Police numbers will fall to their lowest levels since the 1970s under a new round of spending cuts, senior officers have warned.
The chief constables of three of Britain’s biggest forces say they will have “no alternative” but to make more cuts after a new government budget reduction.
That will mean that more frontline police officers will be lost, the heads of the
West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Merseyside forces told The Guardian.
Thousands of police jobs have already gone under previous rounds of Government-imposed cutbacks.
Funding for English and Welsh forces has been steadily reduced since 2010 by a total of almost 20 per cent.
They have now been hit with the bill for a pension deficit of £420m which must be made up from existing police budgets.
Britain’s largest force, The Metropolitan Police, estimates that the latest cutbacks would result in 900 fewer officers on the streets.
David Thompson, chief constable of West Midlands Police, says they must make up a pension deficit of £22.5m over the next two financial years.
He said this equated to around 500 full-time police officer posts and would cut the force’s numbers from 8,600 in 2010 to 6,000.
There was “no question” this would lead to “rationing” of services, he warned.
Mr Thompson added that force was struggling to deliver a service to the public and said criminals were “well aware” now how stretched they are.
Greater Manchester chief constable Ian Hopkins said he had planned to operate with 6,300 officers by March 2021 but would now be left with 5,700.
This would be lower than its 1975 staffing and he said that absorbing the deficit without job cuts would not be possible.
He told The Guardian: “Essentially we would just have to focus on providing a response function, a serious and organised crime capability and a custody function.”
The West Yorkshire force would have to cut 400 of its 4,800 officers and Merseyside could lose 300 officers, leaving it with 3,172, 31 per cent fewer than 2010.
The threatened cuts are despite Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s public promise that he would find more cash to bolster police budgets.
The Home Office said it was “working closely with forces” to find a solution and that
police funding would be a priority at the next spending review.