POLICE officers' jobs have been saved after a panel agreed to raise council tax by 3.5 per cent.

It means residents in a band D home will have to pay £4.77 a year more for policing.

Residents in Essex pay the least for policing in the country and even with the current rise, the county will still be near the bottom.

Just paying the national average would mean the force could afford an extra 470 officers.

Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle said without the rise, agreed by the police and crime panel yesterday following a recommendation by new police commissioner Nick Alston, more officers would have been lost.

He said: “It is important for the people of Essex to understand this means we can keep with the current plan which still means losing 350 officers, 112 PCSOs and 410 police staff.

“If we had not got this, the reductions would have been larger.”

Most of the extra cash will go to policing as the force looks to cut more than £42million from its annual budget.

The rest will go towards crime prevention and community schemes.

Just 0.5 per cent of the police budget currently goes towards crime prevention initiatives.

Mr Alston wants that to rise to one per cent.

The extra council tax money will secure current community schemes and pay for a £500,000 crime reduction fund.

Mr Alston said: “This rise is on behalf of the people of Essex and I am really pleased.

“The people of Essex are concerned about crime but I am also aware of the economic situation and this is responsible at about 40p a month.

“I am glad I got the support of the panel.”

The police and crime panel is made up of a representative from each of district in Essex and independent members.