Lincolnshire's police force will “need to reduce significantly” the number of officers and PCSOs unless more funding is made available, a report by government inspectors has revealed.
The report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) on police efficiency said inspectors had “considerable concern” about a predicted budget deficit for next year.
“This is a considerable concern to HMICFRS as it means that the force depends heavily on the police and crime commissioner’s financial reserves to balance the budget,” said inspectors.
“Should the formula review not provide the increased funding within the medium term financial plan further use of reserves to balance the budget will not be sustainable.
“This is a real risk to the force and means that it might have to make important decisions on an alternative way of organising itself, its operating model, with a reduced budget.”
Inspectors said Lincolnshire Police was providing a good policing service to its communities at one of the lowest costs per head of the population in England and Wales.
However the report graded the force’s efficiency rating as “requires improvement”, a drop on last year’s rating of good, because inspectors deemed the force was “not far enough ahead at the time of inspection to show a clear plan to deal with an anticipated budget deficit”.
Inspectors also concluded that “assessment of emerging and likely demand for its services is limited but developing, and it does not always consider public expectations”.
Police and crime commissioner Marc Jones said he was baffled by the downgrading, but welcomed the inspectors’ recognition of the financial reality facing the county.
“It’s hard to understand how, just eight months ago the force was rated as good and the inspectors praised the force for being one of the most efficient in the UK," he said.
“Just eight months later and the force receives a ‘requires improvement’ grade for not having a crystal ball and planning for future funding – when none of us know what that funding will be.
“The answer here is quite simple. Lincolnshire does not receive a fair share of the money spent on police and we simply cannot continue to make cuts.
“I have been raising the issue of our perilous funding situation for some time with senior Government officials and ministers and I still hold out hope that the unfair level of funding we receive will be addressed.
“In the meantime, we will continue to do what we have always done – find new and innovative ways to make our force as effective and efficient as humanely possible.”
Currently the government allocates Lincolnshire just £88 per head of population, compared to £99 for Norfolk, £119 for Nottinghamshire and £132 for Humberside.
Deputy Chief Constable Craig Naylor said the force was continuing to maintain levels of service but faced a “significant funding shortfall”.
“We have not yet been told what Lincolnshire will be awarded as part of the funding formula from central government, and have indeed made no secret of the fact that this force is currently stretched thinly and has been for some time," DCC Naylor said.
“Funding for this region has not been fairly balanced and we are hoping that will change in the future. Investing time and valuable resources into planning for a limitless number of funding scenarios would, ironically, be inefficient.
“What I can say is that we are continuing to maintain current levels of service to Lincolnshire residents and they can be sure we are constantly working to ensure our resources are channeled and deployed in the most effective way possible, but we can only sustain that so long. We are facing a significant funding shortfall and one that will need us to make difficult decisions in the very near future.
“We are always assessing how best to use our current resources. Indeed, this HMIC report acknowledges that.”
The HMICFRS report also praised the force for investing well in ICT and other technology to improve efficiency, its commitment to projects that should increase the capacity and capability, and its succession planning and nurturing future leaders.