A Cabinet minister has hit out at claims by the Police Federation that looming spending cuts to the service would represent a "Christmas for criminals".
Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said the Federation - which represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales - was being "irresponsible" when it did not even know yet how deep the cuts would be.
The Federation warned last month that forces would be "devastated", losing up to 40,000 policing jobs, if they were required to find cuts in the order of 25%.
In an interview with ITV1's Tonight programme - to be screened tonight - Mr Alexander, a Liberal Democrat, strongly criticised their intervention.
"Senior people in the police service should know better than to make irresponsible statements like that on the basis of information that hasn't been settled yet, in terms of how much money they are going to get," he said.
"I think people in general should take with a very big pinch of salt, statements made by lobby groups who are trying to protect their budgets in advance of the spending review."
It is not the first time that ministers in the coalition Government have clashed with the police over the cuts, due to be announced in the comprehensive spending review on October 20.
In July Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude accused senior officers of "shroud-waving" after Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism chief, Assistant Commissioner John Yates, warned that cuts to the counter-terrorism budget could endanger the public.
:: Tonight: The Cuts Are Coming is on ITV1 at 7.30pm.