DORSET'S Chief Constable has fiercely defended an advert for a police social media role with a higher starting salary than some frontline officers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel slammed the advert by Dorset Police for a social media officer with a starting salary of £25,556 - more than a police officer's initial £18,450 wage.

In a tweet referring to a report by The Sun newspaper, Ms Patel said police forces "mustn’t waste taxpayers' money on inflated salaries for unnecessary jobs."

But Chief Constable James Vaughan hit back at the 'unhelpful' claims, saying the issue forms part of a wider debate over low police pay nationally.

In an official statement, Mr Vaughan said: "It should be noted the role concerned, a social media post serving both Dorset and Devon and Cornwall Police, requires significant experience, expertise and a degree level qualification.

"Our ability to engage a population of three million people across our three counties depends upon the employment of a small number of professional police staff in addition to the 4,200 police officers across both forces.

"The coverage and subsequent comment on social media, has sharply focused the issue of fair pay for police officers and police staff, not only within Dorset Police, but in every force in the country.

"Police officer pay is not set or controlled by local police forces, rather it is set nationally.

"I would wholeheartedly encourage a debate on the starting salary of police constables, which has been eroded significantly over recent years, and in my view is currently set too low."

On appointment to Dorset Police, an officer's starting salary is £18,450 rising to £24,177 when they achieve independent patrol status after around 37 weeks and then £25,269 in their third year of service.

Within seven years of joining the force, an officer's salary could be £40,128.

A report in The Sun with the headline 'Police force to pay someone £28k to tweet — thousands more than frontline cops get,' sparked an online debate with many showing their support for the posting.

One Twitter user said: "The so referred to 'social media officers' may actually be what the public needs just to keep that human contact," while Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill waded in with the tweet: "Disappointed with our new and poorly briefed @patel4witham. We have a dedicated family of police staff who perform critical tasks, freeing up police officers' time - this issue isn't just about a police staff role, it's about a decade of failing to pay our brave officers a fair wage."

Mr Vaughan's said: "I hope this unhelpful reporting does not serve to undermine the necessary and valuable work of tens of thousands of police staff across policing in the UK who make a significant different to frontline policing and our fight against crime."