Crime detection rates in Dorset are now down to 16 per cent – although the county is among the better performers nationally.

The county’s police and crime commissioner says the Dorset rate had been up to more than 30 per cent in 2014 – until the Home Office under Theresa May told forces to stop being driven by statistics.

Martyn Underhill told the county’s police and crime panel on Tuesday that if he had his way he would re-introduce targets because he believed the public wanted the statistics and wanted to see the police catch criminals.

“With austerity and cuts to police forces the figures have gone down across the country and that’s just not acceptable,” said Mr Underhill.

“I am not happy that only one in six crimes in Dorset are detected…it’s not acceptable for victims, whether they have had a flower pot stolen or been the victim of a hate crime,” he said.

Mr Underhill was also unhappy about changes the former Prime Minister had made to police powers when she was Home Secretary: “she changed stop and search and five years later we are in chaos – call me old-fashioned but the police should catch criminals and they should be held accountable by society,” said Mr Underhill.

He later described the criminal justice system as being in crisis, claiming that was mainly because of poor Government leadership and a lack of funding which meant that Dorset now had almost 300 fewer officers than in had in 2010.

He said that even if the 20,000 extra police officers across the country promised by the Government did materialise it would be 3-4 years away and the numbers Dorset was likely to get would not make up for the shortfall of 300 on the 2014 figure of around 1,500 officers. The force is now down to 1,200 uniformed officers with civilian posts also cut.

Councillors heard that despite pressing the Home Office for answers the allocation of new officers had not yet been decided and no programme for recruitment or training agreed; but based on percentage funding figures, the county might eventually get up to 180 new officers.