Police refusal to regard tackling anti-social behaviour as "real police work' is marring the lives and livelihoods of millions of Brits, a new report has found.

A damning study by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has revealed that despite its high public profile in recent years, anti-social behaviour did not have the same status as other crime for the police. Far too often police did not attend calls for help, and systems were not always able to identify repeat callers or the most vulnerable, it said. In fact, just 13 of the 43 forces have call management systems that effectively identify repeat victims.

Meanwhile, the plethora of community safety partnerships, which bring together police, local authorities and other agencies, were bogged down in a "meetings culture" and far less effective than assumed in Whitehall, it added.

The report comes just weeks after Police Federation warnings that up to 40,000 police jobs could be lost as a result of the 25% funding cut expected when the government announces its spending review on October 20.

Independent retailer Lesley Brown of Frankmarsh Stores in Barnstaple, Devon, said she was horrified by the prospect. "The idea that we could have even fewer officers on the streets is terrifying," she said. "Now is the time for police to be given more resources, not less."