KENT POLICE will boost the force by an additional 200 officers next year – against a backdrop of swingeing cuts to other forces nationwide.

This is on top of the 200 normally recruited each year to replace officers who have left the police for various reasons.

The Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, has given the green light for the Chief Constable Alan Pughsley to embark upon what he called Kent Police’s ‘most significant recruitment drive for a generation’.

The extra officers along with 80 additional backroom staff, will cost £9million a year and will be paid for by increasing council tax by £1 a month following support from the general public for the idea of more bobbies on the beat.

According to Home Office figures published last summer, since Theresa May became Home Secretary in 2010 the number of officers across the UK has fallen by 21,500.

After his funding proposal for the next 12 months was approved, Mr Scott told the Kent and Medway Police and Crime Panel: “This will boost the front line quite substantially.

“We’ll be able to recruit up to 200 new police officers next year, with a commitment from the Chief Constable that a substantial number of those will go into supporting local policing.”

In addition to any cutbacks, the county loses around 200 police officers every year to retirement, transfers to other forces, career change, injury and ill health.

Kent Police routinely aim to recruit a similar number to replace them. But the latest intake will be in addition to this figure, meaning 400 new officers in total.

They will be targeted at rural areas and road traffic, and the force will also be employing a further 80 staff dedicated to responding to emergency calls.

The demand for 999 calls has been increasing, which has had a knock-on effect on call-handlers’ ability to answer the 101 non-emergency service too.

The waiting time for an answer to a 101 call is a subject that residents have often raised with the Commissioner and he said: “The 101 service is something I have regularly held the Chief Constable to account over and the recruiting more than 80 members of police staff, a substantial number of which will go into the Force Control Room, will hopefully improve this.”

The council tax rise will see the police precept for an average Band D property rise to £169.15 a year, representing a 7.6 per cent increase.

Mr Scott revealed: “During my Annual Policing Survey around 68 per cent of people said they would be prepared to pay a little more towards policing if it was necessary.”

Cllr Don Sloan of Tunbridge Wells’ Culverden ward, who is a member of the Kent and Medway Police and Crime Panel, welcomed the news.

He said: “It’s good that you’ll be able to divert some extra funds to community safety, and it is good that you’ve got the public endorsement for that.”

In 2017-18, Kent’s council tax precept for policing was £157.15 for an average band D) property, which is the seventh lowest of any police area in the UK.

By comparison, in neighbouring Sussex an average household pays £224.57, and in North Wales it contributes £249.21.