Justin Tomlinson, the MP for North Swindon, has reacted to the news that Wiltshire has the lowest number of police officers per head in the country by calling on the Police and Crime Commissioner to prioritise front-line policing.

Meanwhile, Angus Macpherson, PCC for Wiltshire and Police, has responded by stressing that as police funding is only being maintained at the same level, it is decreasing in real terms.

Mr Tomlinson’s comments came after the PCC said police “urgently need a fairer funding formula, both locally and nationally.”

The Conservative MP said: “We have rightly protected police funding and overall police spending will work out as an increase of £900 million by 2019/20.

“However, there are increasing pressures and demands on the police, so it is right that we keep challenging the Police Commissioner on his spending priorities, especially as there are forces elsewhere with tighter budget constraints but more full time equivalent police officers per head.

“Angus needs to prioritise funding for front-line policing which is what the public expects.

“For example, I welcome his efforts to re-examine their estates which could release additional monies going forward from their back-office costs.”

PCC Angus Macpherson responded: “I recognise that the level of funding for police forces has been maintained nationally.

“However, this does not take into account that inflation in policing is running at 2%, which means we have 2% less at the end of the year. For Wiltshire Police 2% means £2 million less.

“Wiltshire Police is graded as ‘good’ for both efficiency and effectiveness. We have already reduced our estate, embraced modern technology, removed ranks and civilianised many roles within policing.

“The bottom line is that with funding further declining we will have fewer officers and staff in the future.”

Figures released by the Home Office last month showed that Wiltshire has the lowest number of police officers per capita in the country, as well as the lowest numbers of constables. At 139 police officers per 100,000 population, the rate is 34% down on the national average, and a third of that of the Metropolitan Police.

Wiltshire Police’s workforce dropped by 3.6% in March 2017 from a year earlier, with only Nottinghamshire seeing a larger drop over the same period.

At the same time, recorded crime rose 10% in 2016/17, with large increases in violent crime, sexual offences and robberies.

Angus Macpherson had previously commented on these figures, saying: “In the circumstances, Chief Constable Mike Veale and his operational officers and staff have been doing – and continue to do – an excellent job.

“The Chief Constable is advising that we are approaching a tipping point in terms of resilience. I recognise that our officers are under pressure.”