ESSEX Police has received a good rating in its latest efficiency inspection but findings show it must improve its 101 service.

The force, which continues to be the cheapest police force per head in the country, continues to keep residents safe and reduce crime, according to the latest report from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC).

Chief Constable Steven Kavanagh is pleased with the progress the force continues to make.

He said: “This report demonstrates that Essex Police has taken the right steps in the face of severe financial constraints to prioritise keeping the most vulnerable people in our county safe.

“Being told we’re “performing well across the board” recognises not only the good work officers and staff but also our ambition about the future.”

The only area for improvement identified was the force’s 101 service to report non-emergency crime, which Inspector Zoe Billingham branded “unacceptable” in the report.

She added: “Frontline officers and staff report that they are sometimes overloaded with demand.

"This is backed up by the number of incidents where ‘no resource is available’ is recorded to explain why officers have not attended as required.”

Steven Kavanagh says work is already underway to address these problems and added: “I am incredibly proud of the dedication, intelligence and skill of my officers and staff who from frontline to back office are working hard to keep the public safe.”

At just 42p per person per day, 13p below the national average, Essex Police continues to be the lowest funded in the country.

Mr Kavanagh added: “That needs to be addressed urgently. We have more 999 calls for help than the national average and have moved people from local policing teams to deal with crimes like child sexual abuse.”

Roger Hirst, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: "While the report is very positive there are still some areas for improvement.

"The 101 contact service continues to be underperforming, with the public regularly feeding back their concerns to me about this important area.

"The additional resources which were invested in 101 earlier in the year have been used to address the recent increase in demand so have not resulted in the significant improvement that is needed to provide the public with the service they need.

"A thorough review of the 101 service is now underway.

"I want to recognise the significant progress that has been made and sustained in recent years.

"It is a very positive trend and I would like to thank the Chief Constable and his team for the strong leadership they have shown.

"I would also like to thank all of the officers and staff for their drive and commitment to improving the service that the people of Essex receive."