Cuts to ‘vital’ Norfolk PCSOs deemed ‘short-sighted’ as county reacts

Police. PICTURE: MARK BULLIMORE.
Police. PICTURE: MARK BULLIMORE.

The axing of Police community support officers (PCSOs) and closing of public inquiry offices in Norfolk has garnered a mixed reaction from the Diss Express area.

The decision was made on Thursday, October 19, by Chief Constable Simon Bailey in a bid to find £10 million in cuts imposed by the Government. However, the decision has had a varied reaction.

Ruthless budget cuts are forcing police forces to make unsavoury choices, which damage public confidence and coerce already over-burdened police staff into taking on yet more responsibilities

UNISON general secretary, Dave Prentis

In a letter to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said the move by Norfolk constabulary was “extremely short-sighted” and urged her to intervene.

Mr Prentis added: “PCSOs play a vital role maintaining police and community relations. They also tackle low-level crime and anti-social behaviour, which would otherwise fall to hard-pressed police officers to deal with.

“Ruthless budget cuts are forcing police forces to make unsavoury choices, which damage public confidence and coerce already over-burdened police staff into taking on yet more responsibilities.”

The proposed changes to the police force could put up to 175 at risk. However, Mr Bailey said this would pave the way for 96 new police officers to tackle the crime challenges for the future.

Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green, said he understood the “rationale behind the changes” and respected the decision by the Chief Constable.

He said: “In common with other forces, recent years have brought about unprecedented increases in reports of domestic and sexual abuse, and cyber-enabled crime, requiring complex and costly investigations.

“Set alongside the impact of austerity and £30 million of savings already having been made, I hear the Chief Constable when he says the current model of policing Norfolk is simply not sustainable. It’s vital we ensure our policing service is best placed to tackle the biggest threats to the safety of our communities.”

Mr Green said the Chief Constable assured him the new policing model will deliver the priorities of the Police and Crime Plan.

Mr Green added: “I know how important policing visibility at a neighbourhood-level is to Norfolk’s residents. I have the Chief Constable’s assurances that, though the county’s police service will be working differently, visible community policing will continue, and I’ll hold him to that.

“This is a bold and innovative change programme - the result of a number of tough decisions by the Chief Constable, not least because of their impact on staff.”

The new proposals also mean all public inquiry offices will be closed. As a result, the only place offering a face to face service will be stations in Norwich and Wymondham, and Attleborough’s officers and staff are to share premises with Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service.

Diss Town Council Leader Graham Minshull said it was important to highlight that PCSOs will be replaced with fully warranted officers.

He added: “That is not forgetting that PSCOs do great work with the community, but officers will have more powers and will have the ability to respond and arrest.”

Redenhall with Harleston town councillor, Adrian Brownsea, said that as the town had not had a dedicated PCSO for some time, there would be little noticeable change.

He understood the Chief Constable’s argument for needing specialist officers to deal with serious crime but people were reassured by the sight of someone in uniform patrolling on the streets rather than passing through in a patrol car. The police could have a problem when they needed assistance from the public if at other times people felt they were neglected, he added.