AMBITIOUS plans to further increase constable numbers in Barnsley’s communities must not come via another sharp council tax hike, the county’s police boss has warned.

The town is set to receive another share of new PCs under plans outlined to ‘substantially’ grow South Yorkshire’s roster of officers announced by the government.

Fifty-five have already been planned in this year’s budget as a result of a previous precept increase, while an additional 13 are also scheduled to take up their posts during this financial year.

That has been bolstered this week by the government’s announcement that it plans to finance up to 20,000 new posts across the country, which is set to filter down to local level.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, warned that council tax payers in Barnsley could not afford ‘inflation-busting’ increases in their future contributions.

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He said: “For some time crime commissioners have been warning of the dangers in cutting police numbers and urging the government to increase them.

“I believe there is a link between numbers of officers and the force’s ability to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour. I therefore welcome the clear pledge of the new government to increase numbers by 20,000 nationally and I look forward to hearing from them how many that equates to for South Yorkshire.

“There are some unanswered questions, however. Increasing at this pace over three years will represent a challenge for recruitment, while it is also not clear where the money is coming from.

“I have said that I do not think local council tax payers can be asked to pay for this above inflation increases. In other words, this is only good news if it is fully funded by the government - and that means salaries, the cost of training, uniforms and equipment.”

Dr Billings increased the current year’s policing ‘precept’ - money paid as part of council tax - by 14 per cent to help pay for improvements including more police officers.

But he told the Chronicle that it had been a difficult decision to make and that the county’s residents cannot afford to shoulder similar rises in future.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson added: “Given that the announcement has only just been made, there is more detail to follow but as one of the larger forces in the country, I am confident that our share of the uplift will be substantial.

“Any extra officers will be in addition to the 220 officers that we have already committed to recruiting.

“South Yorkshire Police continues to be the most improved force in the country over the past three years. We are sustaining this momentum, we have great aspirations and we are determined to do the very best for the public whom we serve.

“We will have more police officers doing more policing and doing it well, this is unadulterated good news for the force and the public alike.”