THE decision to be made by tax-payers to increase the police precept or risk safety on the streets has been has been blamed on “continued cuts” to force budgets.

Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg is consulting members of the public in the Durham Police area on increasing the amount of council tax which goes to the police by 13.24 per cent - the equivalent of £16 a year, or 31p a week, for a property in band A.

Mr Hogg has attributed the growing burden on the force to cuts from government which since 2010 has seen the loss of 360 police officers.

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson said Mr Hogg was in a “difficult position” at a time when "cuts continue to bite".

He said: “The money has to be found from somewhere and we all know the impact of the lack of policing in an area.

“People have got to look at this and put the blame where it is due, and in my books it’s the amount of cuts that have come down the line over the last nine years.”

Meanwhile Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said nobody should be "in denial" of the pressures the police are under, adding: "I'm sad to see this financial pressure passed on local tax payers but I really don't see that Durham Constabulary has had much option."

Because funding from the precept accounts for about a quarter of the income of Durham Police, the proposed increase will only grow the force’s overall base budget by 3.5 per cent.

Mr Hogg said: "I have been put in a position where, if I do not introduce this increase, I will be reducing the income of Durham Constabulary this year, and for every year afterwards.

“It will inevitably mean fewer police officers in the community, diminishing the capacity to prevent and solve crime.

"I cannot do that without risking the safety of the community.

"The increase will enable me to better protect neighbourhood policing, which is valued by our communities, and provides essential reassurance.”

Durham Police is rated as outstanding for efficiency by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services and Mr Hogg has assured further investment in technology were being made.

Mr Hogg said he had been lobbying the government to fund policing with a direct grant from Whitehall.

He added: “I do not think that additional burdens should be placed on council tax payers, because in my view this abdicates ministers’ responsibility to protect our communities.”

The consultation comes less than two months after Mr Hogg warned of a tax rise and impact on front-line services as a result of changes to the way the National Police Pension Scheme is funded.

Members of the public have until Thursday, January 31, to comment on the proposal. Residents can have their say at AAP meetings this month, through Facebook or Twitter by searching for Durham PCC or at durham-pcc.gov.uk