Lincolnshire Police is facing financial meltdown unless the Government gives it a “fair funding settlement”, according to Chief Constable Neil Rhodes.
In a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, Mr Rhodes has warned that police officer numbers could be slashed by a fifth if his force has to cut its budget by almost £20 million in the next four years.
Council tax payers in South Holland, Bourne, the Deepings and villages south of Boston face having about 235 fewer police officers on the streets, with the risk of crimes such as historic child abuse going undetected.
Mr Rhodes’ stark warning has been backed up by Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick who, in a separate letter to Mrs May, claimed the force’s future was “at risk”.
In a letter made public yesterday, Mr Rhodes said: “Lincolnshire Police in 2016/17 will be, on the basis of current financial projections, on the edge of viability. In the following year, it will be unsustainable by an anomalous (inconsistent) funding formula and the blunt instrument of straight percentage cuts.
“We have worked hard over the past year in particular to shape and inform Government thinking, hosting visits from the previous Police Minister and senior civil servants.
“However, we must take decisions now if we are to produce balanced budgets and our principal means of doing so is now almost solely by reducing officer numbers.”
Mr Rhodes explained Lincolnshire Police covers the third largest policing area in the country, “almost 2,300 square miles”, with only 1,100 officers, 149 PCSOs (police community support officers and about 430 other police staff.
“The cost of policing per head of population is the very lowest in the country, whereas the caseload of officers is the third largest,” Mr Rhodes said.
“Our professional opinion is that meaningful Neighbourhood Policing will cease, the spectrum of response times experienced by those calling for our attendance will increase substantially and child sexual exploitation investigations, by necessity, will focus on the here and now – with limited ability to examine historical cases.”
In his letter to the Home Secretary, Mr Hardwick said: “Whilst our overall performance continues to be good when compared to other forces, the Chief Constable and HMIC (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies) have concerns about the ability of the force to maintain its current level of service to Lincolnshire beyond 2016.
“We are not alone and HMIC has identified six forces deemed to be at risk.”
Policing Minister Mike Penning MP said: “The Government is already conducting a fundamental review of the way funding is allocated between force areas.
“This work is ongoing but we will consult with police forces and others in due course.”