Lord Tony Greaves writes…Crisis on the streets of Lancashire

When the new lot all arrive we’ll have 112 Liberal Democrat peers and we need to use them. For some of us that means local as well as national stuff since some of us are still actively campaigning in our local areas! So when changes to the police funding formula were announced that mean one of the best forces in the country risks being “annihilated”, in the word of the commissioner, it was time to put down a topical question in the Lords.

The Lancashire police force is “outstanding”. That’s the conclusion of the review of police force efficiency by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. It’s one of the most cost effective police forces in the country at only 49p per head, it’s made savings of £74m since 2010, yet it will be hammered by further cuts up to £161m. Police officers will drop from 3,611 in 2010 to 1,699 in 2020 and the PCSOs (community support officers) will disappear. Chief Constable Steve Finnigan says these cuts would severely limit the capabilities of Lancashire Constabulary which by 2020 will only be able to provide an emergency- service, responding to 999 calls and a few priorities.

The potential impacts include closing all enquiry desks and the loss of specialist support units, mounted officers, dog units and road policing units, and dramatic cuts to departments that deal with serious and complex crime. In addition the county-wide network of neighbourhood policing teams – community beat officers and community support officers – will be swept away.

So I asked the government what assessment they have made of the impact on police numbers and local crime of the proposed new funding formula. I pointed out that Lancashire was a pioneer of neighbourhood policing. It has a highly successful system across the country (as I know well from working with the team in Colne and the Waterside ward which I represent on Pendle Borough Council). I pressed him to say whether this and the other police cuts are the legacy that the present Government want to leave behind in Lancashire.
He said: “No, absolutely it is not,” but gave no indication of how they might be avoided. He said that the previous arrangements were widely criticised by all chief constables and police and crime commissioners who wanted something simpler, more transparent and easier to understand and more stable for the future,” and added: “When you consult on something such as that, there will be winners and losers.” He said that Lancashire is making representations to Mike Penning (the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice) along with Lancashire MPs, and ominously promised “transitional arrangements” and “dampening”.

The question is this. Are the Conservatives, the self-professed party of “law and order”, going to be responsible for closing down much of the policing operation in one of the largest shire counties? I’ve little doubt this is going to be one of the hottest issues in Lancashire during this Parliament unless they back down now, and I’m determined that Liberal Democrats will be in the forefront of the campaigns to stop this nonsense.

If you have campaigning issues like this that cover a wider area, why not get your friendly local Liberal Democrat peer to take it up in the Lords as part of your campaign?

* Lord Tony Greaves is the Liberal Democrats Lords Spokesperson for the North of England.

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37 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Oct '15 - 9:10am

    Another attempt to deny that the Conservatives have any kind of democratic mandate. The Lords needs to be abolished ASAP. Reform isn’t good enough because too many who are currently in it might end up back in it.

    We don’t need Lords, Ladies, Barons and Baronesses or whatever names they have. We just need a civil service.

    Lib Dems who think peers are as legitimate as MPs should be ashamed of themselves. Authority comes from the people, not patronage. Our soldiers and citizens die for democracy and some people think they are above it.

  • Heaven forefend that a government should be held to account for policies of dubious merit and outcome, Eddie. And remember that the Lib Dems have been campaigning for Lords reform for decades.

  • IT’S NATIONWIDE

    Here’s what the Chief Constable of Cumbria (including Tim’s patch) said on Thursday according to the Barrow News :

    “Mr Graham has warned the county police force could be reduced to a “blue light” response service in the wake of the planned cuts, revealed by Government.

    These could potentially come in part from a change in the national funding formula for police.

    Mr Graham added the force “would become unrecognisable to how it is today” and could potentially lead to “an emergency-only police service”.

    He said: “We have already made £20m-worth of savings by reducing officer and staff numbers, closing stations and restructuring the way we work.

    “To find another £26m would mean losing yet more officers and departments and would probably mean the end of community policing in the county.”

  • “by further cuts up to £161m. ” eh no it won’t. looking at the budget figures there is a lot of scaremongering here.

    “by 2020 will only be able to provide an emergency- service, responding to 999 calls and a few priorities.” eh looking at the budget if that is all they can do then they need new management. They have over £250m so what are they spending it on.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Oct '15 - 11:35am

    Simon Shaw, no I don’t prefer abolishing the Lords to reforming it because “I am afraid people will elect the wrong peers”. There are many reasons why I prefer abolition, but one is because I don’t want to reward people who have taken seats in it.

