CASH-STRAPPED Thames Valley Police paid for police officers’ partners to go to a glitzy awards dinner – as it plans to cut more than 500 jobs.

The force was criticised last night for paying for four £120 tickets to the Jane’s Police Review awards at the London Hilton in Park Lane, so that the partners of four officers nominated for prizes could attend.

It is believed to be the first time it has paid for any partners to attend an event and comes as Thames Valley Police looks to save £52.9m over four years and cut 535 jobs.

Ninety-six of those are expected to be officers.

Police Review magazine paid for the nominated officers’ tickets.

Last night, TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign manager Robert Oxley said: “It is nice to reward police officers for their hard work and even better that sponsorship was found to pay for them to attend the presentation.

“However, it was unnecessary to use taxpayers’ money to send partners and senior officers to the event, too – especially as it was a glitzy night out at one of London’s most expensive hotels.

“Thames Valley Police have to find big savings in the coming years, cutting back on things like this would be a good place to start.”

Graham Hall, 71, who hit the headlines two years ago when he was turned away from the force’s Kidlington HQ when he tried to report a burglarly because there was a poker night going on and it was not a police station, said: “I don’t think it is fair.

“If a member of the public tried to do that and claim it on their expenses then they would be told what to do.

“I am quite appalled. If I had known about it I would have been kicking up a fuss.”

But Thames Valley Police spokesman Chris Kearney said: “While the sponsors pay for each nominee we take the view that it is important that each recipient is invited to bring a partner at the force expense.”

The force also paid for the tickets of Assistant Chief Constable John Campbell and Felicity Parker, from the Thames Valley Gay Police Association, which was presented with a Diversity in Action Award by Home Secretary Theresa May at the event last month.

TVGPA chairman Sgt Kelly Reed said: “I would ask the public to look at the hard time the police are getting financially.

“To begrudge them one night of recognition is sad. I would be really upset if I was told I was not worth it.”

The group, which has 215 members, was honoured for its work with officers and the community and use of social media like Twitter to spread messages.

The four other award categories Thames Valley was nominated for was: Community Police Officer of the Year; Police Community Support Officer of the Year; Student Officer of the Year; and Lifetime Achievement in Policing.

The officers did not win.