A new report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary says there is a risk Lincolnshire Police will not be able to deliver an effective service in the face of deep financial cuts. Louise Wallace discusses those issues with Chief Constable Neil Rhodes...
The county's top police officer will urge Whitehall not to "push" him into axing cops when he meets with a minister later this month.
Chief Constable Neil Rhodes will meet with the minister for policing and criminal justice, Nick Herbert, when he comes to Lincolnshire on July 23.
The visit comes in the aftermath of a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary which said it had "multiple concerns" about how the force would meet stringent cuts.
Lincolnshire Police has to find £21 million in savings by 2015.
It is on target to find £18 million but there is a £3 million deficit – the equivalent of 70 police officers.
But this week the HMIC report said more pressure could mean cuts to front-line policing.
An alternative would be for the force to raise its council tax precept.
Lincolnshire has already lost 70 officers and is already planning to shed more than 20 a year for the next three years, following the Comprehensive Spending Review.
Mr Rhodes told the Echo: "In Lincolnshire we are confident that we have done everything a forward-looking police force can do and we are still working to improve that position but there has to be a limit, there has to be a tipping point.
"Stripping resources, particularly police officers out of Lincolnshire, will mean we can't sustain the right levels of performance. We do not think we are at that point yet, the evidence shows that strongly. But our message to central Government is 'please don't push us towards that point'."
"There has to come a point where we have gone down every avenue to trim and the only remaining thing to do is cut police officers. But I am committed to officers in uniform on the streets, along with counter terrorism, major crime and serious and organised crime."
Lincolnshire Police is the lowest funded force per head of population in England and Wales, with £171 per head, per year against a national average of £206.
"That's the bit that's not right," said Mr Rhodes. "We believe that we deserve a larger share of the national policing pot, even though we accept that pot has shrunk and is likely to shrink further in the next spending review round.
"We are not saying we should not bear our share but we are asking for fairness. We are entitled to a fairer share and I will press that with Nick Herbert when he visits.
"I will be encouraging him to have a more structured approach to any further reduction to police funding, rather than simply slicing across the board.
"There are certain forces in the country who are less able to bear percentage cuts.
"And it's not right that bridging the gap should fall to the local population in the precept."
Lincolnshire Police will have 84 per cent of its officers in frontline roles by 2015.
"We've only got 23 officers, which include me and the deputy chief, who do not have a significant crime fighting component to our jobs," said Mr Rhodes. "That's 23 out of 1,120 so there's no great big pool of people sat waiting to be drafted out.
"I want the policing minister to understand that we have pushed this about as far as we can and he needs to explore different ways to resolve the financial issues in Lincolnshire."
A Home Office spokesperson said: "HMIC's report identified just three out of 43 forces that were of concern. In common with all the rest, these forces must now put plans in place to make the necessary savings within the funding framework."