WILTSHIRE Police is spending £5m less on frontline officers than its peers against a backdrop of £14.3m less central and local government funding, according to a new report.

Inspectors assessing value for money in the police force in Wiltshire have highlighted the shortfall in funding for visible police officers when compared to similar sized forces including Devon and Cornwall, Cheshire and Norfolk.

Wiltshire Police is already facing 300 job cuts and Chief Constable Mike Veale has warned continued protection of the frontline will prove 'impossible' if the cuts go ahead.

Wiltshire has fewer officers per 1,000 residents than anywhere in the country.

Since 2007, officer numbers in the county have already fallen from 1,210 to 1,028, as the force has pledged to protect a bare minimum of 1,000 frontline staff.

Those losses include half of the Roads Policing Unit and local proactive crime teams, who focus on prolific offenders, over the last five years.

Currently £5m is spent on the non-visible frontline and support services, including business support. £2.5m more is invested in non-visible police in Wiltshire than its peer group, in addition to £1.3m in frontline support, and £1.2m in business support.

Simultaneously, Wiltshire is hugely underfunded in comparison to neighbouring forces, with £6.4m less on average from central government, and £7.9m less from local funding.

In line with reduced funding, costs in Wiltshire is consistently among the bottom 10 per cent of any force in the country, including the spend on neighbourhood policing, general workforce and the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Significant efforts have been made to reduce costs as savings of £15m have been sought since 2011, including closure of police points, reduction in the hours of counter services, and a recent hike in the police element of the council tax precept.

The force has said it will digest the report and declare its findings this week.

Clive Barker, Chief Finance Officer for Wiltshire Police, said: “Due to the fact it is a lengthy report, we will now take the time to read it in detail such that we can fully understand its content, note any areas of concern and also any areas of particular interest.

“However, it is noted that the report shows Wiltshire's cost per head of population being significantly lower than the average force. A full statement will be released by the Commissioner at a later date.”

Later this week, Chancellor George Osbourne will announce what are expected to be significant further budget cuts of up to 25 per cent from each force, which have been called ‘dangerous’ by police chiefs.

Chief Constable Mike Veale has warned that even though Wiltshire is a relatively safe county, residents should not expect the same service following the next round of budget cuts.

Compared to its peers, Wiltshire experiences significantly less demand, with 11,000 less 999 calls, 11,100 less emergency incidents and 13,000 less priority incidents.

Mike White, chairman of the Wiltshire Police Federation, has also warned the force could face axing an additional 300 jobs following Wednesday’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

“At the moment our reactive capability and neighbourhood teams have been protected from these cuts, but with the possibility of having to cut another 300 members of staff, to meet £10m in savings, continued protection of the frontline will prove impossible,” he said.

“Unfortunately it will prove even more challenging to reduce the workload. It simply is not possible to keep expecting officers to deal with ever-increasing workloads.”