A SURREY police shake-up, which has helped put more bobbies on the beat, has been praised by the Inspector of Constabulary.

The Inspector says in a report that the force's "Staying Ahead" programme of change could become a blueprint for others to follow.

Introduced a year ago, the programme was drawn up to deal with the expansion of the force's territory to cover the whole of Surrey.

Previously about a third of the county was within the Metropolitan police area.

Under the programme, the force has introduced targeted neighbourhood policing which has increased the number of specialist beat officers.

The new system also helps the police to keep track of the county's prolific offenders who are responsible for a large proportion of crime and disorder.

Other features include a package of measures to aid recruitment, ranging from flexi-time working to help with buying a home.

In his report the Inspector recognises that this "deeply impressive piece of work" has been achieved against a background of cash cuts.

Between 1997-98 and 2000-03 Surrey's budget has decreased by .5 per cent, whereas adjoining provincial forces have received increases of between 20 per cent and 24.5 per cent.

Alan Peirce, Surrey police authority chairman, said: "The financial comparisons with other forces put into clear focus the difficulties we face."We are expected to maintain and improve standards with less resources." That is why council taxpayers had to dig deeper into their pockets, he added.