The number of police officers under 26 years old has gone down by nearly 50 per cent, according to an analysis of official figures.

The reason is that spending cuts have seen a freeze in taking on new recruits, according to a Freedom of Information request by the BBC.

The request found that while in 2009/10 there were 9,088 officers aged 25 and under, in 2011/12 the figure was just 4,758, a drop of 48 per cent. In some parts of the UK, including North Wales and Staffordshire, there were 70 per cent fewer young officers.

Steve Williams, chairman of the Police Federation, was quoted as saying: “It is important the police service reflect the public they serve. We do need to get young officers; they can engage with the young community.”

The North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick said: “The current economic downturn has undoubtedly affected the recruitment of new police officers. However, during my campaign to be elected commissioner, I identified increasing the number of officers on the streets as one of my five priorities. I believe this will reduce crime and allay public concern for safety on the streets.”

He added: “If the budget is confirmed then we shall see an increase in the recruiting of young officers and the figures will rise substantially.”