A SUBSTANTIAL bill for new police helmets has been branded as a poor use of dwindling budgets.

Thames Valley Police (TVP) splurged £30,000 on the new headgear, but critics say the limited funds need to be directed to the health and welfare of serving officers.

Craig O'Leary, the force's Federation chairman, slammed the decision after it emerged that police would see the traditional helmets reintroduced ahead of the Royal Wedding.

Savings of around £15m will have to be achieved by TVP over the next three years, with the overall budget being slashed by £99m in the last seven years.

Mr O'Leary said: “It is worth remembering that you have to have officers out on the street on patrol in order to wear these helmets.

"I think if you speak to most members of the public in Thames Valley, you would find it is very rare that they see bobbies out on the beat, on foot, unless they are in the town centre and doing that kind of patrol work.

"We have to ask, in the current climate, with money being so tight, is this the wisest use of Thames Valley budget."

A trial period will take place in Reading, which could see the headgear become standard issue for neighbourhood officers again.

Critics say the helmets would be a poor use of limited resources, while other officers have said it is nothing more than a costly PR exercise.

“I think if you speak to officers in the force then that does seem to be their perception of this announcement, because they will be issued just in time for the royal wedding," the Federation chairman added.

Anthony Stansfield, crime commissioner for TVP, said the helmets were an important part of the uniform and help to enhance the presence of officers out on patrol.

Fears that the cuts have already hit communities were expressed by the Federation, due to concerns of single patrols and enhanced Taser training to combat officer assaults.

A decision was taken in January to use the local precept element of council tax to help recoup some of the funds.