‘Invaluable’ staff may be made redundant

UNDER WATER Flooding at Hambledon
UNDER WATER Flooding at Hambledon

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COMMUNITY workers whose duties include helping vulnerable people affected by floods in Hampshire have been warned they could be made redundant.

The county council plans to decide its budget for 2014/15 today, and as part of its cost-cutting measures, it wants to scrap its 33 Accredited Community Safety Officers.

The ACSO service was introduced before the police added Police Community Support Officers to its frontline services, and currently, eight of the ACSOs are helping residents in Hambledon cope with flooding, reassuring vulnerable residents, and moving furniture.

Council leader Roy Perry will decide their fate today.

In a statement, Cllr Perry said: ‘Staff in the ACSO service have not been given their redundancy notices, but they have been identified as being potentially at risk of redundancy because of these proposals. Should these proposals be agreed, we must consult the trade unions and employees, which includes advising staff of their options, and give them as much support and notice as possible.

‘On the question on how we would continue to support the community, such as during the recent flooding in Hambledon, we would want to continue to do this in a more cost effective way.

‘This could be through providing funding to the Police and Crime Commissioner to pay PCSOs or through some of our agency or contracting arrangements.

‘We want to keep council tax low to reduce the burden on taxpayers and to do this we need to look at ways of delivering services more cost effectively and in some cases making reductions.’

Tony Higham, chairman of the Hambledon Flood Action Group, said the ACSOs were vital to the village in times of flood, especially as drafting in the fire service with Green Goddesses, or the Royal Navy, is too expensive.

He said: ‘These ACSOs were told they were being made redundant right in the middle of helping us – we couldn’t think of anything more ill-timed.

‘Naturally we’re extremely upset.

‘I’m making plans already for our 2015 flood defences and I have a blank space where the help should be.

‘The ACSOs go into people’s houses, they ask how people are, they direct traffic... they have to be intelligent and utterly trustworthy. They are invaluable.’