A SENIOR police chief has used a visit to the North-East to warn of a “tipping point” if cuts to the service continue.

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said that point had not yet been reached and it was too early to say how close police forces were to it, but at the moment they are “hanging on” and certain types of crime were starting to increase.

Speaking at Durham University Business School, the former chief constable of Northern Ireland said: “There is a tipping point.

“I don’t know what it is. Some crimes are starting to increase at the moment.

“We’ve got to look to see how we can become more efficient. But there’s a limit to what collaboration can do for us.

“Chief constables are delivering and public confidence is static. At the moment we’re holding on.

“But don’t underestimate the effort and complexity of trying to handle a devolved policing model against these sorts of cuts.”

The police are facing spending cuts of about 20 per cent by 2016 and recent figures from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said the region’s four forces, Durham, Cleveland, North Yorkshire and Northumbria, would have 1,290 fewer officers in 2015 than they had in 2011.

Sir Hugh was in the North-East to address a seminar on the future of UK policing organised by Acpo and Durham University.

His 30-strong audience was mostly academics, although it also included Durham Police’s deputy chief constable Michael Banks and assistant chief constable Dave Orford.

Speaking to The Northern Echo afterwards, he voiced concerns over falling police numbers and the risk of an ageing and unrepresentative service as forces cut spending by freezing recruitment.

He also raised the prospect of merging police forces – an idea last floated prior to 2007 – while saying there should be a proper, independent review of the matter and local policing must be retained.

Drawing on his experience in Northern Ireland, the 55-year-old also called for a review of how complaints against the police were handled, saying there was no public confidence in the current self-regulatory set-up.

He said corruption was not endemic within the police but there were some very bad people and everyone was determined to root them out.