UNION chiefs have said a planned council tax rise to fund extra officers is a positive start, but it does not go far enough.

Wiltshire and Swindon councillors yesterday granted Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson permission to increase council tax by on average £24 a year. The 13 per cent rise is expected to fund an extra 41 police officers this year along with two members of staff tackling cyber crime.

However, Insp Mark Andrews, chairman of the Wiltshire Police Federation, called on national politicians to fill the funding gap: “Central government needs to provide us with the funds to do our job. We’re out there working hard for our communities, but we want to do more rather than less. Those new officers will be spread around more than 400 sq miles of Wiltshire countryside.

“It’s not going to be enough.”

With the end of the Tri-Force arrangement with Gloucestershire and Avon and Somerset police forces, Wiltshire Police is expected to need an extra 14 armed officers, dog handlers and traffic officers. These will likely be recruited from experienced officers already with the force, meaning a net increase of 29 officers in the county. Official figures show last year Wiltshire had 187 fewer regular police officers than it had in 2010.

“In a way we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Insp Andrews said.

Mr Macpherson said members of the public were in favour of the increase to the precept. Almost 70 per cent of people who responded to a police consultation backed the 13 per cent rise.

However, he appeared to back calls from the Police Federation for more cash from Whitehall: “Demand continues to increase, yet our allocation of the funding available nationally disadvantages us. The police are responding to more incidents whilst working with less.

“In fact, we receive the fourth lowest funding per head of population in England and Wales.”

Ministers have indicated they plan to redress the shortfall in the next spending review. “Let’s just hope that’s followed through,” the police commissioner added.

Robert Buckland, South Swindon MP and Solicitor General, said extra cash from government would “allow Wiltshire Police to fulfil its duties”. “Obviously, it’s not all about the money, it’s about how you use it and I’m impressed by the work done locally by the senior officers to really focus on issues that really matter to residents."

“We need to get on with the job and make sure that policing is able to face the changing nature of crime.”