POLICE officer numbers will rise by 42 in the Dyfed-Powys force area in the coming year, and an extra 22 support staff will be recruited.

These 66 posts will cost £2.57 million – or just under £39,000 each – and were one of the considerations discussed by the Dyfed-Powys police and crime panel when it approved next year’s budget.

Panel members discussed the figures put forward by police and crime commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, which will see the force spend £115.4 million in 2020-21.

Just over half of this will come from local taxpayers via the precept, which will rise by 4.8% on April 1.

For an average band D property, the new precept will be £260.56, £12 more than currently.

Panel chairman, Cllr Alun Lloyd-Jones, said this equated to a mug of coffee each month.

“What you get for that is peace of mind and safety,” he said.

“I sincerely believe that to maintain our excellent reputation in Dyfed Powys, we have got to recognise the needs of the force and of the residents we represent.

“We believe the force needs the best as well, and for them to feel safe, because out there it is becoming increasingly dangerous – the criminality are becoming more savvy.”

Real-term cuts in central Government police funding in recent years have put a rising burden on local taxpayers to cover the shortfall.

The UK Government has, however, increased its grant settlement for Dyfed-Powys Police by just under £5 million for 2020-21 – but Mr Llywelyn said the force still had serious financial pressures.

These included wage rises, increased pension contributions for support staff, and an ongoing but unsustainable use of reserves.

During the meeting on February 7, the Plaid Cymru commissioner revealed that contracts had just been signed for a new police station and custody suite in Dafen, Llanelli.

But he said the Welsh Ambulance Service was not “currently wanting” to build a new facility alongside, as he said had originally been proposed.

Asked about how the force could generate income, Mr Llywelyn said it had signed a contract to train Metropolitan Police officers at the Pembrey Circuit, Carmarthenshire, but that it could not depend on this extra funding in the future.

Lay panel member Helen Thomas said the commissioner should convey to the public how complex and demanding policing had become, and cited a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) which found that some victims were no longer reporting crimes because so many offenders were not brought to justice.

Mr Llywelyn said a rural crime survey in Dyfed Powys in 2016 had revealed public apathy, but that action taken subsequently had changed that perception.

“We need to have members of the public who feel confident about getting access to police, and that the police then respond proactively,” he said.

The meeting also heard that £350,000 would be spent over five years on charging points for electric vehicles which are being provided to every neighbourhood policing team.

Despite the increased settlement grant from Westminster, the amount allocated for capital spending is dropping from £325,000 to £85,000 in 2020-21.

Mr Llywelyn said he understood the budget pressures at central Government level but still felt this was “a bit of a kick in the teeth”.

Dyfed Powys is deemed to be the safest place to live in England and Wales, and 65% of its residents believe the force is doing a good or excellent job – the sixth highest response out of 43 forces.

But the report before the panel said it was dealing with more cyber crime and mental health incidents, that child sexual exploitation inquiries were becoming more complex, and that a rise of up to 10% was expected in the number of registered sex offenders.

An HMICFRS inspection of Dyfed-Powys Police in 2018 said it was good at investigating crime but needed to improve prevention and the way it dealt with anti-social behaviour.

Inspectors also said the force was good at indentifying vulnerable people but did not always complete a domestic abuse risk assessment. Actions have been taken to address this.

The report before the panel said the force was not alone in facing the menace of organised crime groups bringing drugs into the area and often using vulnerable local people to sell them, known as county lines.

It added: “The force has invested in raising officer’s awareness and capability in dealing with investigations and safeguarding.

“However the true picture and demand is unknown, along with the threat to the community it serves.”