County police force hailed for efficient job ‘on the cheap’

Lincolnshire Police has been hailed for doing its job efficiently ‘on the cheap’ by a new report - but county chiefs say cuts can’t continue.
PCC Alan Hardwick. DJPCC Alan Hardwick. DJ
PCC Alan Hardwick. DJ

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) inspected the county’s force in March, and in a report published today (Tuesday), found that the force had achieved substantial savings in ‘extremely difficult circumstances’ and had the ‘lowest workforce costs in England and Wales’.

However, Mr Hardwick said that if funding cuts continued at their current rate he may not be able to uphold his promise to maintain 1100 officers and 149 PCSOs on the streets

The HMIC report said the force ‘is making extensive use of collaboration and outsourcing to maximise efficiency’, and gave it an overall grade of good for providing value for money for Lincolnshire.

The report has been welcomed by Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Hardwick and Chief Constable Neil Rhodes.

Mr Hardwick said that the independent report confirmed what he and the Chief Constable knew all along - that the force delivers exceptional value for money.

He said: “To be recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate as outstanding for the way we deliver an affordable way of policing is very gratifying and a massive tribute to the continuing commitment and hard work of every officer, member of staff, partners and volunteers.”

“That coupled with the two other sections being marked good just adds to the tribute,” he added.

The report does, however, raise concerns about the ability of the force to maintain its current level of service to the communities of Lincolnshire beyond 2016.

Mr Hardwick agreed with the report and said: “If the Government continues to punish Lincolnshire for its efficiency.

“We continue to be the lowest funded force per head of population and I am in frequent contact with the Home Office to emphasise how the current police funding formula, combined with the continuing cuts related to the comprehensive spending review, may force me into having to reconsider my pledge to maintain 1100 officers and 149 PCSOs,” he said.

“The structure of that formula is an inequity which continues to be a disservice to the people of Lincolnshire and deprives them of the policing they deserve.

“All we are asking for is an equitable settlement but repeatedly we are the poor relation when it comes to the annual allocation of police funding.

“I shall continue to fight for a fairer deal for the people of Lincolnshire so that we can maintain policing at current levels,” he said.

The report looks at steps the force is taking to ensure a secure financial position for the short and long term (Good), the extent to which the force is delivering an affordable way of policing (Outstanding), and the extent to which the force is efficient (Good).

Mr Hardwick said other forces should take the same model of Lincolnshire Police, however, he said future options to make savings were limited.

He said: “I have said in the past that if all forces spent the pro rata equivalent of what we spend, £1bn could be saved from the national bill for policing. I am hoping that following the visit to Lincolnshire by her officials and now our approach being independently backed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, the Home Secretary will visit Lincolnshire.

“There is much that the rest of the police service can learn from us and I am sure she will also want to discuss with the Chief Constable and I the future funding of the force and the concerns expressed by HMIC in the report that the options to continue to achieve future savings are extremely limited”

Chief Constable Neil Rhodes said the force had been able to make a lot of its savings in co-operation with a private sector partner which managed areas including premises, ICT and fleet.

This means that currently 86 per cent of the workforce are in frontline roles - above the national average of 78 per cent. He said that by March 2015 it was hoped 93 per cent of those will be on frontline ‘crime-fighting’ roles.

The pair said there are considerable financial challenges for the force beyond 2016 - if Government cuts to police funding continue.

They said the HMIC report notes that the force is, ‘a low income and already efficient force’ and ‘faces a particularly difficult challenge’ but acknowledges that, ‘over the next two years it is maintaining a strong focus on protecting the front line and sustaining service delivery.’