Police chiefs in Warwickshire have unveiled plans to radically restructure the force as it faces up to a multi-million pound budget cut.
Senior officers have been forced to redraw the way the force is set up in order to find £13.4 million in financial savings by 2014.
But chief constable Keith Bristow warned members of the Warwickshire Police Authority the force could expect to be hit with further cuts when the full impact of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review on policing emerges next month.
And he speculated the expected extra cuts could push the total savings needed over the next four years towards the £20 million mark, a fifth of the force’s annual £100million budget.
While that would inevitably mean a smaller workforce than the current 1,800 staff, half of which are police officers, the force would not put a number on the job cuts until the full extent of the CSR was known.
However, he ruled out a possible merger with neighbouring forces.
“There is no prospect of mergers in the short to medium term,” Mr Bristow said. “For the time being that window has closed.”
Under the plans, the force would see a reduction in senior leaders from nine to seven, including the loss of an assistant chief constable, and its management structure would be slimmed from four to two.
Perhaps the most controversial change approved by Warwickshire Police Authority was the plan to swap working hours from 12 hour to eight-hour shifts.
While the move has been opposed by police staff, senior officers said it would increase the number of staff visible on the streets at any given time from 50 to 75 per cent.
The Authority was told that it would also cost less than the current shift pattern and see reductions in the force’s £2.5million overtime costs.
Response officers would no longer be expected to investigate crime, instead handing over inquiries to officers on enhanced force-wide CID teams, freeing up their time to carry on patrolling.
It was confirmed that the 33 safer neighbourhood teams would remain in place but released from operational response and investigation to focus on crime prevention.
When West Midlands Police went through it’s own restructure earlier this year, performance dipped, but Mr Bristow said he was hopeful officers would continue to deliver on big reductions in crime.
“The challenge we face is to maximise the protection we can deliver in the future,” he said.
“I am confident the changes agreed can deliver £13.4 million of savings while minimising the risk of impact on public protection.
“We will do all we can to minimise costs in every area of policing to retain the services of the most officers and police staff possible, but it is inevitable that the overall size of our workforce will reduce in the years ahead.”