By Michael Davies firstname.lastname@example.org
SURREY Police has experienced the biggest cut to the number of PCSOs on the beat in the South East, according to Unison.
The public sector union said nearly 40 per cent of PCSOs in Surrey have been cut since 2010, bringing the number down to 135 as of September last year compared to 224 just five years ago.
The report, titled “More trouble in the neighbourhood”, said the number of community support officers across the country has been cut by 27 per cent in the same period. Neighbouring Sussex Police has seen its contingent fall by four per cent.
The union has warned that the cuts to community officers, who it says make up 75 per cent of neighbourhood police teams, will have a huge impact on the forces’ ability to battle crime in the community, despite Surrey having one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
The news comes as Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley said he was being forced to do away with nearly 500 more police staff in the next few years because of Government cuts.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis warned that future spending cuts, which Home Secretary Theresa May has warned are expected in the next parliament, meant remaining officers were having to deal with less resources, larger beats and cuts to equipment. He said: “We are repeating our call on Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to investigate the impact of these cuts on the quality of the service.”
But a review of Surrey Police by HMIC has said that the force is continuing to reduce crime despite cuts and is in a good position to continue this in the future.
The review added that a service sharing scheme between Surrey and Sussex was going to help both forces continue to provide services in the future.
But Mr Hurley said the county was being punished by the Government for having low crime rates and that funds were falling and officers were being cut as a result.
He said: “The main point here is that when you cut the budget of the police something has to give and the judgement has been made that we are going to reduce the number of PCSOs. We don’t want to do that, they provide a valuable service, but there isn’t enough money. We can’t pay for them if we haven’t got any money.”
A Surrey Police spokesman said: “Surrey Police is currently in the process of recruiting Police Community Support Officers and has funding for 162 positions having reduced the numbers from 222 – an overall reduction of 60 PCSOs roles. However, these changes led to an increase in police officer numbers so there was no reduction in frontline services.
“These changes took place last year when Surrey Police implemented a new neighbourhood policing structure which resulted in an increased number of police officers working in local communities.
“As well as enhancing the Force’s ability to investigate crimes at a local level, the structure also improved Surrey Police’s operational effectiveness in the relentless pursuit of criminals, tackling the issues that matter most to our communities and putting victims first.
“The increase in officers did come at a cost in the difficult financial climate – with the removal of some specialist PCSO and support staff roles. These roles are now being covered by local Safer Neighbourhood Team officers.
“In April 2014 the change in structure allowed for the provision of a dedicated Community Safety Team for each division, so the force could be more resilient and flexible when meeting local needs.
“Each team is led by a single Sergeant and includes Youth Intervention Officers, Casualty Reduction Officers, Crime Reduction Advisors and Licensing Officers.
“UNISON were consulted and kept up to date with plans through the implementation of the new policing structure.”