Hampshire residents may be asked to pay more for policing despite the number of officers in the county dropping by 3.5%.

Simon Hayes, the police and crime commissioner, has asked for a 3% increase in the policing council tax precept, even though the number of officers fell by 112 between September 2012 and September 2013.

Despite the demand for more funding, however, Mr Hayes was this week unable to promise that officer numbers would not continue to fall and warned the government not to risk public safety by offering the "upper hand to criminals".

He said: “These are very, very difficult times for policing in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

“It would be wrong of me not to tell the truth about the impact of government cuts.

“Our police service has been praised by government as a well performing and well run service,” he continued.

“Yet ministers are again cutting the money for policing in our communities, this time by £25m, which equates to approximately 555 police officers.”

Mr Hayes added there would come a time when the reduction of police numbers would reach "dangerous levels", although he said "we are not there yet".

The 3% rise in the police precept would mean residents in an average Band D property paying £4.45 more a year, which works out roughly at an extra 10p a week.

The commissioner said the hike would generate £2.9m a year, but this should be seen in the context of Hampshire Constabulary receiving £41m less in funding in the coming financial year than it did four years ago.

The Hampshire Police and Crime Panel, which holds the commissioner to account, has given its backing to the proposal.

Its chairman, David Stewart, said: “The panel probed the commissioner thoroughly on the rationale and data behind the recommendation for the precept increase, because we are acutely aware the public are having to deal with numerous austerity measures in the current economic climate.

He continued: “The general view of the panel was to look to maintain support for the safety of communities, and we were satisfied, based on the information and scrutiny undertaken, that we could support a further 3% in the precept this year.

“We hope residents will understand there are significant activities planned for policing, including a proposed restructure, and that substantial savings have to be achieved.”

The government is due to announce how much commissioners can increase their precept by before a public referendum is required, meaning the commissioner’s suggested rise is not yet final. The increase of 3% will either be confirmed or altered before the end of March.