DORSET's Police and Crime Commissioner has cautiously welcomed the news that 50 new officers will be recruited across the county by saying it will not reverse the damage done by previous cuts.

The Home Office has confirmed the officer recruitment targets for every police force in England and Wales for 2020-21.

The target for Dorset Police is 50 new officers, which will be in addition to those hired to fill existing vacancies.

The announcement covers the first stage of the government’s three-year drive to increase officer numbers nationally by 20,000.

Dorste PCC Martyn Underhill welcomed the new officers and thanked the Home Office for this investment and local MPs for their support.

However he did raise some concerns about the numbers: "This announcement only covers the first year of recruitment and in order to avoid any uncertainty and enable myself and the chief constable to properly plan for the future, I would like to hear official confirmation of targets for the second and third years as early as possible.

“It’s important to stress that while this investment is long overdue, it will not reverse the damage which has been inflicted by eight years of austerity. Even if we saw similar recruitment targets over the next three years, it will not bring us back to the officer levels we saw before the cuts, or address the police staff also lost during this time.

“Dorset Police now has the lowest officer levels since 1981 and we may need to see a much more significant recruitment drive in order to take us back to pre-austerity levels.”

South Dorset MP Richard Drax said he will make sure Dorset gets its fair share of new officers: "Having lobbied hard for a long time for more police officers in Dorset, I am delighted.

"This figure is in line with the current funding formula and it’s important that it’s continued in year two and three, where we should see a further 60 officers each year, respectively.

"That would see a further 170 much-needed officers tackling and preventing crime, which is what we all want.

"Having spoken to many officers, I know they too will welcome more colleagues as the current level of policing has placed pressure on the system.

"I shall be keeping a weather eye on the government in the months ahead to ensure that we get our full and fair share. Dorset has been at the bottom of the funding heap for too long."

Chief Constable of Dorset Police James Vaughan said: “This is a good start and it will bring a welcome relief to our stretched workforce.

“These much needed extra officers are great news for the communities that we serve in Dorset. I would like to reassure them that the new officers will be carefully invested for maximum effect and we have already developed firm plans to recruit these officers.

“The extra officers will assist the Force in moving from good to outstanding in the way we deliver services.”