The Inspectorate’s report said: “The Force is in this position through no fault of its own, its leadership or that of the newly elected police and crime commissioner.
“As a low cost force, with many policing functions either outsourced or run in collaboration with either regional forces or local partners, there are very few opportunities available for making further efficiency savings.”
Lincolnshire Police said it welcomed the independent HMIC report which paints an overall picture of a force assessed as good, providing an efficient service at one of the lowest cost per head of population in England and Wales 2015/16.
But having “done what can reasonably be expected to become efficient” the Force will pose the question to Policing Minister Brandon Lewis MP, where can the further savings necessary be found?
The Minister will visit the force to meet front line officers on December 1 to discuss the financial position. This follows a protracted correspondence with the Home Office about the inadequate funding level of Lincolnshire Police.
The position was set to be addressed last year with a proposed change to the funding formula. However before the Force received the anticipated additional funds of £7 million it was found that the formula was based on flawed data and the changes were not implemented.
Brandon Lewis’s firm commitment to reviewing the formula, in a swift and timely manner, is welcomed wholeheartedly by Chief Constable Neil Rhodes. He said: “HMIC point out that through no fault of our own, we are unlikely to be able to maintain the good level of service we provide to the public in the future. It is also completely unfair to expect the force to destroy its modest reserves trying to bridge the gap. There needs to be an interim grant from Government.”
The report sets out that areas of collaboration, outsourcing and partnership working have already been explored: “The Force has done what can reasonably be expected to become efficient, to maximise value for money for the tax payer while providing an effective policing service to the communities of Lincolnshire…. It has entered into local partnerships, has outsourced to the private sector, and has undertaken extensive and wide ranging collaborative working.”
The report goes on to paint a stark picture for the future if the Force has to make savings via the last option available – a reduction of frontline officers and PCSOs.
It said: “It is likely that there will be service loss or degradation of policing services in Lincolnshire if further reductions are made to the workforce.”
This is a scenario that Chief Constable Neil Rhodes is determined to avoid at all costs. He said: “Together with the Police and Crime Commissioner, we look forward enormously to continuing conversations with the Policing Minister when he comes to visit the Force and can hear from operational officers the challenges we face.”