The men in charge of policing in Lincolnshire have written to the home secretary to warn of the “grave” dangers of further cuts.
Chief constable Neil Rhodes and police and crime commissioner Alan Hardwick both warned Theresa May that the force could become “financially unsustainable” by 2016 if funding continues to decrease.
Mr Rhodes predicted a funding gap of £7.6m in 2016/2017, based on cuts over the past few years. He wrote: “There are two key problems with this approach to reducing costs. Firstly, 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.
“Secondly, the scale of reduction required far outstrips our ability to cut numbers through normal means.”
Mr Rhodes warned the home secretary that cuts could mean the force was unable to deal with public order situations. He said there would no longer be constable community beat managers and “just a few PCSOs” working in neighbourhood teams.
Response times would increase, the depth of investigation would decrease and policing would become responsive rather than proactive.
Mr Rhodes suggested an adjustment in the funding formula for smaller forces. He wrote: “The most productive and fair approach may be to recognise that there is simply a cost to being in business for a smaller force that acknowledges a set of fixed core costs.”
Mr Hardwick echoed Mr Rhodes’ comments. He wrote: “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.”
He added: “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.”
Mr Rhodes and Mr Hardwick invited Mrs May to visit the county and discuss potential solutions.