positive and supportive.
"There are serious challenges that can only be addressed by improved funding."
Asked if the country could really afford the higher level of policing the Labour party wanted to bring back, she replied: "We cannot afford not to invest in the police. We have seen the consequences of eight years of brutal cuts in the shocking rise in serious violent crime nationally and frankly the Government's response has been inadequate."
But the Conservatives' Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said: "I am working hard to make sure Government is spending more money on local policing here on the Fylde, not just through a new £24m police headquarters, but with more than two dozen additional police officers being recruited to support essential community policing.
"Conservatives are also making more funding available to tackle organised crime which is seeping out of the big cities through the National Crime Agency.
“At the same time as complaining about budget cuts, our Labour-run police force has seen reserves doubled. Rather than plead poverty while hoarding cash, this is money which could and should be spent on local policing.
“Labour run policing locally, but all they do is talk. Only the Conservatives are taking action by making more funding available.”
The Labour Party's prospective Parliamentary candidate for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Chris Webb, said: "We were delighted to welcome Louise to Blackpool. We had a very productive meeting with stakeholders from local charities, schools, businesses, police and NHS staff to discuss the issues facing coastal communities like Blackpool.
"It was a very honest discussion about the issues we face regarding homelessness, infrastructure, our railways, tourism and aspirations of young people and our aim is to continue the dialogue.
"Louise before our meeting saw first hand how Lancashire Police and other local organisations such as Streetlife and Fulfilling Lives are helping those who have found themselves homeless in our town.
"The pressures on our local Police and NHS have grown over the past eight years. Alongside the £450m of cuts we’ve faced as a town, our public services are not equipped to meet the challenges to help all vulnerable people on our street.
"The outreach work Lancashire Police is doing, despite the adequate funding is to be commended and I know our Chief Inspector and Police and Crime Commissioner are lobbying the Government for more funds to tackle these issues."