Essex Police faces the choice of cutting almost 100 officers on the beat or increasing its council tax precept by up to 3.95 per cent.

The force will have a £4.4million black hole in its 2012/13 budget if it follows Government guidelines and does not increase council tax.

It reveals 93 police officers or 100 PCSOs and 20 police officers could lose their jobs to make up the shortfall.

The cuts are on top of the 988 staff and officers set to lose their jobs over the next three years as part of an attempt to save £45million.

But it would represent the first cuts to neighbourhood policing.

The report by Essex Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle and treasurer Charles Garbett states to freeze council tax and earn a £2.6million, the Govern-ment would still leave the force £4.4million short by 2014/15.

It states: “To find this will lead to further reductions in front-line officers and PCSOs.

“These additional cuts would likely come from neighbourhood policing, given this is the only area where numbers have so far been preserved.”

The report puts forward three options for Essex Police Authority to consider on Monday.

The first would see the police’s council tax precept stay at £132 for Band D households. It would qualify for a Government grant of £2.6million, but the authority would be short of cash for its three-year plan. As a result either 20 police officers and 100 PCSOS or 93 police officers would be cut.

The second option would see a 3 per cent increase in its council charge increase with 47 PCSOs or 30 PCSOs and 13 police offices losing their jobs. The third option is a 3.95 per cent increase – equivalent to a £5.20-a-year rise for the average bill – and fewer job losses.

Deputy Chief Constable Derek Benson said: “We have striven to maintain neighbourhood policing teams at their current levels, because we know how important this is to our communities.

“However, the possibility of further financial pressures means we may have to reconsider the number of officers within the Neighbourhood Policing Command.

“These would not be easy decisions and I hope members of our communities understand the pressures we face.”