Cambridgeshire police warn over impact of cuts

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The Independent Online

A police force could lose more than half its staff and more than a third of its officers if proposed Government cuts come into effect, ministers were warned today.

Cambridgeshire Police Authority said ministers had asked senior officers to "work out" how Cambridgeshire Police could make budget cuts of between 25% and 40%.



Officials said a 25% cut would mean the force spending £33 million less over the next four years and equate to the cost of 470 officers and 550 staff.



Earlier this month Julie Spence, then Cambridgeshire's chief constable, said 40% cuts could lead to a policing "Armageddon".



"The current planning assumption of 25% means that we must spend £33 million less over the next four years," said an authority spokeswoman today.



"If, for example, half this saving came from the police officers and half from police staff, the reductions in posts would be 470 out of 1,395 officers and 550 out of 1,022 police staff."



The warning came as authority officials met Cambridgeshire MPs in Westminster to discuss the implications of proposed funding cuts.



"Whilst we appreciate the necessity of cuts, we are concerned to ensure that they are proportionate," added authority chairman Ruth Rogers.



"The police authority remains clear that it is essential for the force to remain citizen focussed and not lose sight of its commitment to delivering the best possible service."



Mrs Spence, who was speaking before retiring after five years in charge, said 40% cuts could see forces reduced to a "999 service".



"If the Government pushed through 40% cuts, there would be a drastic reduction in service. There is no other way you could do it," she said.



"It would be Armageddon. The police service you see today would not be the police service you would see in the future.



"It could even be retrenched to a 999 emergency service. That is not what a modern police service should be and not what society wants."



Last week Essex chief constable Jim Barker-McCardle said Essex's policing budget could be cut by £45 million by 2015 - about a sixth - and warned that hundreds of jobs might go.



And earlier this month, Ian Learmonth, chief constable of Kent, said cuts were likely to reduce staff and officer numbers to levels not seen for a decade.