SERIOUS concerns have been raised after new figures revealed a significant reduction in the number of police officers in Inverclyde.

The statistics released by Police Scotland show that the Renfrewshire and Inverclyde division has lost no fewer than 27 full-time officers since 2013.

The headcount has gone from 678 officers in December 2013 to 651 in June this year.

Chief Superintendent Alan Murray, Divisional Commander, has moved to reassure members of the public that he has 'sufficient' resources to deliver a 'first class' service.

But Mary Fee, the Labour MSP for West Scotland branded cuts to local policing as 'disgraceful'.

She said: “It is disgraceful that Renfrewshire and Inverclyde are losing full-time police officers because of centralisation and budget cuts.

"Communities across west Scotland are some of the most deprived and need protection.

"This cannot be done on the cheap.

“The justice secretary must explain to parliament and the public why these areas have lost crucial officers and how the Scottish Government will protect police officer numbers in response to warnings that 700 officers could be cut nationally because of budget demands.

“By failing to protect police numbers and Police Scotland’s budget, it is clear that the SNP are letting down the safety of communities and the livelihoods of committed police staff.”

Independent Greenock councillor Tommy McVey, who is the chairman of the Local Police and Fire Scrutiny Committee, also expressed concerns.

He said: "Unfortunately Police Scotland, like many other public organisations, have had their budget cut in recent years.

"These figures demonstrate the harsh reality of that and there is no doubt the cuts will have an impact on our communities.

"Fortunately our local area commander, Chief Inspector Debbie Reilly, is certainly not backwards at coming forwards when it comes to getting police resources into Inverclyde.

"She has my full support in that.

"Nevertheless continual reductions in budgets, whether that be in Police Scotland, the council or any other public organisation, will ultimately lead to a reduction in service."

But Chief Superintendent Murray says the public can be confident about the service and its capability.

He said: “With the assistance and support we get from central Police Scotland resources I am confident that I have sufficient resources available to me to continue to deliver first class policing services to people living and working in Renfrewshire and Inverclyde."

A spokesperson for justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: "Police officer numbers in Scotland remain significantly above the level in 2007, in contrast to officer levels dropping by around 19,000 in England and Wales since 2007, and decisions on staffing are operational matters for the Chief Constable of Police Scotland.

“Local police divisions have a core local staff dedicated to community and response policing, which can draw on additional specialist expertise and resources when needed.”