POLICE officer numbers in Cheshire are set to reach their highest level in more than 10 years after the police budget was approved by the county’s Police and Crime Panel.

Police and crime commissioner (PCC) David Keane presented his budget proposals to the panel which include recruiting an additional 88 police officers over the next year on Friday.

This will take the total number of officers in Cheshire to 2,224 – the highest level since 2010 – and a recovery from austerity-enforced numbers of 1,919 in 2014/15.

Mr Keane said the improved numbers in constables and police community support officer (PCSOs) are needed to repair the force.

He said: “Policing is still recovering from years of cuts and the demands we face continue to grow, both in volume and complexity.

"Although these extra officers will provide the chief constable with much-needed extra resources to make Cheshire safer, they will not reverse the effects of austerity on policing and, ultimately, our communities overnight.

“I’m grateful for the public’s support through the policing precept over the last few years which has allowed me to sustainably grow our officer numbers each year and introduce a new community police model, putting officers and PCSOs back in the heart of our communities where they belong.

“However, I would much rather that the government had fully funded this council tax increase and not put the burden on local taxpayers, particularly at a challenging time financially for many Cheshire residents.

“I now look forward to working with the chief constable to use this mandate Cheshire residents have given us to further improve policing across Cheshire and make all of our communities even safer.”

The budget will also see increased investment in areas that Cheshire residents said were a priority for them in the consultation.

The policing precept – the element of council tax that pays for policing – will rise by £1.25 per month for the average Band D property (over 12 months) to help fund this year’s budget.

As well as additional officers, the budget will allow see at least 200 PCSOs in Cheshire, investment to bolster the recording and investigation of crimes, including serious and organised crime, more road safety measures, among others.