ONE of Britain's most senior police chiefs has warned that Government spending cuts will leave officers unable to cope with a repeat of the riots that swept the country a year ago.
Sir Norman Bettison, chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, said the Home Office's demand that forces axe 20% from their budgets by 2015 will put public safety "in jeopardy".
He said the cuts would make policing widespread disorder, similar to the unrest in London, Birmingham, Merseyside and other cities in early August, virtually impossible.
His force alone is slashing £67 million from its budget, with 1,800 staff, half of whom are officers, set to go by 2015 and more cuts are feared during the next comprehensive spending review (CSR) period.
"There is bound to be a tipping point somewhere and the fact we haven't reached it yet doesn't mean there is more fat to cut," Sir Norman said.
"The thing I worry about is it's exactly a year to the day since London was going up in flames and we had people at various parts in Leeds and Huddersfield who were wanting to take the police on.
"But we used our resources quickly and efficiently and sent them packing.
"Public disorder is always an ever-present risk. I would hate to leave this country and this county in particular without the cover that it needs to meet those eventualities.
"At the moment, we have that cover available and we proved it last year, but further cuts put it in jeopardy."
Sir Norman's fears were echoed by the chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton.
"I have got major concerns if there are further cuts imposed on us in the next comprehensive spending review period," he said.
"We are doing our best to minimise the impact on frontline services. That will become impossible if there are further cuts in the next CSR. At the moment we are still keeping a lid on things and they are going in the right direction. That is a tribute to everyone in this force."
Both forces have ruled out privatising frontline services and following the example of Lincolnshire Police, which has signed a controversial £20 million contract with security firm G4S.
A Home Office spokesman said: "The Government is committed to ensuring the police have sufficient resources to protect communities from violent disorder.
"Spending some £14 billion a year, it is right for the police to make their contribution to reducing the record budget deficit."