NEXT month, two key decisions are due to be made that could result in dozens of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) disappearing from the county’s streets.
Northamptonshire County Council wants to slash the £500,000 a year it spends on PCSOs, while Northampton Borough Council is proposing to cut the £100,000 a year the authority spends on the officers.
Northamptonshire Police is also planning on cutting 25 PCSOs over the next four years as part of plans to reduce the force’s budget by around 20 per cent.
The council proposals, which are set to be voted on next month, have prompted a row about who should be paying for our PCSOs and whether the police should be dipping into their reserves to pick up the tab.
We asked a number of the key personalities, who should be paying for our PCSOs?
Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North, said he wants Northamptonshire Police to use its reserves to pick up the tab for PCSOs who are facing the axe.
The force has £21 million worth of reserves, including £9 million of general reserves.
Mr Ellis said police should think about what the public wanted the force to spend its money on and vowed to fight to save PCSOs.
He said: “I have spoken to the chief constable, I have spoken to the leader of Northampton Borough Council, I have written to the chairman of the police authority and I have been invited to spend some time with PCSOs and my view is that the retention of PCSOs should be a priority.
“The litmus test for all of this is what would the general public want?
“I am elected to represent the general public and I think their view would be that they know the police need reserves but they would rather have PCSOs. I think the public would rather have PCSOs . . . and I think that is what we should remember.”
The leader of Northamptonshire County Council and Northamptonshire Police Authority member Jim Harker (Con, Kettering Rural) said he wanted to work with the police to help plan for the future.
He said the county council had contributed £500,000 a year in funding for three years and then extended the agreement into this year, as the Government had matched the contribution.
However, he said neither the Government nor the county council could afford to carry on.
He said: “What I think is worth doing is talking to the chief constable to see how the county council can work with the police to improve community safety and work to make sure the people of Northamptonshire feel as safe as they can and we can help with that in lots of other ways but it won’t be in funding PCSOs.”
Rosemary Yule, treasurer of the police authority, said it would not be sustainable for police to fund PCSOs from reserves.
She said: “The £21m represents a forecast level of total reserves for the authority.
“However the great majority of this is committed either for capital spending, pensions, insurance, shared services investment or to support the revenue budget in future years. This future support will enable us to bridge our budget gap over the next four years without steep increases in council tax.
“The authority is committed to planning financially for future years and our published reserves strategy is a key part of this.
“Unfortunately, using reserves as a one-off measure to fund ongoing PCSO salaries would not be prudent or sustainable.”
LIBERAL Democrat councillor Brendan Glynane, a member of the borough and county council as well as Northamptonshire Police Authority, condemned the cuts to PCSOs.
He said: “The truth of the matter is that the Conservatives are cutting their funding at the borough council and at the county council. This is a decision by the Conservatives and no amount of spin and half-truths will change that. They should be up front and honest with people and not try to deflect the blame for their decisions.
“Northamptonshire Conservatives are making our town and our county less safe and then have the gall to try to blame the police. The police and public deserve better.”