HAMPSHIRE Constabulary has cut the equivalent of more than 500 front-line police roles since 2012 – shock new figures have revealed.

It comes just days after the force announced plans to axe another 100 officers and 50 support staff as part of new cost-cutting measures.

Last night, critics warned that the number of actual roles axed since 2010 is even higher.

And they say the county’s police force is now beyond its “breaking point”.

But police chiefs have defended the cuts, which they say are a result of underfunding by government – to the tune of more than £47 million.

Criticising the cuts, John Apter, chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: “Including the proposed cuts this year , the force has cut 997 officers since 2010.

“We reached the breaking point some time ago and I speak to colleagues every day and they are struggling.

“Stress and anxiety is an epidemic, not just in Hampshire but in police forces across the country.

“There’s so much pressure on officers, who have more work with less people to do it.

“Policing in the county can’t continue with these numbers, it’s just not sustainable.”

The figures, from the BBC’s data unit, show there were 539 fewer full-time equivalent front-line police roles in Hampshire in 2017 than there were in 2012.

It represents a 15 per cent drop from the 3434 (FTE) police and police community support officers (PCSO) in 2012.

A quarter of those axed roles, around 132, were neighbourhood officers.

Figures for 2017 show there were 2895 (FTE) front-line police roles across the force – equivalent to 37 per 100,000 Hampshire residents.

The figure is in line with police forces in neighbouring Thames Valley and Dorset.

But it is almost half that of Wiltshire, which has 82 police officers per 100,000 residents.

However, Hampshire is just one of four forces in the county to increase the number of PCSO roles over the same five year period.

According to the figures, there were 50 (FTE) more PCSO roles in 2017 than in 2012.

Nationally, the figures showed 11,000 police officer jobs had been axed in England and Wales over the same five year period.

Some 1,500 were neighbourhood policing posts.

Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, said he was “not surprised” by the figures.

He said: “There has been a systematic and remorseless cut every year in the police budget and police numbers.

“Since 2010, the budget has gone down by £2.7 billion in real terms.

“It’s a grim picture and it’s a picture against the background of rising crime.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office defended the cuts and said that traditional crime had fallen by 40 per cent since 2010.

The spokesperson added that the government had announced a comprehensive settlement which would boost police funding by £450 million.

The figures come just days after Hampshire Constabulary announced plans to axe 100 officers and 50 support staff in a bid to save £7 million.

They include cutting the number of traffic officers by 20 and trimming the size of the dog unit.

At the same time, crime continues to spike across Hampshire.

According to the most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), there was a 17 per cent rise in reported crimes across Hampshire.

The figures revealed there had 23,000 crimes more crimes reported across Hampshire for the year ending June 2017, than at the same point in June 2016.

Reports of sexual crimes shot up by almost 25 per cent, while violent crimes also spiked.

A recent city council crime review showed significant increases in burglary, robbery and knife crime, while drug related violence doubled in 2016/17.

The report also revealed that a quarter of Southampton residents who took part in a survey said they didn’t feel safe on the city’s streets during the day.

Last week, members of the county’s police and crime panel dealt Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Michael Lane a blow by refusing to fully back his budget proposals.

Plans for increasing the police’s proportion of council tax by £12 a year for Band D properties are set to go ahead.

But panel members said that money raised through the increase should go towards supporting policing and not to the commissioner’s office.

Mr Lane, who proposed an extra £440,000 for his office, promised to reflect on the recommendations.

What do the police chiefs say?

Michael Lane, Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner:

“My highest priority is to keep the people that I serve safer. I am committed to neighbourhood policing – and officers, PCSOs and staff all play a fundamental part in this.

“The council tax increase of £12 per band D household gives us the breathing space to review how best the Constabulary can continue to serve its communities at a local level, without it there would have been further cuts.

“It is important to note that data from HMICFRS shows that 81% of Hampshire Constabulary’s workforce is frontline compared to the national average of 78%.

“Decisions on individual reductions are based upon the professional judgement of the Chief Constable.”

Scott Chilton, Hampshire Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable:

“We have always been clear on our commitment to neighbourhood policing, which includes the areas of safeguarding and offender management.

“Since we moved to our current policing model in 2015, our investment in neighbourhood policing has remained static with 990 people committed to making our communities safer.

“We agree with HMICFRS that the force is £47.7m short of where it should be, and the Chief Constable and Commissioner are campaigning for fairer national funding.

“In the meantime, we make best use of what we have to deliver the best service we can to our communities with the budget we have available.”