CHESHIRE Police Authority has rejected a one-off council tax freeze to save 23 police officers’ jobs from the axe.

The policing part of council tax in the county will rise by 3.94% next year, equivalent to £5.69 a year for a band D home.

The authority said it was imposing the tax hike in the face of sweeping budget cuts and the need to cut costs by £33m by 2015, including £13.1m over the next 12 months.

Cheshire Police Authority chairwoman Margaret Ollerenshaw said the tax rise was decided upon instead of the tax freeze to help protect frontline policing across the county.

She said: “We are aware of the financial strains many people are facing at the moment. We looked carefully at the idea of freezing council tax at last year’s level.

“After careful consideration, we decided this small increase would help maintain frontline policing services and keep the people of Cheshire safe.

“It means the reduction in the number of police officers in Cheshire during 2012/13 can be limited to 25, instead of the 48 required if we opted to freeze council tax.”

Police officer numbers are to be cut from 1,998 to 1,973 by March 31, 2013, while other police staff posts are expected to reduce from 1,637 to 1,510. However, police community support officer numbers are expected to rise from 215 to 222.

Ms Ollerenshaw described the budget, the last to be set by the authority before it is replaced by a police and crime commissioner in November, as “arguably the most difficult of the 17 budgets set by the authority.”

She added: “It is depressing to see the level of cuts we are having to make following the steady investment we have made over the life of the authority.

“We have identified the savings required next year. As more than 80% of the budget relates to people, it is regrettable the scale of the cuts means unavoidable reductions in the number of police officers and staff.

“We were offered a one-off grant to freeze council tax for 2012/13. If we had accepted, the result would have been a shortfall for the following year when the grant was not available.

“We decided on a small increase, as requested by Dave Whatton, the Chief Constable, which will offset some of the reduction in police officer posts. He gave us his assurance this funding will be used to maintain visible and accessible officers in our communities.”