ESSEX Police is disbanding its mounted unit in a bid to save £600,000 a year.

The force is attempting to make savings of £42 million by 2014 and has already axed 807 posts across the county since April last year – including 324 police officers, 100 PCSOs and 383 staff.

The move comes less than five years after the mounted section was reformed, having been disbanded in 1999 due to budget cuts.

The unit comprises eight horses and nine riders, who are based in stables near Chelmsford and are deployed to help with crowd control, public order, open country searches and neighbourhood policing.

Assistant Chief Constable Sue Harrison said officers based with the unit would take up new roles elsewhere in the force

She said: "We know that the public, police officers and staff hold the mounted section in great affection and the unit has provided great service over the years.

"However the financial pressures we face need to be met head on and inevitably difficult decisions have to be made.

"If we were not to have taken this decision, then Essex Police would have had to lose an even greater number of officer posts from across the force.

"Securing a good home for the horses will continue to be paramount and we will explore all avenues to achieve this including transferring them to other forces.

"On behalf of all at Essex Police, I would like to express our gratitude for the fine work undertaken by the officers, staff and horses of our Mounted Section.”

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