Just before Christmas, the government announced the amount of funding that Lancashire Police would receive. When setting the figure, government assumed that I would increase the police precept element of council tax by £24 (for a Band D property) – this was the only option provided to protect and bolster policing here in Lancashire and not using it would mean a further cut to the budget, the equivalent to 125 fewer police officers.
I maintain that it is not sustainable for police funding to rely on the council tax precept and it is unfair to continue passing the burden of years of austerity in policing onto local council tax payers. That said, I firmly believe that it is local residents who should decide, not government, which is why I went out to consultation on this matter.
Central government budget cuts continue to hit Lancashire Police hard. After losing £84m from the police budget since 2010, with another £18m still to find by 2022, resources are extremely stretched with 800 fewer officers, 350 fewer staff and increasing demand on officers. New types of crime are emerging and threats faced by local communities are changing.
Together with the Chief Constable, I have looked for further savings in every area of business. Since the government cuts came into effect, we have been reliant upon reserves. That position cannot continue as reserves are nearing the lowest level allowed to ensure we can deal with any emergency. My plan is to maintain reserves at a level necessary to ensure Lancashire Police are able to keep you and your family safe.
The recruitment of police officers is what you have told me you want to see happen and that is what I am delivering. New police officers on our streets further delivers on my commitment to protect local policing.
As mentioned above, when calculating the overall policing budget for Lancashire, the government had anticipated that the police precept element of council tax bills would rise by £24 for a Band D property, although most residents in Lancashire live in property Bands A and B so the annual increase is less. There was no negotiation with government, if we want to maintain our vital policing services, we have to accept this decision.
However, I wanted to know what local residents thought, so I conducted surveys online, over the telephone and chatted with local residents and it was heartening to see your overwhelming support for our police service. Almost two thirds of those we spoke to agreed that paying more to support policing was worth it. I can assure you that I will continue to deliver prudent financial management, to protect the services that matter to you.
Despite all the challenges, Lancashire Police is proud to serve our local communities and the extra money generated through the police precept will continue to fund the priorities that you have helped set out in the Police and Crime Plan.
For the first time since 2010 investment will be made into policing with additional officers going into every district across Lancashire, focusing on reducing and preventing crime and dealing with the issues that matter most to people. Specialist target teams will also be strengthened to tackle cross border crime and criminality, focusing on burglary and robbery and there will be more detectives following public feedback to prioritise investigations around major crimes, child exploitation and domestic abuse.
Thank you for your continued support.
Since 2010/11 government grant has fallen by £49m and council tax collected has increased by £34m so even though government has placed the burden of funding policing onto local taxpayers there is still £15m a year less available in 2019/20 than in 2010/11. Lancashire is one of the worst affected areas in the country:
Finances and Spend
External auditors conclude that the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire has put in place proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources.
The Value for Money conclusion clearly demonstrates that Lancashire continue to make informed decisions and deploy resources to achieve planned and sustainable outcomes for tax payers and local communities.