IT is the thin blue line that is about to get even thinner as Hampshire police slashes £25m off its budget.
As reported by the Daily Echo yesterday, the force has announced sweeping cuts that could change policing across the county for years to come.
Hundreds of jobs will be lost, police stations will be shut, and roles will be changed as the force looks to save £25m by 2016.
The savings need to be made as required by the central government's 2013 Spending Review.
It is the second wave of budget cuts following the £55m saving Hampshire police will make up to April this year, with the loss of 456 officer jobs and 520 staff posts.
Now a further 535 officer and staff positions will be axed but the exact numbers of those who will lose their jobs have yet to be finalised as further refinements to the final plans are expected to be made.
Police unions have described the latest saving plan as a “sad day in the history” of Hampshire police.
Among the savings, said Hampshire police, would be a 15 per cent reduction in the number of chief superintendents and superintendents between 2014 and 2016.
The same reduction is planned for chief inspectors and inspectors.
The number of sergeants is expected to be reduced by 23 per cent – the biggest planned reduction across frontline staff.
PCs will be cut by ten per cent but the number of PCSOs – 333 – will remain the same, with no cuts forecast.
Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes confirmed that further under-used and expensive police stations across Hampshire will be closed to make savings from the force’s estates budget.
It is not known which police stations are at risk but Mr Hayes said that the introduction of cheaper beat stations, such as the ones opened in the Northam and Redbridge areas of Southampton, have been a success within the communities.
He added that potential plans for the police to move from its current Winchester headquarters to another location are still being looked at.
Despite the latest cuts, Hampshire’s police force will introduce a dedicated senior police officer in neighbourhoods and prevention teams, redraw boundaries to enable better partnerships with councils and other public sector partners, and introduce intelligence-led services to protect the most vulnerable sectors of society.
The authority also stressed that officers will still respond to the most serious emergency calls as usual and neighbourhood policing will remain a priority.
And officers across Hampshire will become the first in the country to wear video cameras as the force looks to make the most of technology.
The Chief Constable, Andy Marsh, said he hoped that people across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight understood that the cuts are not made out of choice, and he fears that further Government cuts could harm the authority.
He said: “We would be making difficult decisions about the capability of response times if there are further cuts.
“There have been £80m of cuts since 2010 when I first arrived and I hope the public will understand that these cuts are not out of choice.
“I hope they will continue to appreciate the outstanding dedication of the police officers of Hampshire Constabulary.
“I believe in policing and I am passionate about it.
“I still believe we can do an outstanding job for the public and protect them.”
He added: “The facts now show that we have no choice but to plan for fewer officers and staff, but unlike some other areas of the country, neighbourhood policing will be prioritised with a dedicated resource.
“This is tangible evidence that the constabulary now understands that its job is to prevent crime and deliver for victims. That can only be good for public confidence.”
However John Apter, chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, said that the latest cuts will have a “dramatic effect” on policing across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
He said: “On top of previous reductions there will now be further considerable reductions of police officer numbers across all parts of policing.
“Response, neighbourhood teams, CID and specialist teams will see their numbers cut to the bone.
“The public should be under no illusion that these further cuts will impact on the service we can deliver.
“We have reached a critical point and I believe there is no resilience left in the system, which is a dangerous place to be.
“The Government must stop and take a long hard look at the damage they have done to British policing. Morale has never been lower, we have no resilience.
“We will now strive to be adequate and the people who suffer will be the public.
“This is a sad day in the history of Hampshire Constabulary.”