Police leaders today vowed to fight on to save Lancashire Police as they celebrated a shock Government U-turn over cuts to the force’s budget.
Chief Constable Steve Finnigan said he was ‘amazed, surprised and delighted’ with George Osborne’s pledge not to cut police funding over the next four years.
In his autumn statement, the Chancellor yesterday said police spending would be frozen in real-terms until 2019/20.
But while Lancashire Police waits on the exact details of its funding settlement, the county’s highest ranking officer and Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw welcomed the news.
Mr Finnigan said: “What it means is that the apocalyptic scenario me and Clive Grunshaw were describing a few weeks ago, I’m confident that won’t come to pass.
“It is a great outcome for policing.”
He had previously warned cuts of 25 to 40 per cent, as forces had been warned to expect, would mean the end of neighbourhood policing in the county.
But as one MP warned the true impact of the announcement would be revealed ‘in the detail’, bosses said the county may yet lose out - but not on the scale initially feared.
Mr Grunshaw said he was ‘extremely surprised but delighted’.
He added: “This is exactly what we have been calling for.”
He wrote to David Cameron, the Chancellor and Home Secretary asking for funding to be protected while the force assesses the impact of the 25 per cent cuts it has already endured since 2010.
Even with yesterday’s announcement, the force will still have lost more than 900 officers and 500 staff by 2017, he said.
“We cannot be complacent,” he added. “We know there will be top slicing and we don’t know yet how much money we will be getting.
“The fight to save policing and support the transformational change to policing will continue.”
The bungled review of the police funding formula will return next year and could yet see Lancashire lose out.
The shake-up of how money is split between forces was shelved after the Home Office admitted it made an error in its calculations.
The Home Office’s proposals would have cost Lancashire Police £8m a year.
Rachel Baines, chairman of the Lancashire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “It is a victory for common sense.
“We are delighted there are no more cuts to the police budget this year.
“We have got one eye on the fact the funding formula still looms in the background.”
Mr Finnigan said yesterday’s announcement was ‘great news’ for his employees.
He added: “We have lost staff. I have been concerned about morale, their well-being and their health.
“I think this will give them a real buzz and so it should.
“I want to give credit to the Home Office and the Treasury because they have listened.
“That is all I was hoping for, that they would listen, understand and react in a sensible and proportionate way - I think they absolutely have.”
In his speech yesterday, Mr Osborne said: “Now is not the time for further police cuts.
“Now is the time to back our police and give them the tools do the job.
“There will be no cuts in the police budget at all. There will be real terms protection for police funding.
“The police protect us, and we’re going to protect the police.”
Gordon Marsden, Blackpool South MP, said the Chancellor had ‘bowed to the inevitable’.
He added: “This U-turn does not necessarily mean that we are out of the woods in Lancashire.
“He has announced cuts to the Home Office budget already.
“There could still be difficulties. We shall have to see the detail.”
Rob Richards, who set up a petition against the cuts that attracted more than 10,000 signatures, said: “I don’t think anyone was expecting that.
“It is fantastic news but I would say that it means no further cuts - it doesn’t mean we haven’t already had to make substantial cuts in the police force.”
Mr Osborne also announced extra powers for police commissioners to increase the council tax precept to raise additional funding.
Mr Grunshaw no decision would be made until the new year and the current consultation around the precept will continue.