    The rest of your post doesn’t warrant a reply.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Oct '15 - 12:24pm

    I don’t mind if people take a seat in it and don’t think they are entitled to block everything, but I’m allowed to want to abolish the Lords without being accused of being undemocratic, bizarre and ungenuine.

    It’s no different to supporting economic sanctions. Sometimes collective punishment is the only thing possible and I think too many Lords are “getting too big for their non-elected boots”, to paraphrase Lord Butler.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Oct '15 - 3:13pm

    Simon, all I’m trying to do is to create pressure for Peers to remember restraint. That is it. I do not have a fear of the electorate or anything else.

  • My local police attended a burglary at a local post office by taxi and caught a bus back. Police throughout the country are facing the same problems. Cars are being cut back and these will not be replaced by the Bobby on the beat, not enough officers. Neighbourhood policing is disappearing fast. The public are being softened up by continual attacks on the police by the media. I wonder why? Hollow laughter as G4S are salivating on the wings. Traffic police are hardly ever seen, really cut back. There are too few officers on shift so are unable to go to every call, having to prioritise. Unfortunately people do not understand this as we all think our problem is the priority. It is becoming dangerous, if not already as criminals learn the weak spots. When policing is given to companies to make profit listen out for the screams as we are fined for anything to appease the shareholders. There will be no accountability either.

  • Dave Orbison 24th Oct '15 - 4:29pm

    David Raw – yes it’s nationwide and very frightening. But let’s be fair these cuts are not something Osborne has suddenly dreamt up in May 2015. These are part of the painful consequences driven by decisions taken by the last Government which pushed their ‘deficit balancing act’ back to 2013, then further back in each successive year until the current 2017/18. By pushing the more painful cuts into this Parliament both the Tories and, let’s be honest, LibDems (or rather the Orange-book brigade led by Clegg) sought to get an easier ride come the 2015 GE. Farron and Corbyn have their work cut out not only to counter these cuts but to push for the necessary investment in the NHS, housing and transport infrastructure. I really do fear for the future of all public services in the UK and especially for those who do not have the means to be economically independent.

  • Dave Orbison 24th Oct '15 - 4:51pm

    Simon Shaw – Maybe and if so that was bad too. I think all parties until change of leaders had a blinkered austerity-only approach. Still the Govt of the day should carry the can rather than the Opposition, I’d hope you agree? Equally I could say that the LibDems agreed with Labour expenditure plans prior to 2010 but….. and so it goes on and on. As I said let’s hope Corbyn and Farron (together) offer a genuine alternative to Tory -LibDem Orange-bookers austerity-only option before the public services are completely dismantled.

  • Little Jackie Paper 24th Oct '15 - 7:51pm

    Dave Orbison – Sure, but then at the last election all of the major parties all prioritised deficit reduction and all proposed a fiscal consolidation. But do note that we have NOT seen across the board cuts. We have seen protections and increases for some areas of spend, most notably the triple lock pension and the NHS. In a fiscal consolidation the only implication of these protections is deeper cuts elsewhere. This happened under Coalition and is being carried on now. I’m rather surprised more was not made in comment pages about the protections. As far as I am aware no compelling case has been made for them. At least no compelling economic case.

    Under the Coalition the most visible loser was University Students, the police appear for now to be the most visible loser in this Parliament.

    The fact is that it is very hard to reconcile deficit reduction-led fiscal consolidation, protection for some and to simultaneously maintain other areas of spend. What do we want more, triple-locked pensions, deficit reduction or police services maintained? It’s a painful question for sure, but one that should not be ducked.

  • @Simon Shaw
    If you want to be “fair” don’t forget that Labour announced back in December last year that if they had been elected they would have made further cuts in central government funding of local authorities by no less than £2 billion over the full parliament, over and above what the Coalition Government had already proposed.

    Do you have a source for that? A quick Google finds Labour saying something very, very different as of last December…

  • Richard Underhill 24th Oct '15 - 9:48pm

    PCC elections in May 2016.

  • @Simon Shaw
    So your source is yourself? I was kind of hoping you might have an external source.

