County police cuts ‘a gamble’

THE GOVERNMENT is taking a “gamble” with public safety in Lincolnshire as a result of cuts to police budgets according to a campaigner.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) issued a report last week looking at how forces were coping with cash cuts and described this county as facing a “significant challenge”.

The report – entitled Adapting to Austerity – says the problem in Lincolnshire is greater than most because of the county’s large geographical area and the fact less is spent per head on police here than on any other force in the country.

In four years Lincolnshire Police faces a £19.7million budget reduction. HMIC says much of the organisational “fat” has already been trimmed, leaving little room for manoeuvre.

The force has restructured its operations and plans to work with neighbours on matters such as tackling serious crime as well as outsourcing things such as IT, and human resources to save money.

HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Eastern Region, Zoë Billingham, said: “Despite the ambitious change programme, which will see staff and officers numbers reducing, the force and authority aim to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour and improve detection rates. Introducing a new policing model for Lincolnshire in a six-month period is a significant achievement.

“The police authority has arrangements in place to make sure performance does not dip as a result of the changes. However, the force reorganisation only meets part of the funding gap.

“It remains too early to say whether Lincolnshire’s further plan to deliver significant savings through outsourcing and extended regional collaboration will actually release the savings required and enable the force to maintain or improve service delivery.”

Deeping St James councillor Phil Dilks, a former Police Authority member and Labour Party supporter, was shocked by the report.

He said: “The HMIC do not use these words lightly. Our MPs, who campaigned for more police at the election, need to get off their backsides and put public safety first. The damage inflicted by cuts on Lincolnshire Police is more than most feared. It is a gamble.”

Lincolnshire Police will lose about 70 police officers in this financial year but says there has been no negative reaction to restructuring its operations in May, with some performance figures showing an improvement.