THE number of officers in Hampshire police has dropped over the last year, new figures from the Home Office show.

The reduction in officers across England and Wales to the lowest level since 1996 has led the Police Federation to warn that policing is “on the critical list”.

In March, there were the equivalent of 2,835 full-time officers in Hampshire – a drop of 61 on March 2017. It means that there are now just 143 officers for every 100,000 people in Hampshire – the fourth-lowest in England and Wales. The figures also show that less time was being spent on frontline policing – 2,499 officers were available for frontline duties, down 135 from 2017.

Ché Donald, of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “These new figures are proof, as if we even needed it, that policing in the UK is on the critical list. Thanks to government funding cuts, we now have the lowest number of police officers since 1996. The figures show we have lost more than 21,300 officers since 2010 – that’s a drop of 15 per cent and the numbers keep going down every year.”

The latest figures show an 11 per cent rise in recorded crime across England and Wales, and a 19 per cent increase in violent crimes. In Hampshire, recorded crime was up by 6 per cent. Violent crime saw a 6 per cent increase.

Mr Donald continued: “We have a Government who recently launched their Serious Violence Strategy – yet failed to make one single mention of the falling numbers of officers, which they were rightly criticised for. You would think that every time we have the same conversations about rising crime, particularly violent crime, it would be a wake-up call for the Government. But instead it just feels like we are sleepwalking into a nightmare.”

The total police staff in Hampshire, including police community support officers and administrative staff, increased by 2 per cent over the last year.

Minister for policing and the fire service, Nick Hurd, said: “The number of people joining police forces is at a 10-year high and demonstrates that policing is still a desirable and sought-after career.

“Decisions regarding the number of officers and how they are deployed are a matter for police and crime commissioners and chief constables.

“However, I’ve spoken to every force about the changing demand they face and we are helping with a £460m increase in overall funding 2018-19, including increased funding to tackle counter-terrorism.”