Friday, 22 October 2010

The fight to save our PCSO's

Below is a letter sent to civic leaders in Lancashire regarding the recent cuts (CSR) and the impact on PCSO's. I have written today to the Minister to point out how this Government is failing the people by going soft on crime.

Last Friday's Daily Mail carried a front page article which I instigated highlighting the dangers of relaxing a tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime stance that has seen crimnal behaviour for the first time in 60 years fall and by a staggering 40% under Labour.

PCSO's are the backbone of the police service and that 40% reduction in crime and this is acknowledged in Pennine and Easter Divisions (broadley East Lancashire) by Divisional Commanders when I have spoken with them.

Without PCSOs the vital intelligence the police gather with go from a flood to a trickle. CID, Environmental agencies, Council's rely on partnership intelligence. Joined up thinking as part a 'total place' strategy preventing criminals from evading relevant authorities as easily and helping develop a broader picture of just who they are and what they are doing. Drug users tend not to put out their wheelie bins for example.

PCSO's map areas so instead of the police looking blindly at everyone as a potential criminal, they have the street by street knowledge of which properties present a risk to the police and to others saving time, manpower and money.

PCSO's allow police officers can concentrate on the sharp end of police of work, catching criminals.

Cutting the deficit only to see rising crime and public disastisfaction is clearly unjustified and a false economy. Theresa May, the Minister responsible must recognise the public anger that will flow from daft decisions like reducing the number of PCSO's.

With Cameron's hug a hoodie,  Kenneth Clarke's prison doesnt work, and now cuts in Police budgets and reductions in PCSO's, the Government has gone soft on crime.

Note: PCSO funding is through the Home Office and not Lancashire Constabulary. A small percentage are also funded one-third by local authorities.

Steve Finnigan CBE QPM MA(Cantab) BA(Open)
Diploma A.C. & P.S. (Cantab)
Chief Constable

Lancashire Constabulary Police Headquarters  PO Box 77  Hutton  Preston  PR4 5SB
Tel: 01772 412221    Fax: 01772 614916
e-mail        steve.finnigan@lancashire.pnn.police.uk                                                                    22nd October 2010

Dear Colleague

You’ll remember from our letter of 6th October 2010 that we promised to share with you any issues or proposals that arise from our on-going work to address the current financial situation being faced by the Constabulary.

We would draw your attention to the paragraph in that letter which addresses our concerns about the vulnerability of PCSOs in Lancashire, because of the funding situation, but which stresses our desire to keep as many PCSOs as we possibly can given the importance we place on them and the role they play in neighbourhood policing.

As you know, the majority of the funding for PCSOs comes from central government grant and partnership funding. Although the Constabulary cannot predict with certainty that all of this grant or funding will disappear, we believe it is reasonable to plan on the basis that it might.

This week’s Comprehensive Spending Review announcement makes no specific reference to funding for PCSOs, however it is clear that funding for local councils and the Constabulary will be under significant pressure, which in turn, could place severe constraints on our joint ability (with partners) to sustain funding for PCSOs.

The force is absolutely clear that if the funding is lost at the end of this financial year, it does not have the money available to pay for the PCSO posts, which would amount to some £220,000 per week, and so to delay acting until then would leave the Constabulary with a bill it simply cannot afford.

As a result, we have today, Friday, 22nd October 2010, taken the decision to begin a 90 day formal consultation process with the Trade Unions with a view to disestablishing all PCSO posts from March 31st 2011.

This does not mean that any or all PCSOs will be made redundant on that date or on any subsequent date in the future but this process does put them all at risk until the funding situation is clarified. Redundancy at some point, therefore, cannot be ruled out.

Clearly this decision has not been taken lightly but reflects the seriousness of the financial position surrounding the funding of PCSOs and the current lack of clarity.

As difficult as it is, the Constabulary believes that this is the only responsible approach it can take at this stage, to protect the public purse from any additional costs should the funding disappear and is a decision that we believe allows time for members of staff in PCSO positions to consider and plan for their own futures.

As part of this formal 90 day process, the Constabulary will consult about ways to:
  • Avoid any dismissals necessitated by the situation;
  • Reduce the numbers of employees who may have to be dismissed;
  • Mitigate the consequences of any dismissals.

All PCSOs have been invited to a briefing today with their relevant Divisional Commander and will receive a letter to explain the situation and the various processes that may follow post March 31st 2011.

We have given our assurances that the Constabulary will continue to work closely with the Trade Unions on this matter and be open and honest with staff at every step of the way and also that we will continue to work closely with local authorities in an effort to keep as many PCSO posts as possible.

Our Divisional Commanders will be in touch with you personally later today to discuss this development but we felt it was important to give you early notice of our intentions.

Yours sincerely                                                         
                                         
Steve Finnigan                                            Malcolm Doherty
Chief Constable                                          Chair, Lancashire Police Authority