Police cuts are “here to stay” according to Chief Inspector of the Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor.
The head of the police watchdog said there is room for further cuts but acknowledged that the police would have to focus more on serious crime.
Sir Tom said the police need to “work smarter” as inevitably the service will be smaller as he called for more action to tackle cyber crime.
His comments contrasted with those of Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who last month warned of a threat to public safety without radical reform of the police in the face of budget cuts.
Association of Chief Police Officers president Sir Hugh Orde also claimed last month that police forces were struggling to deal with reductions in funding.
But Sir Tom said further cuts are inevitable.
He told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend: “Austerity is here to stay.
“The police have already made and done it well in the main, cuts of 20% in the last four years, and they are facing cuts of a further 5% next year.
“There will inevitably be a time where they can’t take any more but let us remember that measured crime has fallen dramatically but so have the demands made on the police.
“We are heading for a smaller police service.”
Asked if there was room for further cuts, Sir Tom said: “In some respects there are further efficiencies to be obtained, that is undoubtedly the case.
“They need to work smarter because they will be working smaller.”