UK police officers
Kent police received £3.67m from external sources to pay more than 51 of its officersMatthew Lloyd/Getty Images

Police forces in the UK are being financially supported by local people, shopping centres and councils, besides receiving funding from the government and council tax bills. Security and community support officers are being paid by police forces from the millions of pounds they receive as private funds.

Overall, around 1,120 officers are being paid from the £20m ($30m) – that police forces are receiving from the private funds annually – for patrolling and additional duties.

Data obtained by The Telegraph, under a Freedom of Information (FoI) request revealed that West Yorkshire police paid 80% of its officers – 132 officers and 450 police community support officers (PCSOs) – from the external contributions. It received just over £3m as private funds, data showed.

"Obviously we'd rather it was funded through central taxes but sadly that's not the case and if we didn't pay we'd never see the police in the village," said Andy Cattle, chairman of Drighlington parish council in West Yorkshire.

"We spend a significant part of our budget on this and the price is going up in January, so there's no doubt we'll have to increase the precept next year," he added. Kent police have received £3.67m in private funds to pay for more than 51 of its officers, while Avon and Somerset police have received £2.1m in private funds to cover the costs of 50 officers. Around 141 Lancashire officers and 120 Cheshire officers were also privately funded.

"Residents will wonder whether these additional costs mean they are paying twice for police officers to operate in their local community. However, if these payments allow forces to make savings then they should be more open about them so that taxpayers can decide for themselves whether they are getting value for their hard-earned money," said Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance.

"When discussions over policing budgets are being had it is important to remember this significant additional revenue stream, that puts pressure on centrally allocated grants into a little more context," Isaby added.

In October last year, Hampshire village offered to pay £60,000 from its own coffers to retain PC Andy Reid as an officer. The offer was rejected after it was feared that the move could create a "two tier" police service. However, 11 parish councils were later allowed to contribute more than £94,000 a year to pay for three PCSOs.

The number of privately-funded police officers and PCSOs in England and Wales is likely to be much higher, considering only 20 out of the total of 43 police forces provided the data. The Metropolitan Police, Norfolk and Suffolk, Devon and Cornwall police forces did not provide information to show whether they received private funds or not.