A TOP cop has been quizzed about a “shortage” of police officers in South Lakeland.

Deputy chief constable Mark Webster, deputy chief constable of Cumbria Police, was asked to comment on claims made recently by Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron.

Mr Farron said South Lakeland was served by just “eight” on-duty officers at any one time and called on the Government to hike police funding.

Mr Webster, appearing at a meeting of the county council in Kendal, was questioned by Cllr Ben Berry, the Conservative councillor for Windermere.

Cllr Berry said: “I got a letter last week from my MP telling me you are doing a poor job, that crime has gone through the roof and that here in South Lakeland we only have eight police officers looking after the whole of Westmorland and Lonsdale. Can you help us with that?”

Mr Webster said: “As I have said before, that is eight visible officers in yellow jackets performing one particular function of the police.”

“There will also be an office of detectives, public protection officers, some firearms officers, an armed response vehicle,  proactive public support units. There’s a whole multi-layered policing response going on, so there are not only eight officers policing that area at that one time – that’s factual.”

Of the police’s record, Mr Webster said Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary ranked Cumbria Police as “good” across the board.

It scored high public satisfaction ratings than other forces, he added.

Cllr Stan Collins, the Liberal Dem member for Upper Kent, said improvements were needed to the 101 non-emergency line. Mr Webster said the average response time for answering calls was under three minutes.

“I don’t know too many organisations that you can actually get in touch with the person who is going to solve your problem within three minutes. If we get an accident on the M6, you can get 60 to 80 people all ringing us at once to report it,” said Mr Webstrer.

Council leader Stewart Young said House of Commons statistics showed that in 2010, Cumbria Police had 1,238 police officers but in 2018 it had 1,095.

He said this was a reduction of 143 officers. Cllr Young, the Labour leader, said reported crime had risen 28.9%, with theft up 8.6% and criminal damage and arson up 6%.

Mr Webster said there had been some relatively “minor increases,” in Cumbria, but the majority was down to better recording of crime.

“We don’t recognise the 1,095 officer figure – for some reason the data we have supplied has been used in a different way this year,” said Mr Webster.

He said the force had 1,177 officers and had increased numbers in recent years.