Detective-turned-councillor criticises role of PCSOs

Police and Community Support Officers should not be "acting as security guards on school buses," says County Cllr Graham Gooch.
Police and Community Support Officers should not be "acting as security guards on school buses," says County Cllr Graham Gooch.
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A former senior detective, who is now a cabinet member on Lancashire County Council, has blasted the role of Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs), which he says has fallen victim to "mission creep".

"Instead of being out on the beat, reassuring the public and preventing crime, they're acting as security guards on school buses," County Cllr Graham Gooch, the Member for Adult Services, told a cabinet meeting at county hall.

The former Detective Superintendent with Lancashire Constabulary was speaking just before a decision was taken to cut the council's share of funding for 17 PCSOs.

"So they have taken the money from the council to patrol the streets - and then not used it for that purpose," County Cllr Gooch added. "If they used the money to make people feel more safe, I think we'd be a lot more sympathetic. But they are not doing that."

The Conservative cabinet approved the withdrawal of part-funding for 15 PCSOs, whose role is to intervene early with young people and families to prevent low-level crime escalating, and a further two charged with improving safety on the bus network.

The proposal was first put forward during the budget-setting process earlier this year, but was then sent out for public consulation.

Ninety-one percent of just over 200 respondents strongly disagreed with the removal of funding for early intervention work, whilst 85 percent were against ending support for the bus-based officers.

Deputy leader of the Labour opposition John Fillis said the consulation risked appearing "a sham".

"If we're going out to public consultation, shouldn't we really be listening to what people say?" he asked.

He added that the £265,000 saving was "only a small sum", commenting: "If people work hard enough, money can be found in the budgets to keep this service going.

Council leader Geoff Driver responded: "Just to remind you, the previous administration working hard looking at the budgets left us with a deficit of £200m."

A report before cabinet suggested a "consolidation" of existing PCSO budgets would mean Lancashire Constabulary was "likely" to be able to retain 9 out of the 17 affected roles.

Responding to the decision, Lancashire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, said: "I have maintained my commitment to keep my funding for PCSOs and will work with Lancashire police and local authorities to mitigate the impact from reductions like these.

"Withdrawal of funding for PCSOs by local authorities is disappointing; with partners having difficult financial decisions to make, it is further evidence of cuts across the public sector having a real impact on policing in Lancashire.

"PCSOs provide a valuable resource and a visible presence in and around Lancashire, providing a vital local contact with communities and helping keep people safe."

Lancashire Constabulary declined to respond to County Cllr Gooch's comments.