A RECRUITMENT freeze over the last three years has seen the number of young police officers at Wiltshire Police drop significantly.

The number of officers under the age of 26 fell year-on-year from 43 in 2009/10 to just 15 at the end of 2013 – a 60 per cent decrease – amid a freeze on recruitment.

Figures released by Wiltshire Police this week show an aging force, with the age range 41 and 55 being the most populated, although there are only small numbers who stay beyond 56.

The news comes as the Home Secretary Teresa May announced a 17 per cent pay cut for new police constables, reducing the entry-level salary by £4,000 to just £19,000 a year, in line with the recommendations made by the Police Arbitration Tribunal.

The decision will cause fresh concern for rank-and-file officers, who have already been asked to consider a ballot for industrial rights, such as the right to strike, as well as facing the threat of controversial reforms to pensions.

But Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpher-son said the move would not put young people off joining the police service and pointed to a recent intake of new officers, eight of whom were under 26.

He said: “I think the figures are down to the fact that people get older.

“But in the latest intake this month to replace those who have retired and eight of those were under 26.

“Of course we cannot employ people on the basis of age but I would anticipate a similar proportion in any further intake, as I’m committed to maintaining officer numbers on the front line.

“I don’t think the pay decision will affect young people wanting to join the police because I don’t believe people join the services for the money. There are other motives.

“As for morale, I think any employer is going to be concerned when these things happen but I understand there is some discretion in that bottom line.”

Reacting to the Home Secretary’s decision, Steve Williams, of the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “While we remain disappointed with some of the PATs recommendations we acknowledge that the Home Secretary has honoured the process of the Police Negotiating Board.

“We accept the decision by the Home Secretary’s is binding on the Police Federation of England and Wales and we will continue to engage fully on behalf of our members.”