Branches with mounted police units could bear the brunt of budget cuts, following the government’s spending review, say regional forces and the Police Federation.

Police forces have been told to slash funding by 20% over four years, meaning cities across the UK may no longer have police horses patrolling the streets.

Vice chairman of the Police Federation Simon Reed said: “Forces have to make cutbacks of £1.2billion, which means the loss of around 20,000 officers.

“We must be realistic — maybe the bigger forces will be able to keep their mounted units, but small forces will have to look very closely at where they spend their money and police horses may have to go.”

Lancashire Police’s mounted division is under review as part of a £50m cost-cutting drive, bosses have revealed.

A spokesman for the force said: “The mounted division is among the areas examined for potential savings.”

North Wales Police Authority scrapped its mounted unit earlier this year in a bid to save £870,000 over three years.

And the Metropolitan Police said all its departments would be affected by cuts — including the 120 police horses, stabled at four locations across London.

There is also speculation that the Met will drop its Activity Ride display team — where police horses entertain crowds at shows such as Olympia and Horse of the Year Show — following the retirement of chief equitation officer Alan Hiscox. But the force declined to comment.

Firm proposals for cuts should be released in the next few weeks.

“Horses are invaluable in incidents of public disorder,” added Mr Reed. “We rely on them to cope with situations that officers can’t handle alone.”

There are 18 mounted police units across England, Scotland and Wales.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (28 October ’10).