A YORKSHIRE police force has declared every one of it’s PCSO jobs “at risk” following a recommendation to slash numbers in a move which could see level in some communities eventually reduced by more than half.
South Yorkshire Police currently has 285 PCSOs, who do the neighbourhood policing which was traditionally done by ‘beat bobbies’ and they have been protected from cuts during the last five years of austerity measures.
But now force bosses are acting on a recommendation to reduce numbers by almost half, including scrapping all of the supervisor roles, with 65 scheduled to go by the end of March next year and another 25 each year in the following three years.
The situation could be worse still, however, because Sheffield and Barnsley Councils pay for some of the staff who work in their areas and Barnsley Council has already warned “some changes” are likely due to the impact of Government cuts on that authority.
All PCSOs have now been told they are in a consultation period over the future of their jobs and Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt has acknowledged that the briefing was a “difficult day” for the staff, “with lots of uncertainty about their future.”
However, he has told police staff: “I wish to reiterate what I’ve said throughout the review in that PCSOs have a vital role to play in our new Local Policing Model and this has not changed.”
That model has involved scrapping existing Neighbourhood Policing Teams and their ‘reactive’ colleagues who responded to 999 calls and other immediate jobs and welding them into larger teams based at central locations.
The Unison union, which represents PCSOs, believes the same will happen with those staff, who have until now worked as small teams based in specific areas where they have formed relationships with the communities.
Secretary Ian Armitage said: ““I am not being melodramatic when I say it would be the death of neighbourhood policing.”
He has spent years working as a PCSO in the Athersley district of Barnsley and if the recommendations are adopted it will mean the town’s quota of 54 PCSO’s being reduced to 34, including the loss of four supervisors.
But nine of those remaining are financed by Barnsley Council and their future is also under scrutiny.
Sheffield also has ten PCSOs which are paid for by the local authority.
Coun Jenny Platts, Barnsley Council’s Cabinet Spokesperson for Communities, said: “The PCSO’s in Barnsley provide an invaluable role in keeping our communities safe. Due to challenging austerity measures some changes in PCSO provision are likely to take place, however it’s too early to comment on the impact this may have. The Council will continue to work with the police during this challenging period.”
Unison is now calling on police chiefs to “stand shoulder to shoulder” with the workforce and tell the Government the next round of cuts, expected to be £58m in the five years ahead, are untenable.
Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis said: “I’m very concerned to hear about the potential loss of PCSOs in Barnsley. They have a vital job to do in making our neighbourhoods safer, and offering support and advice to residents.
“In particular, their role in tackling anti-social behaviour is pivotal – as I have found out during my campaign against the sale of so-called ‘legal highs’ in our town. I am deeply troubled that once again, the people of Barnsley are bearing the brunt of this government’s cuts. David Cameron obviously doesn’t place a value on community safety.”