The ‘very thin blue line’: Inspectorate warns we’ll struggle to cope with more police cuts

Lincolnshire Police will struggle to cope with any more cuts, according to the body that inspects the nation’s police forces.

In a report published today, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), said the county will be left with a ‘very thin blue line’ by 2015, with 106 fewer police officers in the county already.

The report looks at how the force is coping with cuts imposed since the Government’s spending review in 2010.

It says our force has ‘responded very well’ but is a small force that has already gone through significant change and has ‘extremely limited room for manoeuvre’ to save more money.

West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire are the other four forces predicted to struggle to be able to make more cuts.

It found:

*the force needed to save £19.8 million between March 2011 and March 2015. It has so far planned cuts of £18.3 million but still has £1.5 million to find

*the force plans to close this gap through using its reserves - something HMIC states is a concern

*the savings needed are 16 per cent of the overall budget - which is ‘broadly in line’ with others but tough for Lincolnshire because it was already one of the worst funded

*the force has 106 fewer officers - nine per cent below that of March 2010

*the report states: “By March 2015 it is planned there will be 1,100 police officers keeping the people of Lincolnshire safe. This is a very thin ‘blue line’.”

*by 2015 there will be 657 fewer police staff in total - many of those transferring to G4S

*PCSO numbers are to stay the same - and volunteers are planned to increase to 1,000 by April 2016

The report also looks at how the cuts and the way police have dealt with them have impacted on the public.

It says crime (excluding fraud) fell by 16 per cent – well above the national average. Victim satisfaction is also said to be high at 83.9 per cent.

HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Eastern Region, Zoë Billingham, said: “Lincolnshire Police faces a difficult challenge. It has the lowest cost of policing per head of population in England and Wales and has taken more decisive steps than most forces in order to close its funding gap.

“Over the last year the chief officer team has been subject to significant change and uncertainty. HMIC is concerned that this could be de-stabilising for the organisation at a time when further substantial financial challenges are expected.

“Due to outsourcing significant business and operational support areas Lincolnshire now has far fewer opportunities to make non-staff savings compared to other forces. It may soon struggle to identify where further savings can come from with little option but to cut frontline police officer numbers further.

“HMIC therefore has concerns about the ability of the force to maintain its current level of service to the communities of Lincolnshire when faced with further significant budget reductions from 2015/16 onwards.

“HMIC will continue to monitor the force for the remainder of the spending review period.”

The full report for Lincolnshire Police can be found at www.hmic.gov.uk