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Role of PCSOs in Devon and Cornwall under review

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: February 01, 2014

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A PCSO on patrol in Devon

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Future numbers of police and community support officers in Devon and Cornwall have been thrown into doubt after it emerged their role is under review.

The civilian role was created former Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2002 amid major controversy and criticism that it was a move to “policing on the cheap”.

Despite serious, early concerns, the officers have become an integral part of community policing, and popular with the public, and Mr Hogg has made no secret of his support for the role.

However, with budgets again under major pressure – with £27.8 million having to be saved over the next four years – their future has been cast into doubt.

As civilians, they can be made redundant whereas police officers, as servants of the Crown, can not.

Next year, £1 million will be saved on PCSOs with their numbers being run down from an artificial high of 384 to 360.

Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg confirmed in his budget report that the “balance” between numbers of officers and PCSOs was being reviewed.

He said: “The delivery of the police and crime plan requires an adaptable and flexible workforce mix with the ability to balance that mix to meet operational requirements.

“Our current numbers of PCSOs have been increased in readiness for the next round of police officer recruitment as it is expected that a good number of our successful recruits will be existing PCSOs.

“The deputy chief constable is undertaking a review of PCSOs in the context of our overall local policing model.

“In the meantime I have agreed to a slowing down of further recruitment of PCSOs until such time as that work is completed.

“The review will report mid year allowing the balance between police officers and PCSO numbers to be considered in the light of the next year’s medium term financial plan.”

It is the latest review to be announced by the force. It recently informed staff in police enquiry offices, crime investigation, criminal justice, custody and firearms licensing, that their posts were under scrutiny.

No police stations are expected to close although some front counters could go.

Deputy Chief Constable Bill Skelly said when the announcement was made: “Since roughly 80% of our overall budget spend is on people, it is inevitable there will be a reduction in police support staff posts.

“I, along with the other members of the chief officer group fully recognise that this will be an unsettling and anxious time for affected staff.

“We would rather not have to make these sort of difficult decisions, but we must ensure we deliver the very best police service within the budgets we are given.”

They are being carried out over the next 18 months, starting with the police enquiry offices, and are expected to be complete by the end the financial year in 2016.

The PCSO review emerged in budget papers which will be discussed by the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel, which holds Mr Hogg and his office to account, on Friday.

Mr Hogg has proposed a 2% increase in the police’s share of council tax which would see Band D bills rise by £3.26 a year to £166.18.

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