Half of Suffolk’s PCSOs could be axed as safer neighbourhood teams are increased
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Plans to axe more than half of Suffolk's police community support officers (PCSOs) as part of cost-saving measures have been criticised as more police officers look set to move into Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs).
Suffolk Constabulary has today unveiled its blueprint for the future of community policing – with a proposed restructure that would see more than 100 police officers move into SNTs.
The force said that the changes and extra resource would help it deal with increasing demands and satisfy the public's desire for more visible policing.
To reflect this, the force is looking to move 97 police constables and seven sergeants into its SNTs. This would mean there would be 159 PCs and 26 sergeants in its SNTs.
But, to achieve these SNT increases, amid the 'challenging financial landscape', it is proposing to reduce PCSOs from 81 to 48 full-time equivalent posts. The force has 107 budgeted PCSO posts, but has not filled vacancies since 2017 to minimise redundancies.
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UNISON pointed out the cuts would mark a 78pc reduction in the number of PCSOs in Suffolk since 2010 – and criticised the decision as 'short-sighted and reckless'.
Suffolk police however said the transition would strengthen the resilience of the force's policing of community issues and ensure the right resources are in the right place at the right time.
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The force said the purpose of the proposed changes is to put visibility and accessibility at the forefront of policing.
Chief Constable Gareth Wilson said: 'Local policing is the bedrock of our service. A major part of the evolution of our policing model is listening to the public and responding to what they tell us, and we appreciate their primary desire is to see as many officers on the frontline as possible.
'What we have also had to do is to look at our increasing demand and adapt the way we work to ensure we provide a service which is fit for Suffolk's future needs.
'Moving more than 100 officers will allow us to be more effective in meeting the challenges we are facing.
'We have had to make some difficult decisions about the composition of our future workforce and the blend of skills and abilities we will require.
'However, we acknowledge the value of PCSOs and are still committed to them continuing to play a key role within communities. Although the balance of our workforce will need to change, PCSOs remain an important part in the provision of a high-quality police service in Suffolk.'
Consultation on the proposals began today (July 17) and will run until August 30. Final decisions will be made in September with the aim of implementing the agreed changes by October 29.
Plans to axe more than half of Suffolk's police community support officers (PCSOs) would put public safety at risk, according to UNISON.
The proposed cuts by Suffolk Constabulary would see a 78pc reduction in the number of PCSOs in the county since 2010, the union said.
UNISON eastern regional secretary, Chris Jenkinson, said: 'Cutting Suffolk's frontline PCSOs is short-sighted and reckless.
'PCSOs are not only a reassuring, visible presence in communities, they also gather vital intelligence that prevents crime and protects the public.
'Axing PCSOs means the work they do to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour will either stop altogether, or land on the lap of already overburdened officers and staff.
'Today's announcement is a desperate response to government cuts, which have had a devastating impact on police budgets. These cutbacks are creating a safe haven for criminals and a growing sense of fear and insecurity in communities.
'Suffolk Constabulary needs to urgently reverse this ill-thought-out decision, which would damage the police force and local communities.'
Suffolk PCC reaction
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, said: 'As I meet people across the county, one thing is clear; residents want as many officers as possible on the frontline. I'm pleased to say we have listened.
'These proposals could see an extra 104 police officers moving into the Safer Neighbourhood Teams from October this year.
'In order to do this some police roles have been civilianised, officers have been moved from central to local teams and regrettably the number of PCSOs will reduce, but the outcome will be more officers will be available for local policing and that's great news for Suffolk.'
Mr Passmore added: 'The chief constable needs to continually review his plans to ensure they are keeping pace with the pressure the constabulary faces and that is why we're introducing some significant changes to the current policing model.
'I fully endorse these changes, which I am pleased to say increases the number of front-line local police officers and as Police and Crime Commissioner, I will be monitoring the impact of this new model to ensure the people of Suffolk are getting the police service they deserve.'