EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Police chief pledges support to Wolds division and backs crime commissioner Alan Hardwick

Neil Rhodes and Alan Hardwick
Neil Rhodes and Alan Hardwick

Lincolnshire Chief Constable Neil Rhodes has vowed to work with police and crime commissioner Alan Hardwick to ensure there are no cuts in officer numbers during the next two years.

In his first interview since Mr Hardwick was lambasted for suspending him last year, Mr Rhodes told the News, while visiting Horncastle, there were no plans to reduce the number of officers or PCSO’s in the Wolds region.

Mr Rhodes also:

*backed Mr Hardwick’s call to recruit 1,000 new volunteers, saying they would strengthen links with rural communities.

*pledged to secure a fairer funding deal for Lincolnshire from central Government.

*praised staff in the Wolds Division - which includes Horncastle, Woodhall Spa and Coningsby - for a above average fall in crime.

*promised there were no plans to close Horncastle Police Station and move operations to Louth.

On the subject of maintaining officers, Mr Rhodes said: “We’ve got 1,100 officers across the county.

“It’s always a struggle with the level of funding to sustain officers at that level but I will be working very hard with the police and crime commissioner to do just that and we are confident we can sustain those levels for the next two years.

“There are no plans to reduce the level of police officers or PCSO’s in the Wolds region.”

Regarding the fall in crime, Mr Rhodes stressed the figures were accurate and was full of praise for local officers.

He added: “It is a tribute to the people on the ground in the Wolds Division that the reduction has been ahead of the trend, even in Lincolnshire.

“Nationally, it’s really good that Lincolnshire is in the top two or three of forces delivering crime reduction.”

Mr Rhodes also pledged to back the recruitment of volunteers and said they had a vital role making communities even safer.

He said: “It is really important Lincolnshire continues to have the support of people living in their local community.

“What better way can people show than volunteering to help us? For our officers and staff in rural areas, that is really important.

“In rural areas, help can be a long way away. To sustain our capacity, to help us do our job better and to help keep this area even safer, volunteers are especially welcome.”

Mr Rhodes went on to confirm Horncastle police station would be retained.

He explained: “We keep our properties under review all the time but Horncastle Police Station has a real affection for me.

“It has real personality and real character. For the people who work there, it’s a bit of a squeeze sometimes but there are no plans to close Horncastle.”

On funding, Mr Rhodes accepted that nationally, further cuts in Government money would mean fewer officers.

However, he vowed to join Mr Hardwick in the fight for what he described as a ‘fairer funding’ deal for Lincolnshire.

He said: “One of the principal strands of the police and crime plan is to get a fairer funding deal for Lincolnshire.

“We currently have the lowest priced officers in terms of cost per head of population in the entire country.

“That means we are one of the most cost effective forces in the country but communities in Lincolnshire carry a disproportionate share of that cost.

“If I look into my crystal ball, what’s clear to me is that in policing nationally there will be less money. Less money can only mean fewer officers.

“It is my absolute priority to make sure Lincolnshire gets a fair share of that funding.”

Mr Rhodes would not answer direct questions on the report of his suspension and reinstatement published last week, but did admit he was relishing being able to focus on day-to-day policing matters.

“He added: “(oday, I am looking forward to meeting a group of inspectors who are responsible for policing the Eastern side of Lincolnshire. They are a tremendous bunch of people.

“I am then back to HQ to talk to 24 new recruits. What is really good is that despite the financial challenges and the tough times, 24 bright, young, fresh coppers will be pounding the beat very shortly.”