SUGGESTIONS it should be easier for police officers to be sacked have been branded "utterly ludicrous" by the police federation.

A report, by independent think tank Reform, said this week it was too difficult for police forces to make savings by getting rid of underperforming officers and replacing them with PCSOs or other volunteers.

The report said: "Forces' ability to manage savings in this way has been hampered by workforce restrictions which make it very difficult to fire underperforming officers.

"This means that in some cases a less effective and more expensive segment of the workforce has been retained while cheaper and more adaptable PCSOs have been cut back in large numbers. Relaxing these restrictions and allowing forces greater control over their workforce will enable them to better control their costs while maintaining a high standard of service delivery."

Mike Stubbs, chairman of North Yorkshire Police Federation, said: "This report clearly fails to recognise that police officers and PCSOs have entirely different roles. The comment about PCSOs being more adaptable is utterly ludicrous and shows a complete lack of understanding on the part of the authors.

Mr Stubbs pointed out it was police officers, not PCSOs, who were able to support communities in events such as the 2011 riots, or for national events like the London Olympics, where "police officers stepped in to fill the gaps caused by the failings of private contractors such as G4S".

He said: "We would never wish to denigrate our PCSO colleagues. Police officer numbers in North Yorkshire were cut from 1650 in 2007 to 1392 by 2012 which means that PCSOs can be the only link some of our communities now have with the police service - but they don’t have either the training or the powers to deal with the vast range of incidents that police officers do.

"Unsatisfactory performance procedures already exist to deal with underperforming officers, just as they do for underperforming PCSOs and other police staff. If restructuring the workforce in the way this report suggests would provide a better service to the public, the Chief Constable could simply choose not to replace retiring officers.

"Around 30 years ago there was significant police officer recruitment which means that a large number of police officers are retiring now or approaching retirement. The fact that North Yorkshire Police is actively recruiting to replace them demonstrates that the Chief Constable recognises that he needs to maintain the number of fully warranted police officers to properly police our communities."