POLICE chiefs in North Yorkshire say they may be forced to cut more than 500 jobs over the next four years and frontline officer numbers could be hit.

North Yorkshire Police’s budget rundown for 2011/12 has revealed it will have to save £8.9 million to balance its books in the face of sweeping cuts in Government funding, and future years are set to see its cost-cutting targets become even tougher.

A report on next year’s budget, which will go before a meeting of North Yorkshire Police Authority next week, also shows 49 applications for voluntary redundancy have been received within the force since it announced it will have to shed between 300 and 350 staff.

Reducing officer and staff costs has been described by the authority as “an unavoidable reality”, with the savings in this area expected to account for £7 million of the total cash the force will need to cut from its budget in 2011/12.

The remaining £1.9 million required to achieve its budget goal at the end of the next financial year is earmarked to come from “cost savings in supplies and services, premises and transport costs”, according to the report by the authority’s chief executive, Jeremy Holderness, and its chief finance officer, Joanna Carter.

The report continues: “While the change programme for 2011/12 aims to protect operational delivery, the reality is that, over the next four years, we expect to need to reduce our workforce by more than 500, comprising both officers and staff.”

The authority said next year’s budget and the necessary savings had been drawn up on the assumption that 282 full-time posts will be shed among its staff and ten officers will voluntarily retire. It has already agreed to implement a regulation which allows the force to demand the retirement of officers with 30 years service or more, which could affect 210 people over the four years.

A long-range forecast of how North Yorkshire Police’s budget black hole may grow has suggested it could need to save just over £2 million in 2012/13, £9.4 million the year after and £13.18 million in 2014/15, even if the force receives an extra 3.14 per cent through council tax precepts in each of those years.

But the report also said: “As yet, we do not have confirmation on the level of Government funding for these years, and it is hoped this represents a worse position than will ultimately materialise.”