As Home Office sources insisted that no decisions had been taken on resource allocation to forces, Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Commissioner, said yesterday that manpower cuts of that depth would be a 'major blow to our operating capacity'.
The proposals - which are notable for acknowledging that unemployment is a factor in determining policing needs - arise out of the change in the funding system under which for the first time the Home Office will control the total cash allocations to each police authority. Within those allocations individual forces will be free to decide what resources should be devoted to manpower.
The new proposals have been strongly criticised by the Association of Chief Police Officers which suggests that planned cuts in some of the highest crime cities will spell untenable consequences for community life.
Under present plans, which would mean a reallocation of current spending between police authorities, the Met would be among the 'losers' while other authorities would be 'gainers'. The factors to be taken into account in deciding the relative force allocations include the proportion of unemployed people, numbers of lone-parent families and numbers on council estates.
The use of these factors appears to contrast with the views expressed by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, who said that blaming unemployment for crime 'insulted the jobless who do not offend . . .'
But Whitehall sources insisted that use of the factors did not conflict with Mr Howard's consistent line that there was no 'simple statistical link' between unemployment and crime.