Police chiefs have delivered a stark warning to ministers that further spending cuts threaten to "fundamentally change" the nature of policing in Britain.
The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) has written to Home Secretary Theresa May urging the Government to be "realistic" about the level of additional cuts forces can absorb, according to a confidential report leaked to The Mail on Sunday.
The paper said that the 16-page document was drawn up at a specially convened meeting of top officers earlier this month to discuss the impact of Chancellor George Osborne's forthcoming spending review.
It is said to warn that cutting forces' central grants by more than a quarter by 2020 would mean the traditional bobby on the beat would "disappear completely" in some areas.
According to the Mail on Sunday, the report says that without "eyes and ears" in communities, police would be unable to gather intelligence on criminals and terrorists, with "big implications for national security".
Crime levels would "rise more significantly" as prevention work is cut, far fewer officers could be mobilised to tackle national crises such as riots, while some forces could even go bust.
The head of the NPCC, Sara Thornton, wrote: "Chief constables are extremely concerned about the impact of the forthcoming spending review.
"They are extremely concerned that the scale of cuts, coupled with changes to the way grant is distributed, will fundamentally change policing in this country.
"We hope that the spending review will be realistic about the level of further cuts that the police can absorb without it impacting negatively on the safety and security that our citizens enjoy."