The lives of police officers are being put at risk by force vehicles described as 'old bangers'.

Dorset Police is being asked to sort out its vehicle replacement policy – with many vehicles well past their best.

Chairman of the county’s police and crime panel says the force has been talking about changes for a long time – but has still not come up with a practical policy.

Cllr Mike Short said that last year the panel heard there was a need for a vehicle replacement policy but it was still not in place and the force seemed to continue to react to circumstances, rather than plan ahead.

“This needs to be done urgently to assure Dorset taxpayers than they are getting value for money,” Cllr Short said.

Police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill said he worried that officers' lives were being put at risk by driving what he described as ‘old bangers’.

A report to the panel showed that while some officers were driving cars which had faded livery and were old and worn the budget set aside for new cars was not all being spent. As many as 35 per cent of the entire fleet was being ‘run on’ past their established mileage or age thresholds with many having to be eventually sent to a breakers yard or scrap because they would not pass an MoT.

The panel heard that at their last meeting there were 174 vehicles (35 per cent of the fleet); 162 of which were retained for additional years and 12 with excess mileage. This had now reduced to 95 vehicles (19 per cent); 86 with additional years and nine with excess mileage.

The panel heard that although the position had improved and was being kept under review, deciding when to replace a vehicle was not an exact science. Said a report to the panel: “Different vehicles are put to very different uses; for example, armed response vehicles generally cover high mileages at high speeds, and vehicles are specified to meet those operational requirements. Vehicles used by the rural crime team must meet a very different set of criteria, and generally cover significantly lower mileage on an annual basis.

Similarly, different vehicles have different manufacturer warranty periods, and some can be maintained and repaired more economically than others. This complexity means that a single threshold for mileage or age, covering all force vehicles, might be inappropriate.”.

Dorset Police vehicle capital expenditure for the past five years amounted to £5.8 million.