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Cheshire Police cuts: officers reduced by 62

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Image caption The authority hopes to avoid impacting on front-line police services

Sixty-two police officers will be lost in Cheshire next year - but many more will follow in a series of "depressing cuts", a senior figure has warned.

Cheshire Police Authority (CPA) said it had to make savings of £34.5m by March 2015 because of funding cuts.

Minimising the front-line impact of the 2011-12 budget was "very challenging" because of an £11m drop from last year, said chairwoman Margaret Ollerenshaw.

As many as 213 officers and 446 police staff could be cut by March 2015.

The Police Federation, the organisation which represents the interests of police officers, said the reduction represented 10% of the Cheshire workforce.

On Tuesday, members of the authority agreed the budget, described by Mrs Ollerenshaw as "the most difficult the authority has had to develop".

She said: "It is quite depressing to see the level of cuts we are having to make, following the considerable work of the authority over the last 16 years, to develop the constabulary so that it has the capability and capacity to make Cheshire safer and protect the public from harm."

A partial freeze on recruitment is in place and the force's new intake will be restricted to 24 officers, which means 86 officers are being expected to retire or leave in the coming year.

A further 27 police staff will also be made redundant in 2011-12, a number which could eventually rise to 446 in the next four years.

Thirty-five headquarters-based officers have already been deployed to neighbourhoods in a bid to minimise the impact on the front line, the authority said.

"In the 17 years that I have been involved with the police authority, this has been the most challenging decision we have had to take," Mrs Ollerenshaw added.

Simon Roberts, of the Cheshire branch of the Police Federation, told the BBC he was "very, very disappointed" with the reduction in officers.

"The Coalition government have imposed on our force, and every other force, a 20% reduction in our funding, so that has to manifest itself somehow," said Mr Roberts.

"In Cheshire that is over 200 officers over four years, which is 10% of our workforce, there is no doubt that will have an impact on how we police Cheshire."

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