Forces face £500m gap in budgets

Police forces face a £500m financial black hole as they struggle to cope with government demands to cut their budgets, the spending watchdog warns today.

The 43 forces in England and Wales need to save £1.5bn by 2014-15 as a result of the four-year austerity drive.

But they have only identified savings of £1bn, according to the National Audit Office, with 26 forces facing a cash shortfall within three years. Ministers insist the savings can be made without affecting frontline policing. But Labour claims the squeeze will lead to 12,000 police officers losing their jobs.