POLICING in Essex is now tougher than ever before, according to the county’s police and crime commissioner Roger Hirst.

During a public meeting he admitted the cuts were causing problems and more money is needed for more officers in order to combat crime.

The Conservative commissioner accepted things had gone too far when he was confronted by residents about the police station closure and lack of police patrols.

Mr Hirst said: “We have never known such tough and challenging times in policing.

"The cuts and the public sector squeeze is affecting us all, but what I am doing on your behalf is asking the Home Secretary for more money."

Police officer numbers in Essex have fallen from 3,600 in 2010 to about 2,800.

Police community support officers also fell from 450 to less than a hundred.

During the meeting, at Queen’s Hall, Halstead on Thursday he added: “It is true I increased the amount of council tax the police get last year, and added another £4.95 to the average household bill when they pay their council tax each year.

"That raised £3.1 million.  

"£1.5 million of this has gone into new technology and another £1.5 million has gone into recruiting special constables."

Special constables are voluntary officers from around Essex who help full time officers.

Roger Hirst was joined by district commander for Braintree, Chief Insp Craig Carrington.

Mr Carrington said: "I know how tough it is at the moment and although we are doing our jobs as best we can, we sometimes find it hard to cope.

"We've had to make police community support officers redundant, with demand outstripping both time and resources.

"We have had some good times though.

"However it is tough, Mr Commissioner, and you've got to recognise this."

Residents also expressed concerns about custody arrangements.

Mr Hirst responded: "I understand for residents in Halstead in particular there is an issue with custody.

"Patrols have to travel to Colchester and I understand it is a concern.

"However, I have fought for the people of Essex after a particularly tight budget squeeze.

"There are several other counties with just one custody unit in the whole country, making policing completely unworkable, but although I understand your concern I have fought as hard as I possibly can.

"It has been a challenging meeting tonight but we hope to move forward with this together.

"I've been in big business and I worked running a number of companies, taking a large pay cut to take the role.

"But policing as a whole is going through a massive era of change and much like organisations, it is important we deal with this change in the right way."