LANCASHIRE's police chief has warned 'cracks are now appearing' in the service because of tough government cuts.

Chief Constable Steve Finnigan said the force has lost 800 officers and 400 other staff in the last seven years of his 12-year tenure and admits people are now not as safe as they used to be.

He believes policing is 'at a tipping point' because of the amount of money and people taken out of the service.

In a hard-hitting interview to mark his impending retirement at the end of the month, Ch Con Finnigan pulled no punches as he told of his fears for the police service in these times of austerity.

Ch Con Finnigan, who has 41 years' experience as a policeman, said: "I have reflected on the three terrible terrorist attacks in London and Manchester and they have caused me to want to reiterate some of the comments I have expressed for quite a few years now about the impact of the cuts on policing.

"I have always been pretty consistent about my views on the cuts and the scale and the pace of them have been too deep and too quick.

"I am saying now that the cracks are appearing.

"I think now we are at a tipping point and there needs to be an authentic conversation about where we go now in terms of policing.

"I have no doubts that the cuts have made it much more difficult for us to deliver on our mission, which is to keep people safe from harm and feeling safe, especially the most vulnerable.

"I do absolutely acknowledge that the Government during austerity has had to prioritise and make some tough choices and policing was always going to have to do its bit.

"But we want safe and confident communities. I would suggest, and I say this with a heavy heart, that they are less safe because of the money and people taken out of policing."

Ch Con Finnigan said the county force had lost £75million off a £300m budget back in 2010.

He said: "That means I have lost 800 police officers and I have lost 400 police staff over the last years.

"The last seven years have been the toughest. What I see being endangered is the cherished model of policing that is proactive and preventative. Actually it is moving very rapidly to a reactive method of policing."

Ch Con Finnigan said he believed improving neighbourhood policing was the key to a better service overall.

He said: "Neighbourhood policing is thinner here than it was before.

"What we absolutely need is more officers out on the ground, talking to communities. That is our lifeblood.

"If we are to put ourselves in a better position to have at least some chance of preventing further atrocities then we need to see more investment in neighbourhood policing."

Ch Con Finnigan, who is being replaced by deputy chief constable Andy Rhodes, said 81 per cent of calls the force received were not about crime.

Of that 81 per cent, 33 per cent concerned safety and welfare and a fifth of those were linked to mental health, which he said had 'exploded'.

He added: "Our frontline staff are very stretched. We need to get upstream of problems, not just keep on reacting."

Ch Con Finnigan said better integration with other agencies was also crucial.

He said: "We need to get more general integration. We are all knocking on the same door and we have to come together.

"But my bottom line as I leave the service is that I really do think that the cuts have gone too far."