By Rachel Baines, Lancashire Police Federation vice chairman
The closure of front counters and police stations across the county is causing anxiety amongst the local community.
The Police Federation is a staff association that represents rank and file officers. In Lancashire, we appreciate the Chief Constable has had difficult decisions to make when trying to reduce the police budget by £42m by 2015.
Our argument is not with the Chief Constable, but with the Coalition Government. Police appreciate cuts need to be made, but a 20 per cent cut. Valuing the police, a government-commissioned review by Sir Denis O’Connor, warned that cuts above 12 per cent would damage the frontline.
The Government exceeds this recommendation by a long way. Lancashire is already set to lose 500 police officer jobs and 300 police staff jobs, as most of the budget is spent on wages.
There are already 360 fewer constables than there were at the same time two years ago.
It was inevitable the public would quickly see the loss of services. The closure of police stations, rural beat stations and front counters could increase response times, and the public could lose the personal touch in their communities.
The Constabulary is asking for views from the public about the closures, and we urge everyone to get involved and have their say.
But if there is a stark choice to be made between cutting more officer numbers or closing stations, we feel officer numbers should be kept at an optimum level.
The consultation starts on Friday and lasts three months. No decisions will be made until the consultation is over.
In Western Division, Blackpool Central and St Annes will remain intact. Blackpool South Shore, Kirkham and Bispham will have front desks closed, Lytham will be shut down when its current lease runs out and Freckleton, Singleton and Weeton will be sold off.
Our federation is lobbying the Government and local MPs regarding the 20 per cent cuts.
The consequences of cutting so fast and deep are wide-ranging and dangerous. There will undoubtedly be an impact on the level of service we are able to deliver.
We are not trying to argue that police are a special case, but cuts come at the same time as a review of officers’ pay, conditions of service and pensions. Morale is low because of the way the police service is being treated by Government. We urge people to lobby MPs and let them know the stark reality. Follow our campaign on www.facebook.com/pages/Lancashire-Police-Federation