POLICE staffing levels are holding at just over 1,000 bobbies on the beat as new funding help the force provide improved services.
Half a million pounds from central government, in addition to a two per cent increase in the police precept in council tax, will go towards defending the frontline and funding new victim support services.
Following drastic cuts in funding over the last four years, the number of active officers in the county is now estimated at 1,018, barely more than the bottom line to maintain service.
The numbers are being bolstered by the recruitment of special constables across all sectors, with a target of 300 being set, along with 138 community support officers currently active.
Kieran Kilgallen, chief executive of the police and crime commissioner’s office in Wiltshire, said there is a minimum number of officers at which the force can operate.
“We are putting down a steady state of 1,000 officers across Wiltshire,” he said.
“We think that any number less than that would not be viable.
“Since 2010 police officer numbers have dropped by 13 per cent, but support staff have taken the biggest hit as their numbers have fallen by 19 per cent.
“We anticipate a total reduction in grants to Wiltshire of £17m, or 23 per cent, by 2016. The total funding gap as a result will be £12m. Additionally, the element of funding in council tax has been frozen since 2010. It has been possible to maintain a service because of freeze grants in each of those three years.
“However, in two to four years time further grants will be removed in one way or another. Wiltshire and Swindon has the lowest precept of any region in the south west, and the third lowest nationally, and are performing very well in consideration of that.”
In April the precept for Wiltshire and Swindon rose by two per cent, the first increase in four years, and will generate around £340,000 for the force.
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said the force plans to remain debt-free while tackling funding cuts.
“I anticipate further reduction of central funds in future years,” he said. “However, through maintaining an annual contribution to capital spend requirements, I have been able to finance capital improvements without recourse to borrowing. My office remains debt free, and I have no plans to sanction borrowing by the Chief Constable.
“On 31 March the Chief Constable became a corporate entity in his own right. Whilst all properties and contracts remain vested in me, the Chief Constable became the employer of staff transferred to him under the Police and Social Responsibility Act 2011.
“Essentially, all operational officers and staff are on his books, together with many of the back office staff.
“I have retained finance and communications staff as part of a joint team providing back office services to both offices within the policing and crime sphere. I am responsible for the group accounts, given that all financial resource comes to my office for the commissioning of police and other crime-related services.”