POLICE staff numbers could be slashed in half as bosses battle to plug a multi-million pound black hole.
West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police already need to save £30million in the next four years but the Observer can reveal between £27million and £30million must be saved on top of that.
According to sources, it could result in staffing levels being cut by up to 50 per cent with concerns growing it would mean officers being tied up with paperwork instead of being out on the streets.
Bosses are unable to make PCs redundant and have already formed an alliance between the two forces to drive efficiencies, so staff cuts are having to be considered by the team looking at how further savings can be made.
Supt Gary Watson, part of the change programme for both forces, said they were focusing on how to change the way policing is delivered within budget, while maximising the protection given to the public.
But he said they were at the start of the process and until they had signed off the final design for the future of policing it would be impossible to say how it would affect staffing.
“That isn’t going to be achieved if we inappropriately use police officers to address support functions. Everything we do needs to be about how we deliver protection from harm in an effective and efficient way,” he told the Observer.
“What we now need to do to meet the new challenges is to look again about how we deliver policing to our communities. The alliance was a very effective way of introducing collaboration between the two forces so we now need to look at how we best further embed the ethos of the alliance by strengthening and deepening it.
“At the moment we are starting to build a design and give these issues a lot of thought. It would be premature to talk about numbers in terms of police staff at this stage.
“We need to look at how we protect the front line but ultimately we will also look at how we can use technology to deal with a lot of those functions in a better way.”
But UNISON regional organiser Charlie Sarell warned the two forces were already losing staff in key jobs.
“One of the dangers is that when these jobs are cut to make savings, the work is still there and if there aren’t police staff to do it then officers end up doing that. They are not on the streets, they are in an office doing something which could be done by staff on considerably less pay.”