Uncertain future for PCSOs as Hampshire police await funding deal

PCSOs on duty
PCSOs on duty
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THE future of PCSOs in the county is uncertain as senior police await to hear how much funding the force will receive.

Figures seen by The News show that while police officer numbers have dropped by more than 1,000 in seven years, PCSOs have increased by more than 40 in the same period.

Previous police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes ring-fenced PCSO numbers at 334 in the force but as of April this year there were 380.

Police officer numbers dropped from 3,887 in March 2010 to 2,837 in April 2017 in the wake of heavy government cuts.

John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, said he is very supportive of PCSOs who do a ‘brilliant job’.

He said: ‘The only concerns I’ve ever raised with the previous chief constable and police and crime commissioner is how could it be right for policing and the public that we reduce officer and staff numbers by so many but we fully protect the PCSO numbers, that’s just not right.

‘The pain has to be felt and has to be felt by all areas of the constabulary. What we have now is officers struggling to cope with the workloads.’

Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney will be deciding how to spend the force’s cash – which was slashed by £80m between 2010 and 2016. Ms Pinkney has warned it faces a £13m cliff edge by 2021.

It comes as Norfolk police last month announced it could axe all of its PCSOs.

Chief Superintendent Craig Dibdin, head of neighbourhood policing at Hampshire police, said: ‘We are committed to neighbourhood policing, and PCSOs play a fundamental part in tackling the challenges that this aspect of policing presents.

‘Between 2010 and the end of 2015, the amount of PCSOs remained stable. That was because these were ring fenced.

‘During 2016 we began recruiting following government announcements about police funding. Recruiting officers requires significant training and only so many can be taken on in terms of that training capacity.

‘As a way of managing this gap, we recruited a higher number of PCSOs to enable us to have as much resource as possible serving communities in that interim period. By the end of March 2018 PCSO numbers will be back to the levels they were between 2010 and 2015.

‘A decision on whether to continue ring fencing PCSO numbers at 334 won’t be made until the force knows what the funding situation is later in the year.’

The force said PCSO numbers will reduce as they retire or join as PCs.

Kathy Symonds, Unison Hampshire & IOW Police & Justice branch secretary said: ‘I’ve not been told about any intention to reduce PCSO numbers in the next round of budget.’

But she said everyone in the public sector was ‘worried about the future’ due to cuts under the Tory government.