Warning over drop in PCSO roles

Figures produced by public service union UNISON show  there has been a 20 per cent fall in the number of PCSOs employed by Northamptonshire Police since the general election in 2010
Figures produced by public service union UNISON show there has been a 20 per cent fall in the number of PCSOs employed by Northamptonshire Police since the general election in 2010
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Public service union Unison says there has been a 20 per cent fall in the number of PCSOs in Northamptonshire since 2010.

According to the union, the number of Police Community Support Officers fell from 164 to 130, a decline of more than 20 per cent, and has warned that it will have a knock-on effect on neighbourhood policing.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Neighbourhood policing is dying on the beat.

“What took years to build up is being lost because of reckless Government cuts.

“PCSOs are under growing pressure. They tell us how they have to cover larger beats and more of them have to work alone, often leading them to feel vulnerable.

“PSCOs play a key role in intelligence gathering, tackling minor crimes and anti-social behaviour. They are a reassuring and deterring visible presence in our streets and without them crime is likely to rise.”

Unlike a police constable, police community support officers do not have powers of arrest and cannot interview prisoners.

Mr Prentis said: “The Government’s claims that front line policing would be protected are in tatters.

”PCSOs are not always paid for by the police. In 2012-13 Kettering Council provided £116,200 towards the cost of PCSOs while Wellingborough and Corby Councils spent £49,800 each.

And although the number of PCSOs has fallen in the last four years, Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds announced earlier this year that he was aiming to treble the number of volunteer Special Constables.

About 300 are currently employed in the county, and the force aims to have 900.

A Northamptonshire Police spokesman said the number of PCSOs employed by Northamptonshire Police was 130 in 2013 compared to 168 in 2010.

The overall numbers of police officers fell from 1,337 in 2010 to 1,220 in 2012 and have been maintained at or above 1,220 since Mr Simmonds came into office in November 2012.

A spokesman for the commissioner said: “Adam Simmonds has committed to maintaining the number of police officers he inherited when he took office on November 22 at 1,220 officers as set out in his five-year Police and Crime Plan.

“Alongside his commitment to maintaining police officer numbers, the commissioner has also undertaken a massive recruitment drive to increase the number of special constables, volunteer police officers with all the same powers as a regular police constable, in a bid to increasing visible policing within our communities.”

National PCSO falls

Northamptonshire is not the only county which has seen cuts to the number of PCSOs.

The City of London Police has lost more than 70 per cent of its PCSOs since May 2010, while the Met Police has seen the number drop by almost half, at 49 per cent.

Merseyside, Essex, Cumbria, Warwickshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Police have also all lost more that 20 per cent of their PCSOs.