Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) says he wants all 750 officers lost to funding cuts in the county since 2010 to be replaced as part of the government’s pledge to boost policing numbers.
The Home Office has said that it will fund a total of 20,000 new officers over the next three years.
Labour PCC Clive Grunshaw has written to the Home Secretary to ask for 340 extra officers – as the county’s share of the 6,000 additional police due to be recruited during the first wave of the programme next year.
He told a meeting of the Lancashire police and crime panel that the request was ambitious, but “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”.
However, he set out his “massive concern” that the way in which the additional officer numbers may be allocated could leave Lancashire shortchanged.
“The indication from government is that they are going to base the decision on the size of a force’s budget,” Mr. Grunshaw explained.
“We feel that it would be far better if they allocated the new resources on the basis of where they have been taken from. So if they are saying there are 20,000 new officers available, we say we want 750.”
Mr. Grunshaw added that a comparable police force like Surrey has lost just eight officers since 2010, because it was less reliant on the core grant from the government which has been reduced over the past decade.
“In Lancashire, our budget is about 70 percent core grant and 30 percent council tax – whereas in places like Surrey, the position is basically reversed,” he said.
The meeting also heard that increased flexibility over the past two years in the amount which police forces are allowed to add to council tax bills raises less in Lancashire than some other areas, causing the county to be “disproportionately affected” by budgetary pressures.
When the government allowed forces to increase council tax for a Band D household by £12 this year, it brought in an extra £5.1m in Lancashire, compared to £7.3m more in Sussex – in spite of the fact that Sussex has a slightly lower population.
Mr. Grunshaw also warned that there was no guarantee that the 14,000 officers to be recruited during the second and third years of the government’s recruitment drive would be distributed between local forces – and could instead to go into the National Crime Agency or counter-terror policing.
Members were told that there would be "a lag" between the arrival of any new officers and the point at which they were ready to go out on the beat, because of the time it would take to train the new recruits.
The Home Office did not respond to a request for comment about the issues raised at the meeting.
RECORDED CRIME RISING – AS PREDICTED
The number of recorded offences in Lancashire rose by 17 percent in the 12 months to June this year – from 139,000 over the previous year to 162,000.
Papers presented to the county’s police and crime panel claimed that the rise was the result of changes in recording methods demanded by new national standards, under which forces are subjected to “crime data integrity” inspections. Lancashire Constabulary was criticised in 2017 by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for under-recording crimes.
Superintendent Ian Dawson told panel members last year that they could expect to see a 40 percent increase in recorded crime during 2018/19 as a result of the changes. The growth ultimately fell far short of that prediction and Supt Dawson told the latest gathering of the panel that the figures were beginning to level off after a year of the new regime – meaning the force was now “comparing like with like”.
However, the meeting heard that there had already been 20 homicides in Lancashire this year – more than the dozen which the force expects over a full 12-month period. Lancashire Constabulary was contacted for comment about the challenges of the increased murder rate.
A separate police and crime commissioner scrutiny meeting last month also heard that personal robbery had shown an increase in the first quarter of 2019, bucking the fall seen in most other crime categories during that period. The offence leapt by 54 percent between April and June 2019 – and almost doubled in the West division of the force, covering Blackpool and the Fylde coast.