Lincolnshire’s PCC follows chief constable’s lead in writing to Theresa May

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Lincolnshire’s police and crime commissioner Alan Hardwick has followed in the footsteps of the chief constable in sending a letter to the home secretary.

As reported online this morning, Ch Cons Neil Rhodes wrote to Theresa May to express his concerns over funding for the county’s police force (click here to read the full story).

In his letter, entitled ‘Sustainability of Policing in Lincolnshire,’ Mr Hardwick wrote:

Dear Home Secretary,

I know my Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes, has recently written to you to outline his professional opinion about the sustainability of policing in Lincolnshire. The Chief Constable is of course my primary policing adviser but I also seek out the views of others and in particular I set great store by what HMIC independently and objectively tell me. Much of what Zoe Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector has reported, has endorsed the views held by Mr Rhodes. I do not want to simply reiterate all of that here. You, current and former Policing Ministers and your officials are, I know, very well aware of the position in Lincolnshire. I will simply highlight the key points from my perspective, and as always, underline my commitment to work with you to develop solutions.

The Chief Constable and I, together with our staff, have done much to transform Lincolnshire Police to ensure the people of Lincolnshire have the services they need, when they need them and in doing so we have reduced crime. We make extensive use of collaboration and outsourcing to maximise efficiency. The result is that HMIC has graded us outstanding in terms of delivering affordable policing. We are recognised as good in terms of our effectiveness at reducing and preventing offending and good at tackling anti-social behaviour. The County remains one of the safest places to live in the country, where crime has fallen more than the national average.

However, we already have the lowest numbers of officers and staff per head of population; we have the lowest net expenditure per head of population and we have the third highest number of total crimes (excluding fraud) per visible police officer, i.e. our officers have one of the highest workloads in the country.

Whilst our overall performance continues to be good when compared to other Forces, the Chief Constable and HMIC have concerns about the ability of the Force to maintain its current level of service to the communities of Lincolnshire beyond 2016. HMIC has said our next step will be to cut back on officers and PCSOs in communities in order to achieve the potential savings we anticipate having to make based on our forecasts for future police grant settlements. We are not alone. HMIC has identified six forces (Lincolnshire, Dorset, North Yorkshire, Suffolk, Warwickshire and Wiltshire) deemed to be at risk.

There is no doubt that the police funding formula is not fit for purpose. Some might even say it rewards the forces who have a long way to go to even begin thinking about implementing efficiencies, so they are not incentivised to do so. On the other hand, it penalises those who have adopted the progressive approaches we employ. The solution, which I know your officials are working on, must be the introduction of police grant funding arrangements which drive the behaviours you want to see in terms of efficiencies, and which also help Police and Crime Commissioners to be responsive to local need. An unsophisticated and blunt, one size fits all approach, as has been taken with funding reductions, does a great disservice to the public and to the concept of localism. A new approach must be introduced with urgency. As my Chief Constable, HMIC and many others have said, time is not on our side.

I repeat my oft said offer that I, the Chief Constable and our teams stand ready to assist you and your officials in developing a solution for Lincolnshire whilst, at the same time, making our business transformation expertise available to the whole service.

Your tenure as Home Secretary has brought much needed and revolutionary change to policing. Through Police and Crime Commissioners you brought democratic accountability and directly elected individuals who are responsive to local need. But in the absence of a fair funding settlement, my ability to be responsive to local need is increasingly thwarted.

In introducing Police and Crime Commissioners you have also brought transparency. As a former journalist, it is a concept dear to my heart and one which the public deserve across public services. You will understand therefore that I will publish this letter and your response.

I will leave you with one final thought. My Chief Constable tells me that on an average Saturday night at 11pm, he has only eighteen constables available to deploy in the City of Lincoln, and only ten in Boston. The figures for the rest of one of the largest counties in the Country are equally bleak. I doubt that is representative of what is happening elsewhere; I hope not.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Hardwick

Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire