Police chiefs are set to take on the Government by breaking tax restrictions imposed by Whitehall.

Councils and police authorities have been ordered to restrict tax increases to less than five per cent this year.

Any increase higher than that will be classed as excessive and the authority risks being capped as a result.

But Sussex Police Authority members will be told next week that if they do not ask for more money, services could be put at risk.

And councillors will be urged to ignore the Government rules and set a tax above five per cent to help senior police officers cut crime in the region.

Police authority chairman Peter Jones said that to meet the standards set down by the Home Office the force needed an increase of much more than five per cent this year.

The Argus revealed in October that the force faces running up a £13.8m debt over the next four years to pay for urgently needed improvements to vehicles, buildings and equipment because of reductions in Government grant increases.

Mr Jones said: "We have a very difficult period in front of us. The Government has already planned below inflation increases in our core funding for 2008 to 2010 and has warned that "excessive" increases in council tax precepts will be capped and yet demands that we spend more money bringing our protective services to a mandatory level.

"Over the past few years, Sussex Police has consistently delivered a high level of performance, achieved cash and efficiency savings of tens of millions of pounds, all against a backdrop of low grant funding.

"Our reward for this? The screws get tightened even further and Sussex people, who consistently tell us that they would be prepared to pay a little more, are being denied the improvements they deserve.

"Looking ahead to the next few years, we may have to accept the need to pay more to keep our officers on the beat."

Three options will be presented to the authority involving increases ranging from less than five per cent - equating to an extra 11p per week for the average Band D home - to more than 7.3 per cent, an extra 16p per week.

Chief constable Joe Edwards said investment had to be made in tackling major crime, roads policing, air support, forensic investigation and counter terrorism activities.

Mr Edwards said: "Sussex remains a safe place but we are determined to do more to tackle serious and organised crime.

"The budget the force is seeking will provide an opportunity to take on those people behind organised crime who make large profits, for example those who are behind the drugs trade in Sussex and not just those who deal on the streets."

The meeting takes place at County Hall, West Street, Chichester, on February 15.