Police to patrol on their own and ban on top-of-the-range cars as part of drive to save £500m a year

Ministers faced an angry backlash today as police forces were ordered to make swingeing cuts to save £500million a year.

In a raft of cost-cutting measures, officers will have to patrol the beat on their own, while spending on helicopters, top-of-the-range patrol cars, computers and forensics is to be drastically slashed, according to a policing white paper.

It said forces will have to adopt the same national uniform and a standard patrol car to save millions of pounds a year.

The Home Office wants to save money amid complaints some forces have been lavishing too much money on 'fancy' vehicles.

The Home Office wants to save money amid complaints some forces have been lavishing too much money on 'fancy' vehicles

The Government plans to cut overtime by £70million a year and save £75million a year in 'back-office support services' within four years, which is likely to mean the loss of civilian support jobs.

With pressure on police chiefs to be 'frugal', the Home Office also wants to reduce the police helicopter fleet by a fifth from 33 to 26 aircraft, cut spending on computers and IT services and make forces to pool forensic work.

But critics warned the drastic cuts would leave the police service 'in carnage'.

Ministers faced anger from policing experts who said the public would pay the price of such radical cuts.

Alan Johnson

Home Secretary Alan Johnson today defended the cuts

The report, which was supposed to provide Labour's vision on the future of policing, also came under fire for its 'timid and unimaginative' proposals.

One of the major reforms is to patrols, with officers being told to walk the streets alone, rather than in pairs.

The idea is to make them more approachable to the public, but critics have pointed out that it is a cheap way to effectively double the number of patrols.

There are also concerns that single patrols could put officers at risk.

In future, forces will be forced to use a standard 'beat' car, saving £14million a year lavished on 'fancy' vehicles.

The Government also wants to introduce a national uniform for officers and community support officers.

It would end local forces having distinctive uniforms.

Equipment like body armour will have to be bought centrally rather than individually by each of the 43 police forces, while police authorities will have to produce an annual value for money statement, showing how they are slashing budgets.

Ministers hope the measures will save £545million a year by 2014.

But the proposals have infuriated police chiefs.

Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever said today: 'The public cannot pay the price of political decision-making.

'Spending should be curtailed where it makes sense but not to the detriment of the public who rely upon and expect a 24/7 emergency police service.

'We do not do overtime out of choice, we have a duty to uphold the law.

'We cannot just walk away from criminals or turn our backs on crimes being committed.

'The nature of the beast is that officers incur overtime. To drastically cut back is likely to lead to a police service in carnage that cannot deliver.

'Next the Government will try to schedule where and when crime happens.'

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said overtime was vital.

He said: 'Overtime reflects the realities of modern policing, including its unpredictability.

'Chief officers and police authorities look at overtime budgets very carefully and it should always be carefully monitored for cost-effectiveness.

'The police service is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week organisation and has to be able to respond flexibly to any event or crime at any time.'

Home Secretary today Alan Johnson defended the efficiency drive.

As he delivered the findings, the Home Secretary stumbled under pressure, confusing ACPO with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, before the blunder was picked up by Policing Minister David Hanson MP.

Mr Johnson said: 'Cuts don't come in to this. Record levels of funding for this year and next year are guaranteed.

'Our absolute priority is to maintain frontline policing numbers.

'In straightened economic times you should be looking at how you can make savings, not cuts and how you can dedicate more resources to the front line.'

But the centre-left think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research accused the Government of ducking radical reforms in favour of 'timid and unimaginative' schemes.

Senior research fellow Rick Muir said: 'Proposals for such reform are largely absent in this white paper which suggests that yet again Government ministers have ducked the difficult decisions because they are afraid of a public confrontation with the police service.'

Whilst Chief Superintendent Ian Johnston, President of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, said: 'Many of these ideas are not new and have, indeed, been explored over recent years.'

He added: 'The service needs to know just what Home Office officials consider to be "back-office" and at what stage police officer numbers and significant numbers of police staff jobs will be threatened in order to achieve such swingeing cuts.’

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now