Since Labour came to power the strength of the police force has fallen by more than 1,200, despite a manifesto pledge to put 'more officers back on the beat'. The latest figures, it is said, will embarrass the government, which earlier this month said it had 'stabilised the position'.
The shortage will make the government's new policy of 'zero tolerance' almost impossible to enforce, according to John Newing, chief constable of Derbyshire and president of the Association of Chief Police Officers. He said: 'Uniformed bobbies on patrol are very thin on the ground and sometimes we are overstretched and the public do not get the service they require'.
Of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, 29 saw a fall in strength last year. Worst affected was West Yorkshire, which lost 172 officers. Greater manchester lost 139 and Sussex lost 108.