As many as 22,000 police jobs could be axed under fresh Government cuts, leaving the public protected by the lowest number of officers for over forty years, police chiefs have warned.
The figure set to face redundancy is much higher than previously known, and means the number of police officers in both England and Wales could fall to a combined total of under 100,000, The Guardian claimed.
The news comes after an estimated 17,000 officer jobs were eliminated by the Conservative-led coalition government between 2010-15.
Chief constables' fresh estimates revealed on Tuesday are based on just the lowest expected cut of 25% in funding from the government for policing over the next four and a half years. Currently, there are around 125,000 officers in England and Wales.
The estimate is not the only one circulating among senior officers. An alternative projection suggests the level of officer losses could be higher at 30,000 in the next five years across the 43 police forces in England and Wales.
After George Osborne's July Budget, the chancellor told government departments whose spending was not ringfenced, including the Home Office, which administers police forces' pay, would face cuts of anywhere between 25% and 40%.
An emergency so-called "gold group" has been formed by senior Home Office officials and high-ranking police chiefs to formulate their arguments and present them to the Treasury ahead of Osborne's decision about how much each department should cut.
One senior officer reportedly told the Guardian: “This time a greater part of the reduction will be borne by police officers.”
Last month there was controversy after one police force said it was only responding to burglaries reported by even-numbered houses, while Sara Thornton, the chair of a body representing police chiefs, went further to suggest an officer might not attend every breaking and entering incident.
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Budget cuts faced between 2010 and 2015 were made by efficiency savings, selling police stations, and culled civilian staff.
Privately, police chiefs accept that under the previous Labour government they had been able to do without 12% of the budget and they had got used to during times of relative financial plenty. But they are now claiming that an era of cuts without impact on service to members of the public have long since vanished.
When the brunt of public-spending cuts first started in 2010 there were 143,734 full-time police officers- that figure has since diminished to 125,000.