Four hundred police officers could be cut from Thames Valley Police, according to crime chief Anthony Stansfeld.
Mr Stansfeld, the Conservative police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley, is reported to have blamed the government’s “extraordinary” budget cuts for the situation.
Contrary to national newspaper reports, the Conservative stressed that no definite decision had been made.
But Mr Stansfeld has been widely quoted as saying that budget cuts could mean that one in every 10 police officers in the Thames Valley has to go.
Mr Stansfeld said: “Each £1 million we have to lose equates to around 20 police officers.
“That means we are on course to lose 400 police officers out of the 4,000 currently in the force.
“There will be across-the-board cuts on most, if not all, types of policing.”
Mr Stansfeld said the prospect of losing so many officers meant it might not be possible to ‘keep a lid on’ crime in larger towns in his area, including Slough and Reading.
“It’s extraordinary that the Home Office thinks we can just keep on cutting. I think it has gone too far.”
He added: “In towns such as Reading and Slough, which have some highly transient populations, we’ve made great progress in cutting crime.
“We’ve also invested to combat crimes such as child sexual exploitation. And I’m concerned that such investments will be endangered by the cuts.
“We will see the very considerable decreases in crime which we have been able to make, begin to reverse.”
But chief constable Sara Thornton wants to reassure people that cuts can be made to maintain numbers.
She said: “Over many years I have worked with my senior colleagues to minimise the impact of budget cuts on police officer numbers and therefore on the safety and security of the people of Thames Valley.
“The recent HMIC report, Policing in Austerity, showed that the number of police officers has reduced by two per cent in this Force compared to the national average of 11 per cent.
“While I agree that the prospects for the next spending review are bleak, may I reassure the public that we are not poised to lose 400 officers.
“We need to find another £20 million of cuts by 2018 but I and the Police and Crime Commissioner will be doing everything we can to find those cuts elsewhere and maintain police officer numbers as much as possible.”