A police chief has warned his force could be “unsustainable” within three years if funding cuts continue at current levels.
Lincolnshire police chief Neil Rhodes outlined his concerns in a letter to the Home Secretary Theresa May, seen by The Daily Telegraph.
In the letter he said his force could be the first “to fall over” as cuts to officer numbers in response to a reported £10.4 million budget shortfall would mean it would be unable to police effectively.
He said: “If we were a business, then it would be being funded at below the cost of being in business. The cupboard is bare and it is likely that we will be the first force in the country to fall over.
“In 2016-17, Lincolnshire Police will be, on the basis of current financial projections, on the edge of viability. In the following year it will be unsustainable.
“To cut officer numbers by the amount needed would mean service degradation to a level that would be unacceptable to our communities and compromise both public safety and officer safety.”
Nationally, the Government announced in May this year’s funding settlement for the 43 police forces in England and Wales in 2014/15 was £8.5 billion, compared with £8.7 billion in 2013/14 and £9.7 billion in 2010/11.
And the total amount of central funding is projected to fall by around 20% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2014/15, as originally planned in the 2010 spending review, while officer numbers have fallen by 16,000 since 2010, according to the Police Federation.
His concerns have been echoed by Lincolnshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) Alan Hardwick, who has also written to the Home Secretary about the funding crisis facing the force.
Mr Hardwick said the current funding formula for police forces is “not fit for purpose” and calls for a new approach.
The PCC tells the Home Secretary that on an average Saturday night at 11pm there are only 18 constables to deploy in the city of Lincoln and only 10 in Boston, adding: “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.”