DORSET Police has been given the go-ahead to recruit 50 more police officers within the next 18 months.

The announcement came as part of the government’s pledge to hire 20,000 new officers over the next three years.

Dorset Police Chief Constable 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.”

Currently, the number of new officers is one of the lowest in England and Wales. Dorset has its lowest officer levels since 1981.

Neighbouring Hampshire will receive a further 156 officers while the Metropolitan Police has been given permission to recruit 1,369 more officers. The figure for the West Midlands is 366 while 347 will be taken on in Greater Manchester.

Only Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, City of London, Dyfed-Powys and Warwickshire will receive fewer officers than Dorset with 49, 46, 44, 42 and 41 respectively.

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I look forward to seeing Dorset Police recruit more officers next year and I hope local people will take advantage of the many excellent opportunities that exist within the Force.

“However, 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.”

Dave Sidwick, the Conservative candidate for commissioner, said: “Having lobbied both the PM and Home Secretary in person recently, it is excellent to see the news regarding the first tranche of police officers in the south west and Dorset specifically. I look forward to more officers in the future.”

The initial target was announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel at a National Policing Board meeting.

She said: “The public are clear they want to see more police officers on their streets, whether they live in the city or the countryside.”

“This is the people’s priority and it is exactly what the government is delivering.

“Every single police force in England and Wales will be able to recruit additional officers this year to help keep all of our communities safer.”

The government’s funding for recruitment in 2020-21 will cover all associated costs, including training and kit.

All new recruits will be on top of those hired to fill exiting vacancies, the Home Office said.

The National Policing Board was set up by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July to help achieve the government’s recruitment pledge.

Police Federation of England and Wales national chairman John Apter said: “Investment in policing is long overdue.

“These figures have been based on the current funding formula models and while this method is not perfect, I accept it is the only solution available to deliver the numbers quickly in year one.

“We now need to ensure that the formula is revisited for future years to ensure a fairer allocation of officers across all forces, but this is certainly a positive start and will provide a much-needed boost to my members and the communities they serve.”