A retired police inspector has set up a new organisation to campaign for officers to be given industrial rights, saying it was the "last stand of the thin blue line".

Tony Munday, who spent more than 30 years with the Hertfordshire force, said the growing numbers of police community support officers and Highways Agency traffic officers "act as a blueprint for future privatisation" of the police service, but he insisted Police Choice was not calling for strikes, adding that it simply wanted "greater safeguards for the role of the police in society to serve the public".

Along with the armed forces and prison officers, the police are banned in law from taking industrial action and Home Secretary Theresa May has said the issue is "off the table", adding: "Keeping our communities safe is simply too important."

But Mr Munday, co-chairman of Police Choice, said: "The British public have largely been kept in the dark about the real risks posed to policing by consent through the introduction of we believe is a privatisation of the police service, accelerated under this current Government. Both the introduction of more PCSOs on the street, and Highways Agency traffic officers on our roads, act as a blueprint for future privatisation.

"The vast majority of police officers are extremely concerned by the changes to the service and are frustrated that they are unable to do anything about it through a toothless and inefficient Police Federation which is in thrall of the Government which considers its rank and file officers 'plebs'. We strongly believe this is the last stand of the thin blue line."

Richard Stein, head of human rights at law firm Leigh Day & Co which has advised the group, said: "It seems ridiculous that doctors, nurses, prison officers and other public servants can have union bodies but that the police are left bereft of any industrial rights given the dangers they have to face amid the current political backdrop of austerity. What Police Choice is advocating is not strike action, it is simply the need for greater safeguards for the role of the police in society to serve the public."

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales, is to ballot its 135,000 members on whether they want the right to strike in the wake of the Government's 20% budget cuts and wide-ranging reforms to the service.

A spokesman said it "recognises and fully understands the frustration and anger among members, caused the Government's relentless attacks on their pay and conditions".

"The federation is, and will continue to be, the most effective platform to fight on behalf of its members, and was able to secure significant concessions during consultation with the Government over changes to police pensions," he added.

"This was despite having no statutory powers to challenge the reforms. We are however aware that police officers feel let down by the current Government, and their anger at policing cuts and changes to their pay, pensions and conditions have contributed significantly to the federation's decision to hold a ballot on whether it should seek full industrial rights for members."