A £646,000 overspend in police pay has been reported by finance chiefs at Cumbria Police.

Roger Marshall, joint chief finance officer for the constabulary and the office of the Cumbria police and crime commissioner, said the overspend was deliberate.

It follows the recruitment of 25 additional police officers being added to the payroll earlier than planned, along with a further 20 new officers, a meeting was told.

The two intakes were ordered by Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner Peter McCall after he increased the constabulary’s share of the council tax to pay for more officers after a public consultation.

Mr Marshall told a meeting of the Cumbria police and crime panel in Kendal on Monday: “The reasons are principally around police pay. We took a deliberate decision to recruit 25 new police officers in 2018-19 early to meet the crime commissioner’s pledge.

“That is earlier than planned. In addition to that, we have taken on another 20 officers earlier than we expected. That’s really again a deliberate decision. It helps to make sure they are ready for 2019-20 and helps meet the commissioner’s pledge.”

Mr Marshall said a higher number of ill-health retirements than anticipated during 2018-19 had also contributed.

He said: “We normally budget for three but at the moment we are forecasting eight. The final element is due to overtime, which is largely being recouped in income for providing special policing services and mutual aid to other forces over the year.”

Mr Marshall said the overspend had reduced during January and February and that work would continue before the end of the financial year.

“If at the end of the financial year we cannot meet that budget and are still overspent, we will fund it from an underspend that we have on our capital programme,” he said.

Crime commissioner Peter McCall said the public should not think the police had overspent on pay or that the constabulary would not balance its budget.

Mr McCall said: “Nothing could be further from the truth. At the end of the year, we will balance the budget. Council tax bills are hitting letterboxes as we speak. I make no apologies for it, that we have gone out with our recruitment for last year and again for this year, to get those officers in as quickly as possible.

“If I am asking people for more money they have to see the effect and quickly. That’s why those officers were recruited and on the streets by the summer of last year. The same will happen this year with the additional 20.”