    “Why, what did you read that was ‘very, very different’?”

    http://www.yourbritain.org.uk/uploads/editor/files/CLG_ZBR_Interim_Report_No.3.pdf

    The only “£500m a year” mentioned there relates to efficiency savings such as use of shared services, which rather than being the “cuts” you have described, would have been “released… [to] reduce the pressure to find cuts from the frontline”.

    In other words: save money by having more efficient back-office services so you don’t have to cut so much from the front-line. You are wrong to describe this as a “cut” in central government funding, because the Labour report was very clear that the savings would be used to avoid the necessity for bigger cuts, rather than be cuts in themselves.

  • Julian Heather 25th Oct '15 - 8:28am

    @Eddie Sammon
    “Another attempt to deny that the Conservatives have any kind of democratic mandate”

    Why on earth do you keep insisting that the Conservatives have a “democratic mandate”. They don’t. Only 37% of the people who voted in May 2015 actually voted for them.

  • @Simon Shaw
    “You’ve fallen into the trap of believing Labour’s spin. Instead, read what informed journalists said…”

    Well that’s funny, because I’ve read the piece you link to, and it consists entirely of information from Labour’s report (see link in my earlier post) plus a quote or two from Labour’s press release. The journalist has added nothing new whatsoever. He certainly doesn’t give any support to your assertion, in fact he agrees with me that the efficiency savings would have been “reallocated within the sector” in order to “protect the front line”.

    So where are you getting your idea that Labour’s plan amounted to “cuts in central government funding of local authorities by no less than £2 billion over the full parliament, over and above what the Coalition Government had already proposed“? What’s your source?

  • Simon Shaw 24th Oct ’15 – 10:46pm…………Instead, read what informed journalists said, for example in http://www.localgov.co.uk/Labour-proposes-500m-CLG-budget-cutbacks/37804…………………..What Labour say, if you read it very carefully…………..

    I’ve read your link. However, instead of “if you read it very carefully”, I believe you mean, “if you re-arrange the words”

  • @Simon Shaw
    “Could I suggest you actually read the article at localgov.co.uk, and consider what it means.”

    That’s kind of what I’ve been urging YOU to do.

    It is not in dispute that Labour planned “cuts” – all the parties did. So let’s dismiss that particular straw man straight away.

    What I’m questioning is your claim that Labour planned cuts of “no less than £2 billion over the full parliament, over and above what the Coalition Government had already proposed”.

    The evidence you have given for this is a plan to realise £500m of efficiency savings per annum which, as the localgov.co.uk article makes clear, would have been used to reduce the amount of cuts necessary in other parts of the local government budget. That’s not a description of additional cuts – it’s simply a plan to achieve a given level of cuts in an optimal way. You have given no evidence whatsoever that Labour were planning cuts “over and above what the Coalition government had already proposed”.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Oct '15 - 12:41pm

    Hi Julian, I don’t see FPTP as inherently undemocratic. Maybe not the most democratic, but I don’t think it is inherently undemocratic.

    It has actually thrown some interesting questions up for me and I am thinking maybe we need a more direct democracy.

  • Tony Greaves 25th Oct '15 - 1:47pm

    Thanks to the one or two people who have talked about the police cuts in their comments, particularly Anne, and David Raw. I suppose it’s inevitable that the trolls talk about the House of Lords whenever that House is mentioned, and others start up old sterile arguments about the past. The point about the latest cuts is that the come from the latest proposed changes in the police funding formula – I thought I made that clear – and that is very much a creature of the present government.

    As for Eddie Sammon, there are some people I just ignore.

    Tony Greaves

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Oct '15 - 3:03pm

    Tony Greaves, if you want to ignore everything I say then it says more about you than me. I ignored your point about police cuts because before the election you wrote about your desire to strengthen the power of the unelected Lords and quite frankly seem to have forgot that Lib Dems are in the Lords in order to campaign for reform or abolition, not just to get comfy in it.

