The government has pledged to get rid of red tape in policing and cut the number of hours an officer needs to spend in a station.

In an effort to get police officers back on the streets and out of the station, Home Secretary Theresa May has introduced radical changes to how offenders are ordered to court. Bailed suspects will be sent formal charges through the post rather than being asked to attend police stations, freeing up officers' time.

May said the move could save up to 40,000 hours annually. "Officers must get out from behind their desks and back on to the streets, with the discretion to do what they think is right, free from the interference of Whitehall," she said.

She also hopes to change prosecution laws to allow officers more power in making charging decisions for offences such as shoplifting. The Crown Prosecution Service currently makes such decisions.

The moves come a year after May pledged to cut 2.5 million hours of police time spent on paperwork, when she promised to "let police get on with their jobs" once they accepted more local accountability through elected police and crime commissioners.