A HAMPSHIRE police chief says a new batch of recruits is very, very welcome however would like officer numbers to return to pre-austerity levels.

Hampshire constabulary is to get 156 new officers spread across the county.

It comes as part of the government's recruitment drive.

Despite more bobbies on the beat, Chair of Hampshire Police Federation Zoë Wakefield said: "The new officers are very, very welcome.

"However, it's going to take a long time to get us to the number we had before the [austerity] cuts started.

"It's a step in the right direction and I hope we keep getting the funds."

According to Ms Wakefield, 156 officers is a small number and is only going to replace those officers who retire or leave the force.

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However, she added: "The fact that we are able to recruit again is really positive.

"I would like to see us get back to the number before austerity of around 3,200."

She also said how "busy frontline officers" are needed to train new recruits which can put additional strain on the force.

In late June, Hampshire Constabulary finished the last of its recruitment activity for the first year of this programme, with 3,000 applications being received.

A force statement said: “We are determined that the Constabulary truly reflects the communities we serve, and throughout the application process we have been seeking quality candidates as well as greater diversity.”

The officer allocation is based on analysis of crime figures and the demand in district.

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The number of new officers assigned to each area is as follows: Southampton 20, Eastleigh seven, New Forest eight, Test Valley five, Winchester five, Fareham four, Gosport five, Portsmouth 18, Isle of Wight nine.

The other new officers will be deployed across rest of the county as well as local crime investigation departments, the contact management team, and specialist criminal investigation teams such as the Child Abuse Investigation Team or High Harm teams.

Hampshire Constabulary said as a force it operates a ‘borderless’ policy, which ensures officers can be deployed away from their assigned location if it is deemed operationally necessary.

Each of the areas is also supported by a number of other teams within the force, including our response officers, investigations teams and our various specialist departments.

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Assistant Chief Constable Maggie Blyth said: “We are constantly striving to serve and support all in our communities the best we can each day.

“Part of this is ensuring that, as a force, we truly reflect those we are serving.

“It is very pleasing to see that within the 3,000 applications received there 13 per cent who are from diverse backgrounds. It has been great to see many high quality candidates applying to join the force. Our aim is to become an employer of choice, focused on attraction, retention and progression, bringing the best and talented individuals into the Constabulary.