UNCERTAINTY looms over policing numbers in Comet country as the axe hangs over the nation’s police force.

A public spending review, set to take place in October, will affect all aspects of the public sector but central government is aiming to reduce the budget of the police force by 25 per cent.

The annual policing budget runs to about �14bn, with most of the costs in staffing. Employees at Hertfordshire Constabulary, including officers and support staff, accounted for around 75 per cent of last year’s budget.

Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire are likely to be hit badly. Neighbouring forces such as Essex Police are expecting to deal with potential budget cuts of �45m.

A spokesman for Hertfordshire Police Authority said: “We are going to have to wait to see what happens and there’s an enormous amount of speculation. “There will inevitably be a reduction in police numbers, we can be clear and unequivocal about that. But we can do as much as possible to protect the most important services like neighbourhood policing and other frontline services.

“At the moment it would be foolish to speculate on the numbers.

“We have stopped recruiting in nearly all areas, we know it’s going to be a reduction.”

Hertfordshire Police Authority was recently audited and was described as “one of the best forces in the country” in the report and was praised for delivering good value for money.

Brian Mihailovic, joint secretary of Hertfordshire Police Federation, said: “We just don’t know what to expect, whether it will be officers or police staff, there are too many variables.

“There’s no point in scaremongering unless we know what’s going to happen.

“This is the general point of view that we share with the police authority but local MPs don’t seem to be supportive. Twenty-five per cent cuts imposed across the whole service is naive because we’re in a different position to other forces.

“We came up the top of the audit because Hertfordshire makes the best use of every pound.

“We raised this with local MPs but the silence seems to be deafening.”

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, said: “Under Labour, the average policeman spent more time on paperwork than on patrol.

“To solve this problem we have already scrapped all the targets imposed on the police by Labour and made it clear to them that their job is simply to cut crime.

“I am confident that we can keep the people of Stevenage safe by driving out wasteful spending, reducing bureaucracy and increasing efficiency, leaving the frontline of policing strong and secure.”

The Comet attempted to speak to other MPs and policing authorities for Mid Beds but at the time of publication none were available.