Police officers must accept cuts to their pay packets to avoid losing thousands of frontline jobs, Home Secretary Theresa May said today.
Mrs May said she did not want to make savings for the sake of it, but "extraordinary circumstances" mean the Government must reform terms and conditions to keep officers on the streets.
Her speech comes ahead of an independent review of police pay and conditions by former rail regulator Tom Winsor, which will be published on Tuesday.
Mrs May called for all forces to follow the example of the Metropolitan Police in getting officers to patrol alone rather than in pairs.
"By getting more officers to patrol alone - rather than in pairs - and by better matching resources to demand in neighbourhood policing, they are increasing officer availability to the public by 25%," she said.
"I know other forces including Gloucestershire are taking the same steps. All forces should be following their example."
On pay and conditions, Mrs May said that in all likelihood there would be a two-year pay freeze in policing, saving £350 million.
"No home secretary wants to cut police officers' pay packages," she said. "But with a record budget deficit, these are extraordinary circumstances."
In a document by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) which outlined potential savings in August, members suggested scrapping a host of additional payments and bonuses, as well as reducing the amount of overtime paid for working on public holidays.
Other arrangements, including compensation for cancelled rest days, may also be changed or axed completely.
Police have been criticised for a £450 million a year overtime bill and other "out-of-date" remuneration rules.
Figures released by the Met in August revealed five constables boosted their wages by £50,000 with overtime.
In May, police minister Nick Herbert welcomed a call by Scotland Yard boss Sir Paul Stephenson to end the multimillion-pound police bonus culture, saying it reflected the financially "straitened times".
The Winsor review, which will report on Tuesday, will include scrutiny of allowances, overtime and the cost of officers working in other force areas.
It will cover both police officers and civilian staff, including community support officers (PCSOs), across the 43 forces in England and Wales.
Previous attempts to overhaul pay and conditions have failed.
The last review, carried out in June 1993 by Sir Patrick Sheehy under then-home secretary Kenneth Clarke, recommended abolishing jobs for life, introducing fixed terms of service and scrapping overtime payments.
But most of the recommendations were never implemented after a high-profile campaign by the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales.
Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith tried to save money in 2008 by rejecting a recommended pay increase - but again was forced to back down after marches by officers.Reuse content