A DEPARTING senior police officer has predicted a slowdown in the growth of police numbers in Oxfordshire.

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Gargan is leaving his £94,851-a-year post with Thames Valley Police on January 1 to become deputy chief executive of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).

The force has seen officer numbers double in the last decade, despite making £21m of savings since 2006.

However, it needs to make another £19m of cuts over the next three years and, on Friday, Thames Valley Police Authority will finalise efficiency savings which could see support staff job cuts.

Mr Gargan predicted the growth in the number of police officers on the beat would slow because of financial pressures.

He said: “The police service has been able to grow over the last 10 years, which is not going to be sustainable in the future.

“Thames Valley Police and the police authority have worked very hard together to drive out inefficiencies and put extra resources in, which has meant the force has been able to grow for a period of years.

“My personal view as departing chief officer is that it will be a real struggle and there will not be much growth in the next few years.”

There are currently 4,250 police officers, 520 Police Community Support Officers (Pcsos) and about 3,000 civilian support staff employed by Thames Valley Police.

Ten years ago there were 2,683 police officers, 1,142 civilian staff and no Pcsos.

Last month, Chief Constable Sara Thornton and Thames Valley Police Authority chairman Khan Juna promised the number of police officers and Pcsos on the beat would not be compromised by budget cuts.

But the same guarantees could not be made for thousands of support and civilian staff across the force.

Mr Gargan said: “I agree that the main fall-out may be the backroom support staff.

“The best prepared police forces will be able to keep officer numbers on the streets and I believe Thames Valley Police is one of the best prepared forces.

“Today what we have at Thames Valley compared to when I arrived in 2006 is very different.

“The police authority and management of the force have 530 Pcsos on the street that were not there five years ago and police officer numbers have increased.”

Thames Valley Police is currently advertising Mr Gargan’s vacancy and the closing date for applications is December 4.

Thames Valley Police Authority will meet at police headquarters in Oxford Road, Kidlington, on Friday from 9.30am.