May: Scope for more police savings
Government-imposed cuts on policing budgets are not driving forces to "the edge of viability", the Home Secretary has said.
Theresa May said she accepted "delivering further savings in future will be challenging" for forces, but said there was scope for further savings in IT, service procurement and "integration with other emergency services".
Mrs May was responding to Lincolnshire Police's independent police and crime panel after members wrote highlighting their concerns police officer numbers may have to be cut in the next few years because of budget pressures.
The panel said it feared policing the area could become "unsustainable" within three years.
A review of the way police forces in England and Wales are funded is currently being undertaken by the Government.
Earlier last year, the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick and chief constable Neil Rhodes wrote urging the Home Secretary to meet and discuss their concerns Government-imposed spending cuts risked significant cuts to officer numbers, over time.
Mr Rhodes said he feared only a cut in officer numbers could help plug an estimated funding gap, running to £10.4 million by 2017 and which equated to 236 officers.
Lincolnshire has already sliced £19.7 million from its £120 million budget.
Mrs May had replied to both the commissioner and Mr Rhodes' letters, but last month the police and crime panel, whose job is to independently scrutinise the commissioner's work and the police budget, wrote echoing the concerns.
They said: "The panel is deeply concerned that Lincolnshire Police will be on the edge of viability by 2016/17, and unsustainable the following year."
The letter described the potential for any cuts in officer numbers to make the required budget cuts after next year as "devastating".
In response, Mrs May said: "I accept that delivering further savings in future will be challenging.
"However ... there remain significant efficiencies to be delivered - from ICT, procurement, and integration with other emergency services.
She added: "I do not accept, therefore, that any force is on the edge of viability, although I recognise that Lincolnshire faces particular pressures."
Mrs May assured them policing partners would be consulted as part of the funding review "in due course".
The Home Secretary added in her letter that "the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made clear that sustained economic stability will require difficult decisions about public spending to continue into the next Parliament."
She also pointed out any detailed spending plans for police forces beyond March 2016 had not yet been worked out and would be "a matter for the next Government".
Mrs May acknowledged the fact a recent health check by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's (HMIC) had rated Lincolnshire as "outstanding" for delivering affordable policing.
Lincolnshire is the third largest policing area in the country, employing around 1,100 police officers and 149 police community support officers.