The head of Lincolnshire Police has warned the force could be the first in Britain to effectively go out of business because of current government funding.

Neil Rhodes, the chief constable of Lincolnshire Police, has written a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May warning the current system is "unsustainable" and Lincolnshire Police could be "the first in the country to fall" by 2018.

In the letter, Rhodes says the cuts would have huge implications for the quality of policing and the number of crimes being properly recorded would be affected as the force attempts to deal with the proposed shortfall of £10.4m in the coming years.

Rhodes warned the funding cuts will result in a reduction of officers on the streets, a greater spectrum of response times from police dealing with 999 calls and a complete withdrawal of investigations into historic child abuse allegations or cybercrimes.

He added the principal means of reducing budgets is now "almost solely by reducing officer numbers" and a fifth of the current officers will have to be made redundant in order to survive.

'Cupboard is bare' for Lincolnshire's officers

Lincolnshire Police has one of the smallest staff numbers for police forces across England and Wales despite covering the third largest area in the country at almost 2,300 square miles. The force has already reduced the number of officers from 1,220 to 1,110 because of cuts.

In the letter, Rhodes wrote: "If we were a business, then it would be 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 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."

He added: "In my 28 years in policing, I have always been a moderniser and have sought to find ways to be efficient and save money but in this case, I'm afraid we have hit the buffers."

Every force in the country has made cuts after the government announced a 20% reduction in funding as part of the 2010 austerity package. However, Rhodes is the first constable to say the cuts are puting their entire force in danger.

Rhodes is hoping to meet with May to discuss the problem.

Jack Dromey, Shadow Policing Minister said: "Government cuts to policing are now threatening the existence of police forces and threatening the safety of both the public and police officers.

"Police forces across the country have done their best to cope with the scale of the cuts already inflicted by government. Already 16,000 police officers have gone. The Home Office is planning a further cut of up to 25% to the police budget. At least a further 16,000 police officers would go, the Association of Chief Police Officers has warned.

"In his Autumn Statement, the chancellor refused to spell out the consequences of the biggest police cuts in Europe. Now we know the truth. Public safety will be put at risk. The chancellor must come clean on the looming disaster for British policing."