  • Richard Boyd OBE DL 25th Oct '15 - 4:41pm

    It is a national problem and, notwithstanding Lancshire’s fine Police record, the basic truth is that Joe Public wants police but not the cost of paying for it. As one of the rare breed of Lib Dem Police Authority Chairmen, and having also served as a Special Constable, I started at the bottom and the police experience and, after years of elected service on local authorities, moved to the basement of police experience. Here, in Essex, with a population in excess of 1.6 millions, we will in 2016 have more elected councillors (Parish/District/Borough/City/Unitary/County) that police officers. The Home Secretary, in her speech last week, described Police and Crime Commissioners as “publicly accountable” Ours got 3.4% of the votes that could have been made 4 years ago, on an appallingly low turnout. Within a year he had appointed a Chief Executive and Deputy PCC to help him carry his workload, but a year later found time to become Chair of the “National PCC” committee. The rot started well before Osborne’s cuts, and we sleepwalked into this mess. The Lib Dems should be the real party that “tells it as it is” on police and public safety.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 25th Oct '15 - 6:24pm

    @ Eddie,

    Hang on a minute, Tony Greaves calling for more power for an unelected House of Lords? Now, I’ve not always agreed with him on particular issues, but that seems rather unlikely.

    Reference, please?

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Oct '15 - 7:31pm

    Hi Mark,

    “It would be a wonderful chance for Parliament – in both Houses – to become more powerful as against the executive.”

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/tony-greaves-writes-what-happens-if-44924.html

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 25th Oct '15 - 8:48pm

    Eddie,

    Ah yes, that article, which you have somewhat overspun. Power for Parliament to hold the Executive to account, yes, but there was never a suggestion that the Lords would have more power relative to the Commons. And that is the rather more salient power balance.

    And, with respect, given the form line you have of changing your mind frequently and erratically, and your status as a Liberal Democrat supporter one week, and an opponent the next, it isn’t easy to justify why someone whose views have been consistent for half a century should pay much heed to you.

    That said, Tony needn’t have picked on you specifically, he could just have ignored you, so you have some grounds for feeling offended, I guess. But then, ignoring the entire article in your comment is, technically grounds to remove your comment full stop. If you’re going to pick a fight with Tony, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that he doesn’t entirely turn the other cheek…

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 25th Oct '15 - 8:58pm

    And, coming back to the point…

    Richard Boyd is right to note the seemingly contradictory stance of the public in willing the ends, but not the means. Yes, there are questions about whether you can do more with back office stuff but, in truth, I doubt if there is a police force anywhere in the country that hasn’t gone a long way down that road already.

    Here in Suffolk, one of the small police forces, back office services have already been pooled with Norfolk, yet more cuts are required by central Government. What that means is shorter hours at what police stations remain, less patrols, less community policing, slower responses. And the response of too many politicians is to campaign on crime issues with a seeming determination to make people feel less safe, regardless of the actual facts on the ground.

    And it is right to ask a governing party that claims to be strong on law and order to explain what the impact of finding cuts will be – what will be lost – not in a manner designed to scare, but to discuss what sort of policing we need.

  • SIMON BANKS 25th Oct '15 - 9:11pm

    Edie Sammon appears not to know that Tony Greaves is a longstanding elected councillor. What is he trying to do, arguing that 37% is a democratic mandate? How is that Liberal?

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Oct '15 - 11:17pm

    Hi Mark, yes I have changed my status as a supporter or not frequently, but my policy views don’t change as often (but always open minded).

    Yes, I was aware I was pushing the boundaries of the comment rules and I won’t be making a habit of it.

    Just to contribute to the point about police cuts: I am concerned about these too. I would like to see the party champion the Home Office more.

    to Simon Banks, I just have a general concern about the power of the Lords, but I have said enough on that for now. Thanks.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Oct '15 - 11:32pm

    Also, I’ll apologise for this point: “I don’t want to reward people who have taken seats in it”.

    I don’t have anything at all against the individuals in the Lords. I was just trying to create some pressure for Lords to remain more restrained in general and after Simon Shaw’s intellectual probing I got dragged into an argument on how I could justify my toughening stance on the House of Lords.

    Again, I don’t want to bang on about this more on this thread, so if people can stick to police cuts that would be great.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Oct '15 - 11:26am

    I think Parliament should be more powerful in holding the government to account and I include the Lords in that.

    I think we are in the Lords to press for reform and democratisation. But that is not the ONLY reason for being here. I think we are here as part of our all-pervading Liberal campaign at all levels for what we stand for and what we want to see happen. (Well we can all dream…)

    I think that using the Lords as part of a campaign against the destruction of local policing is entirely legitimate and a G Thing to Do.

    Tony

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