Urgent calls were made today to protect Dorset’s communities and get more police on the beat amid a rise in crime including a surge in violent offences.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that recorded crime in Dorset rose by more than 8 per cent last year. A breakdown reveals violent crime has risen 22 per cent, public order offences have spiralled by more than 48 per cent and sexual offences are up 22 per cent.

There were decreases however in drug crime, theft from vehicles and shoplifting.

Edward Morello, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for West Dorset suggested the increase in violent crime, robberies, and sexual offences was a direct result of cuts to police funding.

He said: “We have suffered years of chronic underfunding of our frontline police services in Dorset. “We’ve lost over 40 officers in the past four years. Residents of west Dorset, especially in rural communities, have been abandoned and left to fend for themselves.”

But West Dorset MP Sir Oliver Letwin said: “The idea that there is a direct causal relationship between the level of violent and sexual crimes reported and the level of police funding is of course absurd. And the number of violent and sexual crimes in rural Dorset remains, thank goodness, low.

"But I do believe that we have now reached the point at which some further funding of the Dorset Police through council tax is justified, and I am glad that the Government has recognised this.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said in November amid decreased funding that policing in Dorset had ‘reached tipping point’.

In response to Mr Morello’s comments he said: “The rise in recorded crime in Dorset reflects in part the improvements made by Dorset Police in the way they both record and enforce crime. In particular, a lot of work has been done to ensure violent crime is recorded correctly.

“I will of course keep monitoring this situation to ensure that all underlying causes are reviewed and acted upon where necessary. Bridport News readers will know that violence has risen dramatically locally and nationally.”

He added: “I would dispute the suggestion that residents of rural areas have been left to ‘fend for themselves’. Tackling rural crime is one of my major priorities and ongoing investment is being made into the force’s Rural Crime Team. However, Mr Morello is correct in saying that Dorset Police have faced years of chronic underfunding from central government.

“This year’s funding settlement did little to reverse eight years of austerity which has left the force with the lowest numbers of officers since 1981.”

Mr Underhill said he had called time and again for a fairer funding settlement and would continue to lobby the government.