A highly-critical report warning the policing system in England and Wales is underfunded with little understanding of local needs being displayed by Government has sparked an angry reaction in Merseyside.

Deputy police commissioner councillor Emily Spurrell said ministers should "hang their heads in shame" at cuts imposed on the service.

Cllr Spurrell was responding to an independent report by the National Audit Office examining police finances.

The probe also criticises the way the Home Office distributes funding as "ineffective" highlighting the disparity in cuts to funding in different areas.

Merseyside Police is the third worst hit force having had its total funding reduced by 23% since 2010 - more than double the cuts imposed on other forces such as Sussex which has only seen an 11% decrease.

Cllr Spurrell said: “This report is yet further proof of the perilous financial position the police service is now in, adding to the overwhelming evidence that the government needs to take action, and quickly.

"Ministers should hang their heads in shame that in just eight years central government funding for our police service has fallen across England and Wales by nearly a third."

She continued: “The Government’s primary responsibility is to keep its citizens safe. With crime now rising nationally and the threats facing our communities becoming ever more complex, it is clear they are now failing in this fundamental duty.

“What should never be forgotten is that beyond those figures are real men and women – officers, PCSOs and staff – who are trying to do their very best to keep our communities safe, yet year on year are being expected to do more with less people and less resources.

"This is taking a huge toll."

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The financial sustainability of police forces and their ability to deliver effective services is reliant on the Home Office understanding national and local demands and allocating funds fairly.

"There are signs that forces are already experiencing financial strain and struggling to deliver effective services to the public.

"If the Home Office does not understand what is going on it will not be able to direct resources to where they are needed, with the risk that the situation could get worse."