Norfolk’s second most senior police officer warned today the force would struggle to maintain its level of service if further budget cuts were made.

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The force needs to save £24.5 million by 2015, and made cuts of £22.6m between April 2009 and 2012.

Deputy chief constable Simon Bailey said: “We remain committed to providing the best service we can, however as officer numbers reduce and budgets become tighter this will become an increasingly difficult position to maintain as we face continuingly difficult financial challenges in the coming years.”

Figures released in Parliament showed there were 115 fewer police officers serving in the county in March 2012 than in 2010, and 21 fewer Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).

Norfolk police federation chairman Paul Ridgway said although the number of frontline officers had been maintained, the cuts had hit support posts, increasing pressure on the frontline.

He said: “It is the officers on the frontline who are suffering, not the public, but I question how long that can continue if they continue to make cuts.

“With the cuts to public services we become the last line of defence.”

Much of the money has been saved by working with Suffolk police through sharing back office work, and merging units such as major investigations, economic crime, special branch and dog units.

Back office functions cut include the crime management unit, which saved £1m, but means frontline officers have to input all the details of a crime into the force’s computer system, rather than the unit doing it.

But despite the cuts, crime fell by 2pc in the county last year.

A spokeswoman for Norfolk Constabulary said: “The number of officers and PCSOs working in our neighbourhood teams has been maintained.

“Crime continues on a downwards trend despite the backdrop of police budget and resource cuts.

“This is testament to the hard work and innovation shown by police, our partners and our local communities working together.”

Norfolk Police Authority Chairman, Stephen Bett said the force was “performing out of its socks”, but added: “I regret seeing the impact of the cuts on overall numbers of police and essential police staff numbers.

“This is especially so after the authority has spent the last 17 years trying to ensure that the public had the service they demand.”

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