AN INCREASE in council tax contributions and using the force’s cash reserves has enabled Merseyside Police to set a balanced budget for the coming year.

Government cash cuts mean the service needs to make savings of £13.5m in this year financial alone.

And with estimates showing the force will have to make cutbacks of more than £100m by 2018, Commissioner Jane Kennedy warned unless the Government changes its policy, Merseyside Police will be unable to deliver present levels of service.

Commissioner Jane Kennedy and Chief Constable Jon Murphy used £5.5m from the force’s reserves and also increased the police element of council tax by 1.95% to set the budget.

Ms Kennedy said: “Setting the budget has not been an easy task, particularly in the face of continuing cuts from Government.

“These cuts forced me to make the difficult decision to increase the council tax precept by 1.95%.

“By also using £5.5m from the force’s reserves, I have been able to set a balanced budget for next year.”

She stressed: “This is hugely important as it means the Chief Constable can continue to recruit police officers, ensuring numbers are maintained and frontline services are protected.

“This is even more significant given that the force have already lost more than 1,200 officers, Police Community Support Officers and staff in the last three years.

“I have already reduced the costs of my own office by £800,000.

"This is money which is ploughed straight back into the policing budget to defend it from further cuts and keep enough officers on the streets of Merseyside to protect the public.

“The Chief Constable and I are committed to putting the people of Merseyside first as we continue to keep the region safe and focus on our agreed policing priorities.

“The reality is however, that if government cuts continue as predicted we will simply not be able to continue to deliver the same high level of service which the force prides itself on and that the people of Merseyside expect and deserve.”

The police budget equates to £2 extra a year for a Band A property – the lowest category of council tax and the amount paid by the majority on Merseyside.

Ms Kennedy said the decision received support of 75% of people during a week-long consultation, when more than 2,000 respondents gave their views.

The increase was also approved by the Police and Crime Panel.