'Tide turned' on austerity warns police boss
Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner believes the tide is turning in his favour and the public have sent a strong message to the Government they want to see an end to funding cuts.
Clive Grunshaw also said the Manchester terror attack showed the value of investing in community policing and the important role local officers play in intelligence gathering.Mr Grunshaw earlier this month joined forces with other North West Police and Crime Commissioners as well as Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.In a joint letter to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd – timed to coincide with the Queen’s Speech – the case was made to increase police spending and reverse the impact of what have been described as ‘devastating cuts’.And this week the commissioner made clear how much the necessary savings were hurting the force, announcing a consultation into the closure of 10 public inquiry desks across the county.Mr Grunshaw blamed the need to find a further Â£20m of annual savings for the planned closure. He believes the attitude from the public is that enough is enough.He said: “What we’re seeing not just in Lancashire but speaking to other commissioners as well is that there is now a consensus – the people are saying that the cuts to the police have gone too far.“In Lancashire we have done our best to protect that service which people value.“But even so we have lost 500 officers and 800 staff.“When you look at the increased pressure, from the fracking protests which draws officers from their normal duties, the additional security concerns this summer, it is a worry.”It is not just Mr Grunshaw and his fellow politicians who are lining up to take on the Government over it’s controversial funding formula.Newly retired chief constable of Lancashire, Steve Finnigan – who stepped down this week – weighed in, saying public safety could no longer be guaranteed.He said: “I think the cuts have gone too far, too deep, and we now need to see some more resources coming into policing so we are able to deliver on our mission of keeping people safe and feeling safe, especially the most vulnerable in society.”Mr Grunshaw welcomed that intervention ‘straight from the mouth of the chief constable’.He said: “Government need to listen to what he has to say – we need the funding formula to be looked at again, we need an end to the cuts.”Previous plans to revise the way cash is split between forces were shelved after the Home Office admitted its calculations were based on the wrong figures.Mr Grunshaw, a Labour politician, insists his concerns over funding are not mere party politics.He said: “I think there is now a move to talk about the wider issue of cuts in public spending“People are concerned about the reduction in officers and I think they realise things have gone too far.“We all want to provide the safety and security residents need. The cuts in community policing make that harder to achieve.“You look at the attack that happened recently in Manchester and the value community intelligence could have played there.“It is vitally important the funding is in place.”
Living in cloud cuckoo land?
Last month police union leaders accused Home Secretary Amber Rudd of living in ‘cloud cuckoo land’ over the pressures officers face.Rachel Baines, chairman of the Lancashire Police Federation, hit back at suggestions because reported crime was falling, policing funding increases were not required.She said: “She is still living in cloud cuckoo land if she thinks that it is all about crime. “We know the reality of the situation is that 80 per cent of what we deal with is not crime-related; crime is just a very small part of it.“Whether you agree with her figures that crime is up or down, it really doesn’t make any difference because that is not what is taking our time up – it is everything else apart from crime that is creating the demand. “Amber Rudd needs to get in the real world and get a reality check on what’s really going on out there. A lot of officers from round the country raised the issue. They were telling her that officers are crumbling, policing is broken and the service needs investment.”
An election battle ground - but has policy changed?
Following terror attacks in London and Manchester police funding became a key battle ground in the general election campaign,In the Queen’s Speech plans to shake up the formula currently used to allocate money to the police were scrapped in order to protect budgets for bigger forces.However, overall police spending will not be increased.A Labour amendment to the Queen’s Speech, which called for an end to public sector pay freezes and increased investment in policing was voted down in the Commons on Wednesday.
Beyond the Fylde coast
Andy Burnham was a fierce opponent of emergency service cuts before his election as Greater Manchester mayor.And last month’s Manchester Arena terror attack has stiffened his resolve.He said: “We urgently need a wholesale review of police funding in the light of the changing times we are living in.“Our police forces have absorbed the brunt of cuts as best they can since 2010, but more savings still need to be found and officer numbers are tumbling.“As we see the terrorist threat at its highest ever level, and an increase in violent crime, our thin blue line has become dangerously overstretched.“In Greater Manchester alone we have 2,000 fewer police officers patrolling our streets. This level of pressure cannot be sustained and, without a doubt, Greater Manchester Police needs more officers.”And Merseyside’s police chief has also spoken out in recent weeks over the scale of savings forces are having to make.Chief Constable Andy Cooke told the Liverpool Echo: “We need to prioritise what we do and we can’t keep doing what we have done previously. If you take one quarter of the workforce out of any organisation it is going to have a massive impact. Have I got sufficient resources to fight gun crime? No, I haven’t.”