HAMPSHIRE police is doing better than most at protecting frontline staff despite multi-million-pound cuts, a new report has found.

The county force was praised by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) today for reducing crime and having one of the highest proportions of frontline staff in the wake of continuing cuts.

But Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and the Hampshire Police Federation have warned there is now nowhere left to cut, leaving the frontline at risk.

PCC Simon Hayes said it was reassuring HMIC judged Hampshire to be in a good position to deliver savings but highlighted the “extremely difficult and challenging” times ahead.

John Apter, chair of Hampshire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, warned that while the frontline has been protected so far, the next 12 months will see them targeted with 500 officers and staff set for the axe.

Overall, the HMIC report published today found the force was making “good progress” in meeting its financial challenge of making £52.9m worth of savings over the spending review period.

The report found Hampshire to be “on track” to achieve its required savings of £52.9m and that is has “clear and well-developed” plans in place to achieve most of the £10.6m savings needed in 2014/15.

The constabulary has also continued to reduce crime and improve victim satisfaction, despite making considerable savings and reduction in police officer and staff numbers.

Deputy chief constable Craig Denholm said: “This is good news for tax payers in Hampshire.

“It serves as independent evidence that we are providing value for money while protecting neighbourhood policing. We can do this because we are already innovative in our partnerships and have among the highest proportion of officers and staff in frontline and visible roles.

“Given this context, it is appropriate to add some caution about the future. Whilst we are doing everything that we can to prepare ourselves, policing in Hampshire receives less government funding per head of population than in many other parts of the country and so further cuts would hurt us more than other forces.”

Mr Hayes said he would now “insist” neighbourhood policing remains at the core of policing but admits with so many savings already made, there are difficult decisions to come. He said: “I question the extent to which more savings can be made through a future spending review before the quality of service is significantly affected and public safety is put at risk.”

Mr Apter said: “While we have done well in managing the budget cuts up to now, focusing on backroom staff and specialist teams, there has been a knock-on effect and it is the frontline that will be hit hard. Rather than telling forces how well or bad they have been coping with the cuts they should be raising concerns with government about the effects of the cuts.”