Hundreds of police community support officer jobs in West Yorkshire look almost certain to be scrapped in the next six months.
West Yorkshire Police, the region’s largest police force, is planning to slash up to 73 per cent of its majority share of the funding for Leeds’s 294 civilian beat bobbies.
Leeds City Council currently co-funds 165 of the roles. And, according to a council document, the city will be left with just 67 PCSOs covering the whole city unless it finds a way to help prop up the overall bill by £1.5m by the next financial year,
Earlier this year, fears were raised that the West Yorkshire PCSO cohort – made up of 612 officers – could be scrapped entirely as under-pressure police bosses desperately try to balance the books in the wake of huge Government budget cuts.
The PCSOs cost the taxpayer about £5m a year to run, with the police paying 80 per cent of the bill and local authorities 20 per cent.
Mark Burns Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “West Yorkshire Police’s budget will have reduced by over 30 per cent in 2016/17 with further cuts to be announced by the Government in November. The stark reality of these Government cuts means that it will be very difficult to maintain the current levels of PCSOs.”
The stark reality of these Government cuts means that it will be very difficult to maintain the current levels of PCSOs.Mark Burns-Williamson
Mr Burns-Williamson insisted that he would still safeguard a “substantial number” of more than 300 roles across West Yorkshire in his core budget. But he added: “The exact deployment of PCSOs and police officers will be a matter for the police and council in due course.”
A council report seen by The Yorkshire Post says: “The PCC has indicated that he will continue to support joint funded PCSOs but will require a higher contribution from local authorities or other sponsoring partners.
“In return for a larger financial contribution towards PCSO costs, the PCC has committed to offering the council greater influence over the use of PCSO resources.
“Given that it is unlikely that the council will be able to increase spend at a time when it is facing further funding reductions, it is highly likely that there will be less council sponsored PCSOs from April 2016.”
Yesterday, Mr Burns-Williamson claimed the Government is “taking a gamble on public and community safety” after a large rise in the number of recorded offences across the region.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of offences recorded by police rose by five per cent across the Yorkshire and the Humber region in the year to June.
West Yorkshire saw the biggest rise, eight per cent, while South Yorkshire and North Yorkshire saw rises of three and two per cent respectively. The number of offences recorded by Humberside stayed level.
In West Yorkshire, bosses say the rise, including a 45.5 per cent jump in violent offences and sexual offences increasing by 72 per cent, is due to having better recording procedures after a shake-up prompted by a damning watchdog report into the way it deals with reported offences.
The force was sharply criticised last year by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) for recording robbery and violence offences wrongly and inappropriately labelling some rape offences as ‘no-crimes’.
Temporary chief constable Dee Collins told The Yorkshire Post this summer that the force has since carried out “educating and awareness raising” among its officers and staff about how they should deal with offences when they are recorded.
The force says it has seen “a small reduction in the number of calls and contact about crime related matters” which bosses say suggests “fewer people are actually experiencing more crime”.
Nationally, according to the Crime Survey for England, which is drawn from a large-scale field trial of 2,000 households, crime rates fell by eight per cent from last year and are at the lowest level since the survey began in 1981.
But this does not include an estimated 5.1 million incidents of fraud and 2.5 million cyber crimes, which were quantified for the first time. These figures show how the internet is “changing the nature of crime” in the UK, a senior police officer said.
On average one in 12 adults is a victim of fraud and one in 22 is a victim of cyber fraud, the figures show.
West Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said he had been assured by his chief constable that local rises were “due mainly to the way in which crimes are recorded”.
But he said Government cuts to local policing budgets, which have seen the force shed 1,000 officers in West Yorkshire in the last five years, were having “a significant impact on policing”.
He said: “By cutting the budget by more than 20 per cent since 2010 and anywhere between another 25 per cent to 40 per cent there has been and will be significant implications which the public need to be aware of.
“Government is in my view now taking a gamble on public and community safety and I will be setting this out in more detail in the run up to the Comprehensive Spending Review announcements in November. Keeping crime levels low is more difficult with less money and less police officers.”