BOLTON’S police and crime commissioner has said increasing council tax bills will help the police cope with major funding cuts — without reducing frontline officers.

A council tax increase of about 7p a week for each household is being proposed to stop the amount of officers from falling to the minimum amount needed to protect Greater Manchester communities.

The additional funds will be ploughed into neighbourhood policing.

Tony Lloyd said: “Each year the number of police officers in Greater Manchester reduces by 300 through natural wastage.

"I have gone to Ch Con Peter Fahy and said ‘let’s look at what kind of police service we want here in Bolton and across the force’.

"Ch Con Fahy and I have a commitment to modern policing, it has to be neighbourhood policing.

“We have been going through everything with a fine toothcomb.”

He added that the council tax rise will allow the force to recruit up to 50 officers to work in neighbourhood teams to avoid falling below 6,400 police next year — the lowest possible amount Ch Con Fahy believes GMP can operate at.

Mr Lloyd plans to protect communities by raising council tax by nearly £3 a year from an average grade D home.

He said: “I don’t want to be alarmist but there are serious challenges to policing and we have got to get it right. We will be asking individual police officers to do a lot more than they have been doing in the past.

“I do not like asking people to pay more and I know people are hard pushed. Even though the increase may only be seven pence a week it does add up and impacts on people, I do not like doing it.

“When people understand the scale of the government cuts and how little we are putting back they are supportive.”

Mr Lloyd had planned to increase the police part of the council tax bill by £5 annually — the maximum it can be raised by — but has been told by Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to reduce the rise.

He is now asking people to contribute £2.97 for the year. Bigger rises would need a costly referendum.

Mr Lloyd said: “This announcement from the government means that we have to find an additional £1.38 million to save on top of more than £19 million of cuts already announced for the coming year.”

He said he could not guarantee that he would not have to suggest an increase next year.