By politics.co.uk staff
Police chiefs will struggle to prioritise frontline services if the Home Office does not define what they are, MPs have claimed.
A report from the Commons' home affairs committee says ministers should do more to make clear which roles constitute 'frontline' and which are 'middle office' and 'back office' police roles.
"Police forces are being asked to prioritise the front line," the report noted. "It is reasonable to expect the Home Office to say what it means by this term."
Policing and criminal justice minister Nick Herbert said he agreed that a "better definition of frontline policing would be helpful". HM Inspectorate of Constabulary is now in discussions with the police service over the issue.
Under current spending plans chief constables are expected to be forced to make significant reductions in police officers, police community support officers and police staff over the next four years.
"There is no doubt that the government is requiring significant savings from the police and whilst the link between police officer numbers and levels of crime is complex, in the police service the largest proportion of budgets by far is spent on the workforce," committee chair Keith Vaz said.
"In order to make these savings, police forces will have to rethink and reduce the range of services that they provide and the way in which they provide those services."
Mr Herbert said the government was moving to a new system of allocating resources between police forces according to need.
He pointed out the report noted that "there may be scope for reducing headcount in the police".