Dorset Police could cut a further 300 jobs

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Dorset Police have said they may need to make 300 job cuts over the next three years to stick to their budget.

A letter ahead of a police authority meeting states that spending cuts mean staff numbers must be reduced by 2014-15.

It also explains there are already 68 fewer officers and 114 fewer civilian staff compared to this time last year.

Chief Constable Martin Baker said some officers could be moved to carry out the roles of staff members.

The authority said the funding gap could be close to £20m, from an initial budget provision of £120m.

It said there had been an increase in shoplifting, thefts from motor vehicles and theft of metals across the county this year.

However, the letter from Mr Baker and Michael Taylor, the chairman of Dorset Police Authority, also explains that despite those increases, the overall level of recorded crime was "holding steady" with a "relatively small increase" of 0.5% compared to 2010.

Mr Baker said: "Over the next three years we are going to have to cut another 300 officers and staff. The exact breakdown of officers and staff will depend on some government announcements that we're yet to hear so we won't know, but it's another 300 people who will not be able to serve the people of Dorset."

When asked about the ratio of job cuts between officers and civilians, Mr Baker said: "It's really difficult because there is no provision for us to, for example, make police officers redundant, not that I want to, so my only recourse, if I'm forced into making a decision, is that I can make members of police staff redundant.

"So I may end up having to make members of police staff redundant then put police officers into those roles temporarily, until we can get back to some sense of normality so it's very difficult to say. But there's a real risk that police officers are going to have to come into some really vital police staff roles over the next three years to cover positions for people, that sadly, we might have to lose."

Mr Baker continued: "We do get a very poor funding settlement, way below the national average.

'Absolutely ludicrous'

"Not only did we start off in a position where we were very efficient, yet we had same proportion of funding cut as every other force in the country."

He added: "I'm trying to avoid forcing police officers to retire."

Clive Chamberlain, chair of the Dorset Police Federation, said: "It is absolutely ludicrous to cut members of police officers at a time when crime is actually increasing.

"It is high time this government took the responsibility to protect our communities seriously."

The Home Office was unavailable for comment.

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