Chief Constable and Police Commissioner disagree over possible job cuts to bridge a £3.2million funding gap
A split has opened up at the top of policing in Lincolnshire over cash savings and possible job cuts.
Chief Constable Bill Skelly has warned that up to 155 posts, including 40 police officers and 85 PCSOs, could go in 2019-20 as Lincolnshire Police grapples with a £3.2million budget gap.
Up to 30 fewer support staff jobs, cuts in overtime, police vehicles and a £1million shaving of the force's contract with private sector firm G4S could also result from measures announced by Mr Skelly on Monday.
But Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Marc Jones described the Chief Constable's statement as setting a "tone of pessimism which I don't share".
Speaking to the Spalding Guardian on Tuesday, Mr Jones revealed that a "special grants application" for the Home Office to top up its 2019-20 Police Grant to Lincolnshire of nearly £60million would be sent in, potentially protecting the jobs Mr Skelly warned were at risk.
Mr Jones said: "The Chief Constable's statement paints the absolute worst case scenario without reflecting some quite significant likelihoods.
"At the moment, I'm in the throes of finalising a Special Grants application to the Home Office for money in case of special circumstances.
"That, potentially, will bring in millions of pounds that could fill the Chief Constable's recruitment gap.
"I don't share the tone of pessimism sounded by his statement because we're still turning over stones to fill the funding gap and the Special Grants application will be sent off in the next few days.
"If that comes back with good news, I can say to the Chief Constable: 'Here's some extra money to fill police officer vacancies for next year'".
Lincolnshire Police has a total budget this year of nearly £123million which is set to rise by just over £3.8million to £126.5million in 2019-20.
Of this amount, £95.3million is taken up by the Chief Constable to pay police and civilian salaries, premises and vehicle costs, force control room and partnerships with neighbouring police forces to deal with road accidents, serious crime and terrorism.
Just under 47 per cent of police funding for next year will come from the Home Office through a Police Grant of just over £59million.
The next largest amount comes through council tax which, in 2019-20, will be just over £55million after a 11 per cent precept rise was agreed by Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel members on Friday.
Council tax payers will be asked for an average annual amount of £241.38, an extra £23.94 over the year, based on a Band D property.
Speaking to our local democracy reporter Daniel Jaines, Mr Skelly said: "The application we're about to make to the Home Office is about asking it for a one-off payment to assist the force.
"We're asking the Government to help alleviate some of the pressure we're feeling because of the cuts we have to make.
"Central government will have to make a decision as to whether they support us and if they do, and we get a sum of money in the order of millions of pounds, then clearly a discussion between myself and the PCC on how to spend it will ease some of the pressures that I'm talking about."
In response, Mr Jones said: "Technological advances that the Chief Constable and I have been able to put in place over the last couple of years have freed up officer time, putting cops on the street.
"I'm still of a view to push the Chief Constable in keeping our community safe and my experience is that he will do everything possible to keep Lincolnshire as safe a county as he can.
"I'm not trying to mislead the public into thinking there isn't a funding challenge and I'll do my best to constantly bang on the door of government, applying for every grant that I can and freeing up as much money as I can for officer recruitment.
"But the reality is much better than it appears in the Chief Constable's statement and I'm optimistic that we'll be able to bring in additional funding from the Home Office that lead to extra recruitment."
Mr Jones' views were backed by Sir John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, who said: "I've spoken to Policing Minister Nick Hurd about the Chief Constable's statement and made it absolutely clear to him that we must have a review of the police funding formula which I've been campaigning for over many years.
"I'm also pressing the Policing Minister very hard to look upon the need for a Special Grant favourably, as a supplement to the funding settlement which we've received this year.
"This would prevent the need for the kind of reduction in service outlined by the Chief Constable on Monday.
"Mr Hurd said that he recognises Lincolnshire's issue, he knew there would be this need for additional funding and he would certainly be made aware of the force's Special Grants application when it is made."
Chris Cook, chairman of the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel, said: "The PCC demonstrated to the panel that even with the 11 per cent increase in the precept, there may be a requirement to reduce the number of police officers, PCSOs and police staff to balance the budget.
"The Panel remains strongly of the view that a fairer police funding formula should be introduced and that, in the interim, additional funding support should be provided to forces such as Lincolnshire that are disadvantaged by the current methodology.
"In line with this, the Panel is supportive of the PCC’s special grant application to the Government which, if successful, could lessen the level of proposed staffing reductions."