Future of 101 non-emergency service in question as Lincolnshire Police faces £23.1million budget gap
Lincolnshire Police’s 101 non-emergency telephone service could be the first casualty of a £23.1million budget gap facing the force over the next two years.
Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones warned that the fate of the 101 service, introduced in November 2011 to report crimes “after the event”, lies with Chief Constable Bill Skelly.
Bedfordshire Police suspended its 101 service for two hours last Tuesday to deal with 999 emergency calls only and, on Tuesday, Dorset Police Chief Constable James Vaughan voiced a “growing concern that demand for policing is now rising at an alarming rate”.
In a message posted on social media site Twitter on Saturday, Mr Jones said a suspension of the 101 service “would be considered a last resort but it is something that’s on the table as Lincolnshire Police works out how to meet a budget gap of potentially £23.1million over the next two years”.
Speaking to the Spalding Guardian on Tuesday, Mr Jones said: “Any decisions around what to do more or less of are operational decisions and the Chief Constable will come forward with a range of options.
“But the scale of the issue we have is a £23.1million budget gap over the next two years.
“Some of it can be filled by council tax revenue, subject to consultation with the public and some of it is additional pension pressure.
“There are more than 20,000 fewer police officers in England and Wales than there were eight years ago which means less people paying into the police pension pot.
“So the gap has grown and this will have to come out of policing budgets across the country, unless the Treasury fills it centrally.The worst scenario is that I will give the Chief Constable as much money as I get from the Government and he will give me options as to how to keep the public safe, including less staff.”
The urgency of Lincolnshire Police’s cash squeeze is set to dominate talks between PCC Marc Jones and John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings, this weekend.
Mr Hayes raised the plight of the force’s status as “one of the poorest-funded in the country” in the House of Commons last month.
It followed a report by a parliamentary Public Accounts Committee which concluded that “the Home Office needs to get a grip on police funding to make sure it is not only sustainable, but also getting to where it is most needed.”
Mr Hayes said: “I continue to press for a funding resolution that suits rural areas like ours and Marc Jones is working with those other places to make the case for a funding injection.
“It’s true that police forces are having to deal with quite a lot of calls that aren’t related to crime and as people feel less able to sort matters out in their communities, the police are more involved with issues they wouldn’t have traditionally handled.
“Whilst it’s a sad reflection of modern life, it’s also putting an extra burden on police forces, resulting in a matter of supply and demand.
“The demand on frontline policing is growing at a time when resources are scarce so it’s understandable that forces are looking at making economies.
“The Government has to recognise that whilst it’s not ideal, there’s a cost attached to this.”